Tony Popovic has dramatically exited the Western Sydney Wanderers a mere week out from the opening of the 2017/18 A-League Season
Reports have indicated that Popovic received & accepted a shock offer from Turkish side Karabukspor, a inconsistent, occasionally relegated side who have gone through coach after coach in the past 5 years. His tenure at the Wanderers resulted in the club becoming the first ever Australian winners of the Asian Champions League, while domestically his output was less than expected after he failed to add to the single A-League Premiership the club won in their inaugural season.
After rejecting multiple offers from clubs in England & China after winning the Asian Champions league, he has finally accepted what appears to be a quite mediocre club for his first major opportunity overseas. The awful timing sees the Wanderers scrambling to find a replacement manager to take charge of the Round 1 fixture against Perth Glory.
One minor benefit for whoever the new coach will be is that unlike previous seasons, the Wanderers recruited well & early, putting together a strong squad with all 5 foreign spots filled early into pre-season. The benefits have shown as the Wanderers have made their way into the FFA Cup semi-finals and have been touted as a top 4, if not top 2, squad in the A-League.
It is likely that Wanderers chairman Paul Lederer & CEO John Tsatsimas has already potentially scouted new staff as Popovic's contract was expiring at the end of the season, and the obvious targets include Ante Milicic, currently an assist with the Australian National Team, Josep Gombau, who is in charge of the Australian U23/Olympic team. Should the club want to look to promote coach from the NPL they could seek out the services of Mark Rudan, Chris Taylor from South Melbourne, or Mark Crittenden from Blacktown City. Ian Crook will run the club in a caretaker fashion until an appointment is made.
Ultimately the club will need to move forward quickly from the "Popovic Era", find a coach that can bring quick success to a club that has not won a title for the past 3 seasons. Popovic's style was highly authoritarian, and said to be total control over the football side of the club. It will be an adjustment for the players & staff regardless of who takes over the role, and whoever wins the job will have high expectations from day one.