Wanderers warning: beware dirty tricks in Riyadh

Jon McKain has warned Western Sydney Wanderers FC to expect a “few tricks” and an extremely hostile reception when they face Al-Hilal in the ACL final second leg in Riyadh.

The Wanderers host the Saudi giants in the first leg in Sydney on October 25 before attempting to complete their fairytale ACL campaign at the hostile 70,000 capacity King Fahd International Stadium a week later.

The ex Adelaide-United and Socceroo defender is one of the few Australians who knows a bit about Saudi football, having spent a season with Al Nassr in 2010/11.

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And he believes the Wanderers will need to do well in the first leg, with a hostile reception in front of them when they get to Riyadh for the second leg on November 1.   

“It will be the most daunting atmospheres they have ever played in front of,” McKain told www.a-league.com.au.

“Whenever they played against Al Ittihad, the big rivals of Al-Hilal, they’d get 65,000-70,000 fans screaming and that atmosphere is unbelievable and it will be something they’ve never experienced before.

“Hopefully they can do well that first leg because I can guarantee you there will be a lot of pressure and a lot of tricks in that second game.

“There’ll be the bus won’t turn up trick, the usual training ground won’t be available or they’ll go to the wrong ground, those usual tricks teams often use over there to frustrate the opponent.

“I’m sure they’ll expect it not to be smooth sailing, there just distractions at the end of the day when it comes to that second game.”

While he only spent a year in the league, McKain described it was one of the best experiences of his 15-year career so far.

He’s seen first-hand just how big and popular Al-Hilal is in the region. And the stats certainly make impressive reading.

They’ve won 13 Saudi Premier League crowns, 27 trophies and six continental titles in their time, including two ACL crowns in 1991 and 2000.

“They’re easily the biggest club in Saudi and the most successful.

“They’ve got the most support and have a blend of really good local players and then the big-hitting foreigners that some people have probably never heard of but they’re on millions of dollars and are unbelievable,” McKain said.

“They’ve got that quality that you just don’t see in other leagues.  

“And the fans just live and breathe it. I’m sure they’ll (Wanderers) get the police escorts to the games but the streets will be shut off, there’s people everywhere, guys hanging out of car windows waving scarves and things.

“It will be a really good atmosphere and you can really appreciate it’s not just a game for them over there, that’s what will be fantastic for the boys to experience that.”

Like many, McKain admits he has been surprised and in awe of the Wanderers’ journey and how they have continually been able to defy the odds in the competition.

“And it probably doesn’t get the recognition it deserves in Australia. But I’ve travelled around and played in these other countries and that’s you realize how big it (ACL) is for them,” McKain explained.

“You don’t realize how big it is what the Wanderers have done. When you compare the squad size, the amount of money spent, the amount travel they’ve had to do, the places they’ve had to go and the results they’ve got. It’s been a top-notch effort.

“They’ve surprised everyone…you would never have dreamed they would get to the final and there’s only one more step for them to go.

“Popa’s got them playing in a fantastic way, particularly at home with the crowd behind them. They’ve got every chance to go on and win it and I really hope they do.”

Meanwhile, McKain, 32, confirmed he was close to finalizing a deal to continue his playing career in Asia, with an official announcement expected in the next week.

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