Wanderers eyeing Popovic for shock return

Western Sydney Wanderers are pondering offering a sensational second coming to jobless Tony Popovic, as his successor Josep Gombau battles to convince the club's hierarchy he's the right man for the long haul.

All has not been well in Wanderland since Popovic's untimely - and ill-fated - decision to quit on the eve of the A-League season to try his hand in Turkey's cut-throat Super Lig with impoverished minnows Karabukspor.

Sacked in December, after 10 defeats from 11 games and with the added insult of unpaid severance pay, Popovic has been linked since to jobs in English football's second and third tiers.

But nothing has yet stuck, and while he has been bracketed with the soon-to-be-vacant Sydney FC post, the club which covet him most may be the Wanderers.

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They have, as yet, failed to duplicate the winning mentality which pervaded the entire operation during Popovic's regimented reign.



And Gombau, whose team lie sixth with five regular season rounds remaining and are not yet guaranteed a finals spot, is in the midst of a radical restructure he may not get to complete.

The Catalan has been systematically overhauling the club's playing style, with mixed success to date, creating a festering disquiet among his pay masters, despite pledges of patience from owner Paul Lederer.

It's unknown if official contact has been made with Popovic but it's understood that were an offer to be tabled, it would be significantly less than the $1.2 million he commanded prior to his departure.

The figure is unlikely to be in excess of $600,000 this time round.

Quite apart from the economics, there is also the matter of whether the 44-year-old, who famously led the Wanderers to AFC Champions League glory in 2014, would be prepared to - in effect - put pride aside and embrace a comeback.



His presence in the stands at Allianz Stadium on Wednesday night for Sydney FC’s 2-0 loss to Kashima Antlers, while seated alongside his ex-Wanderers and Karabukspor assistant Zeljko Kalac, has fueled social media speculation that he might be the man to replace Socceroos-bound Graham Arnold.

However, Sky Blues chairman Scott Barlow has not been an advocate of offering employment to present or former personnel, from his crosstown rivals, other than the swap deal which took keeper Vedran Janjetovic to Wanderland and brought Andrew Redmayne the other way.

He is thought to favour a candidate like Central Coast coach Paul Okon.

Popovic, though, does have a Sky Blue tinge, having played for the club as well as holding assistant and caretaker coaching roles.

The club's Netherlands-based technical director Han Berger is likely to favour an overseas appointment as the search for Arnold's successor begins in earnest.


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3 min read
Published 8 March 2018 at 4:19pm
By Dave Lewis