Isuzu UTE A-League season preview: Sydney FC

Enjoy KEEPUP’s season countdown with our club-by-club previews. Scroll down to the foot of the page to access your club’s article.

Last year’s beaten grand finalists are putting their faith in the same squad as last year, and all of its key men know what it takes to win.

But with their rivals recruiting strongly, the Sky Blues realise the challenge that lies ahead.

Major ins

Max Burgess, James Donachie, Elvis Kamsoba

Major outs

Ryan McGowan, Jordan Swibel, Alexander Baumjohann

Head coach: Steve Corica

Sydney FC record: 87 games, 50 wins, 17 draws, 20 losses.

Even if his side fell short at the final hurdle, Steve Corica’s extraordinary record of reaching the grand final in every season as a head coach continued last year.

Living proof that successful coaches don’t have to scream and shout, Corica’s measured air has delivered one premiership and two championships in three years as the Sky Blues have continued to dominate the league’s upper placings.

One of Corica’s hallmarks has been loyalty to players, and the fact his squad is so similar to last year’s bears testament to that – but also raises questions of whether a likely starting XI with almost half the players aged from 32 to 37 can deliver another year of success for their head coach.

Sydney FC coach Steve Corica has won two championships and the Premier’s Plate.

Can’t take your eyes off: Milos Ninkovic

Another year, another tribute to write to one of the finest players to grace the A-League. It seems incredible that two years ago the Serbian playmaker was discussing his apparently imminent retirement, when last season he not only was named in the PFA’s team of the year but was joint winner of the Johnny Warren Medal along with Ulises Davila. Only five other players have won that particular award twice, showing how much Ninkovic has achieved in the six and a half years since he joined Sydney FC.

One of the remarkable aspects to his game is how much ground Ninkovic covers in every match, regularly more than most of his younger teammates, as well as producing moments of inspiration to rouse the fans.

At 36 Ninkovic can’t stave off the ravages of time for ever, but when his football brain moves so much quicker than most others, he can still be hugely influential for the Sky Blues in the forthcoming campaign.

Milos Ninkovic, right, has twice been named the Johnny Warren Medallist.

Reasons to be cheerful:

It’s often been said that consistency goes a long way in the A-League, and on that basis Sydney should be certainties for success. The starting XI is essentially unchanged from last year bar the straight swap of James Donachie for Ryan McGowan in defence, at a club where stability has become the central theme.

It’s a team full of leaders, from captain Alex Wilkinson at the back, and a team that knows how to win. It’s also a team with significant levels of familiarity, having played together so many times. 

In what should be Sydney’s final season on the road as the Football Stadium is rebuilt, the Sky Blues have managed to maintain a strong home record while displaced.

Meanwhile strikers Adam Le Fondre and Bobo will be all the more effective having had the whole of pre-season to finetune their understanding, and both will aim to challenge Jamie Maclaren for the Golden Boot this year.

Bobo has had time to fine-tune his partnership with Adam Le Fondre.

… and reasons to be fearful: 

That same theme of consistency could potentially segue into staleness, with title rivals including both Melbourne clubs having recruited aggressively in the off-season. Sydney brought in Donachie to replace McGowan, but the exit of German playmaker Alex Baumjohann has so far been covered only by the arrival of Elvis Kamsoba – a winger most kindly described as inconsistent during his time at Victory.

To be fair Kamsoba has become something of a prolific scorer in pre-season, but Sydney fans are legitimately asking whether it’s the sort of signing that will lead to another title win.

The main concern is age, and whether Sydney have the pace to match the undoubted skill and game intelligence the squad has in abundance.

Fans’ Eye – by Simon Eyers

Why we believe: in a sentence, it’s one big family. Sydney FC has been, and is, the most inclusive club in the country. Supporting this club and being part of The Cove has meant meeting people from all walks of life. Many of these people are now genuine friends for life with whom I have travelled overseas to World Cups and around Australia.

Through the dire years, as crowds started dropping off, those friendships forged became even greater as it was only the “hardcore” left. I wouldn’t take those years back for anything and it makes the success the club has been enjoying recently all the sweeter.

Who we believe: historically, it has to be a close-run thing between Alex Brosque and Terry McFlynn. Both were sky-blue through and through and gave it all for the club and, in particular, the fans.  In a world of increasingly ego-centric footballers, it was refreshing to have such talented, dedicated, yet down-to-earth footballers. The fact Brosquey flew home to stand with the fans in 2012 when we sadly lost one of The Cove’s own, William ‘Doggadog’ Duran, was pure class, so that effort has to tilt the scales in Brosquey’s favour.

Currently, it has to be Milos Ninkovic, much for the same reasons!  The man is class, both on and off the pitch, and very humble to boot and a fine representative of this great club.

Fans in The Cove, “the best home end in the country” according to Simon Eyers.

The magic of matchday is… the pre-match buzz when you wake up on matchday,  the journey into the stadium, the pre-match pub, catching up with your friends, many whom you haven’t seen in some time (particularly so for the first home match of the season), the singing, the march to the ground, the anticipation of doing over one of your main rivals.  

The Cove is hands-down the best and most consistent home end in the country,  even through our period of disruption. We consistently produce the best tifos, the most noise and travel in the best numbers. I can only imagine how electric it is going be when we finally return to our spiritual home.

If I could change one thing about my club… it would be the displacement period, which has obviously tested everyone’s patience. It is however a testament to the loyalty of our supporters that we’ve continued to enjoy high membership numbers and attendances and goes to show that we really are a team for all of Sydney.

P.S. Sydney FC, please splash out an a marquee player for our return to generate even more hype!


By Tom Smithies and Matt Comito

Adelaide United: Can Veart steer them into the decider?

Brisbane Roar: Will the local lads surprise again?

Central Coast Mariners: A renaissance or brief ray of sunshine?

Macarthur FC: Attack looks great, but who replaces the veterans?

Melbourne City: Can anyone stop the champions?

Melbourne Victory: Can Popa resurrect the fallen giant?

Newcastle Jets: Can Papas find success with another overhaul?

Perth Glory: Are box office Glory title contenders?

Sydney FC: A familiar feel in Sky Blue – do they have another gear?

Wellington Phoenix: Can the ‘Nix thrive early doors based in Wollongong?

Western Sydney Wanderers: Will Robinson rise to expectations?

Western United: Will more ‘Dia’ magic help United bounce back?