Wanderers CEO defiant as Rudan seeks to lead Western Sydney back up the mountain

Western Sydney Wanderers chief executive John Tsatsimas rejected the suggestion the troubled club’s football operations need to be subjected to a review as he unveiled Mark Rudan as their fifth head coach in five years.

Rudan will take charge of Wednesday’s Isuzu UTE A-League clash with Perth Glory after signing on as head coach until the end of the season, replacing Carl Robinson.

The 46-year-old Rudan, who previously had spells at Wellington Phoenix and Western United, fills the void left by Robinson after the Welshman was dismissed amid Western Sydney’s dismal start to the season – the Wanderers have managed just one win from seven league games.

Rudan inherits a richly-assembled team that is one spot off the bottom and has struggled for any coherency in its gameplan under Robinson.

Even as one of the well-resourced, best-supported outfits in the league – with a state-of-the-art stadium to boot – the Wanderers look like a shell of the club that won the A-League Men Premiership and the AFC Champions League in their foundation years.

Not since inaugural coach Tony Popovic left the club in 2017 have they made finals and those past glories must feel all the more distant to a supporter base which is feeling more jaded with every new appointment.

Adding to those on-field issues were comments from recently departed A-League Women coach Dean Heffernan who said the Wanderers’ set-up was “the most toxic environment I’ve seen in 20 years of football”.

Former assistant coach Patrick Zwaanswijk also claimed the club had “no identity” but Tsatsimas, who has overseen all of the coaching changes since Popovic left, played down talk of a review and said everything was in place for the club to succeed.

“We talk about culture and the environment in the club – I’ve got over 100 players, staff and administrators who can regularly attest to all that here,” he said on Monday.

“There will be a day that I won’t be the CEO of the club, but today is not that day.

“The buck stops with me, but having said that the infrastructure here is second to none. This is the most professional place for a player to play, we just need someone to translate that into results.”

One of the biggest criticisms of Robinson’s tenure was that he was handed complete control of the club’s football department with no strings attached.

Rudan won’t be given as much leeway in the short term but has until the end of the year to press his case for a longer-term role.

After cycling through Josep Gombau, Markus Babbel, Jean Paul de Marigny and Robinson since Popovic’s exit, Tsatsimas claimed the appointment of Rudan was not an example of the club repeating the same mistakes.

“The narrative out there is certainly the case,” he said. “I appreciate what’s being said out there. Notwithstanding all of that we’ve made some mistakes along the way.

“We just need success on the pitch and we believe Mark will be the one who brings it along and we believe that come April or May that it’ll be happy days at the Wanderers.”

Rudan got the phone call to take charge of the Wanderers while he was on the golf course. Now he must steer a struggling club out of some considerable rough.

A Western Sydney local, Rudan said: “From the outside it’s tough (to say). I can only comment from what I’ve seen. The personnel are there but only until I get to work will I find out what those answers are.

“You don’t win games on paper. Names are just that. It’s important to understand each individual and get the most out of them.

“We want to make sure we create a team with values that pertain to the area that the club represents.”

Rudan added: “It’s a club from afar that I have seen do some extraordinary things. It would be nice to try and find our way back up the mountain.

“I’m extremely privileged and honoured because this is one of the big four clubs in the league, irrespective of where we are at right now as a football club and over the last few years.

“There’s pressure that’s associated with all of that and I’m very pleased to be here.”