Santalab says it's all about character for Wanderers

Brendon Santalab says the character of every Western Sydney Wanderers player will be judged this week based on how they bounce back from the derby loss to Sydney FC.

A-League Press Conference

Santalab at the A-League launch Source: Getty Images

Wanderers, humiliated 4-0 by their arch-rivals the Sky Blues last Saturday, will open round two of the A-League with a grand final rematch against champions Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium on Friday night.

"It's not easy to accept a loss like that, but now it's about character and pride," Santalab told The World Game.

"There's a lot on the line this week in terms of our pride in our performance and this is a club that has high expectations.

"It's about turning things around this week and we're going to Adelaide for the win, but improving our performance is obviously the key to that."

The derby scoreline exaggerated the difference between the two sides, but Santalab is as competitive as they come so although he was able to find positives in his team's performance he hated the thought of the result that is in the books.

"It's never a good feeling when you lose and when it's a derby it's very hard to accept," he said.

"We have to learn from that defeat and move on very quickly, because the season is very short compared to others around the world and we're not known for quick starts in our short history. We're hoping to turn that around.

"I don't think we've ever won in the first two rounds of any season, but we've got an opportunity to knock that on the head and move forward by beating Adelaide and that's the only way to get over the loss to Sydney, to bounce back this week with a much-improved performance."

Wanderers didn't win until the fourth round of their debut season in the competition, in 2012-2013 - the following season they didn't win until the third round and then in what turned out to be a horror season and in 2014-2015 they went winless in their first 13 games.

Last season, they didn't win until round four.

Santalab said although the players were stinging in the first few days after the derby loss, there was never any suggestion of them turning on each other in a blame game.

"Yeah, you can point the finger at other players and things can get quite nasty when you lose 4-0," he said. "But that hasn't happened here. We're a strong club and after a loss like that it's about sticking together and we've been focusing on doing that this week.

"That's the most important thing when you lose by a margin like that, to stay tight and believe in the philosophy of what the coach is doing.

"We had Sunday off, then came in on Monday morning, addressed what happened and moved on. It hasn't been the easiest week, but we're focusing on what we must do to improve the overall performance against Adelaide.

"Our attention straight away went on to that because the longer you dwell on a bad result the more it can affect your mentality as a group and we've always been a very tough, resolute group and we need to stay that way."

Santalab, 34, said that because of his status as a senior player he felt it was partly his job to ensure less experienced players were able to quickly move on from last week's disappointment.

"We have a younger side this season and it's important we keep the younger players' spirits up after a derby loss," he said.

"Every player's different and has different reactions and I've had a chat to a few players this week. Sometimes players need a hug and sometimes they need a little bit of a kick up the backside, but that has happened to everybody from time to time.

"We know we've got things to achieve this season and I'm sure that's more than enough motivation for players to get on with it and do better this week."

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4 min read
Published 12 October 2016 at 8:29pm
By Greg Prichard