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Is Oliver Bozanic the circuit breaker that makes this Wanderers rebuild different?




Fans of the Western Sydney Wanderers must be fed up with the mass signings and significant departures that have been notable features of the club’s last few off-seasons.

Far-from-acceptable results have led to a broom being taken to the playing roster and coaching staff in recent history and 2022 has been no different.

Bernie Ibini is gone, after just five goals in 46 A-Leagues matches, Dimi Petratos’ season-long deal is done as he returns to the Middle East, while Tomer Hemed, Tomas Mejias, Ziggy Gordon and Keijiro Ogawa all depart after completing the terms of their current contracts.

Phillip Cancar is off to Scotland, Steven Ugarkovic accepts a new challenge in Wellington, and Thomas Aquilina heads up the M1 to the Central Coast.

The promising Tass Mourdoukoutas will no longer be a Wanderer, setting the stage for yet another refashioning of a team that continues to flounder, and is without semi-final participation over the last five seasons.

During that time, the club has appointed six different full-time or caretaker coaches, won a paltry 38 matches from a total of 132 played, and – despite a decent period of success in Sydney Derbies, where they appeared to finally have Sydney FC’s measure – fans have had absolutely nothing to cheer about since, well, 2016!

All the while, supposed big names have been drawn to the club, with most misfiring and rarely producing the football that their reputations suggested they would.

Gone are the heady days of average attendances of around 15,000, the Red and Black Bloc now splintered or absent and the league hoping that one of the most passionate and entertaining match day experiences is to one day return.

However, that will not occur without success on the field and after yet another clean-out of playing talent, Western Sydney have been most active in the player market, desperate to finally get their acquisitions right for the upcoming season.

Lawrence Thomas signed on in late May after a successful 56-game spell in Denmark and with one of the best Australian goalkeepers in the business heading to Wanderland, the club must at least be commended for coming up trumps in its search for a custodian.

Romain Amalfitano has obvious pedigree and with solid minutes in Saudi Arabia over recent seasons, arrives as a fit and in-form 32-year-old import, something that cannot be said of past Wanderer signings.

Exciting 23-year-old Kusini Yengi departs Adelaide to set up digs in Western Sydney, and after something of a frustrating recent period with the Sky Blues, Calem Nieuwenhof jumps ship in an attempt to guarantee himself consistent minutes and the chance to develop his game.

Kusini Yengi

Kusini Yengi. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

There are a couple of young players also added, with Western Sydney eyeing the future, yet it is the acquisition of Oliver Bozanic that could prove a game-changer.

His signing could well influence others still in negotiations to put pen to paper, such is his reputation and quality.

Along with Thomas and Amalfitano, the bones of a decent team are there. Ramy Najjarine and Keanu Baccus continue to develop and along with Yengi and Nieuwenhoff, could form the basis of a team capable of winning far more than the six matches they managed in season 2021-22.

Bozanic was simply superb on the Central Coast and the hole he leaves there is potentially the most difficult to fill in the A-League. It is a shame for all parties that things appeared to have ended in disharmony, yet the Wanderers will care little and be chuffed with the signing of the 33-year-old.

After a professional football journey that has taken him to 11 different clubs and seen three separate stints at the Mariners, Bozanic brings a cold stare, hardened professionalism, and a standard-setting approach, something that lifted the Mariners in tangible terms.

Many, me included, were not against the idea of a return to national colours over the last 12 months, with Bozanic’s form consistent and the depth of the playing stocks tested during the World Cup qualification campaign.

The Wanderers will be hoping they have purchased an exact replica of the Bozanic we have watched in admiration since his return to Australia in 2020.

Mark Rudan will demand that the rest of the squad follow his lead, emulate his effort, and kill off the rumours of apathy and uninterest that have circled the team in recent seasons.

Heaven knows, the Wanderers need that. There can only be so many squad reinventions and poor results that fans put up with.

For Western Sydney, Oliver Bozanic may well be the circuit breaker.





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