Team unity the secret behind Wanderers’ incredible comeback

Western Sydney Wanderers captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley said the team's proven ability to cope with a crisis gave them great confidence heading into Sunday's A-League Grand Final against Adelaide United at Adelaide Oval.


Source: AAP

It would have been easy for Wanderers players to start arguing with each other and apportioning blame when they fell into a 3-0 hole midway through the first half of the semi-final against Brisbane Roar, but there was none of that.

"We never panicked, we never spat the dummy, we never started going off at each other," Topor-Stanley told The World Game. "The finger of blame never got pointed.

"The message was 'keep calm and play the way we always play and we'll get chances', and we did. We always create chances, it's just a matter of putting them in the back of the net.

"All season we've played a certain way and we still tried to still play the same football even when we were 3-0 down. The result showed we went about it the right way."

Had the players started singling each other out and playing the blame game on the field, their dream of getting to the grand final would have been shattered.

But, instead, they knuckled down as a team and gradually fought their way back into the game, eventually winning it 5-4 in extra-time.

Now, they will take that first-hand knowledge that they are never out of the game with them to Adelaide. They're obviously planning to avoid falling behind, and certainly to the extent of 3-0 down, but they'll know they've got unlimited heart in case they do get into a jam.

"I know the mentality of these boys," Topor-Stanley said. "We let our football do the talking. We never, ever think we're out of the game and we work on that, we work on having a clear, calm mind when things aren't going for us.

"We showed extreme fortitude against Brisbane and I expect nothing less from us. I see that every day in training and I see it in our games. Surprising score against Brisbane, but the way we did it wasn't surprising at all."

One of Topor-Stanley's great ambitions has been to get another opportunity like this, after a knee injury forced him from the field midway through the second half of the 2013-2014 season grand final against Brisbane.

Wanderers led 1-0 at the time and were controlling the game, but the disruption to their defensive set-up opened the door for Roar to come back. Brisbane equalised, forcing extra time, and went on to win 2-1.

Several months after that crushing disappointment, Topor-Stanley told The World Game: ""That's football in a nutshell, mate. Plenty of highs, plenty of lows and you've just got to roll with the punches, keep your head up and keep on going.

"I've been around for what, nine years now in the A-League, and I know that things can turn instantly. You can be on top of the world and it can come crashing down, too, so you've just got to learn to take it as it comes and keep banging away.

"I think I'll carry that disappointment of losing the grand final forever, but there's always another game around the corner, there are always things to look forward to."

Now the game around the corner is another grand final - the third in four seasons for both Wanderers as a club and Topor-Stanley as one of their few remaining foundation players.

He said Wanderers would not go to Adelaide and die wondering.

"Adelaide are a tough side, they're very strong defensively," he said. "But we know we're capable. We've got to go away for this one, but home or away we still aim to play the same way."

Asked how important it was to him to get this chance after his awful luck in 2014, Topor-Stanley replied: "It goes without saying. You never know when it's going to be your last game. It could all end tomorrow - football is like that.

"Grand finals in this league are the games. They're the pinnacle to play in, and you don't know if you're going to get another opportunity to play in one, so I'll be doing everything I can to be on the pitch for 90 minutes."

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4 min read
Published 26 April 2016 at 1:05pm
By Greg Prichard