Sydney FC’s 2011/12 season was below par for a club with high ambitions and a taste for silverware. It did, however, breathe new life and hope into the sky blues with their return to finals showing strong success in rebuilding the club having underperformed the previous year.
The first crucial steps towards revival came before the season even kicked off. New CEO Dirk Melton was appointed by the club, which then made the extremely impressive signing of Blackburn Rovers and Socceroos midfielder Brett Emerton. The winger was made Sydney’s international marquee player – a move hailed as a massive victory for both the club and the reputation of the entire A-League.
Also, their leaky defence was revamped by the additions of Michael Beauchamp (another Australian international) and veteran Dutchman Pascal Bosschaart. The many new faces were offset by stability in management – they kept faith with Coach Vitezslav Lavicka, who led them to the domestic double in 2009/10.
The season started on a bright note, giving fans plenty of cause for optimism. A Round 1 draw against bitter rivals Melbourne Victory preceded an outstanding away win over Adelaide United. Early in the season, Lavicka’s men were lauded for their indomitable team spirit, their grit, and their never-say-die attitude which often saw them produce late surges in matches to rescue points and snatch wins.
Sydney’s main man throughout the season was undoubtedly Nicky Carle. His first year at the club was an undeniable disappointment, but this time around he showcased the remarkable talents we’ve always known were there. The number 10 was blessedly injury-free and pundits began linking his name with the Johnny Warren Medal early on. His breathtaking footwork and classy passing, combined with a newfound work ethic and more advanced field position, earned Carle a thoroughly-deserved recall to the Socceroos squad.
One of the brightest moments in the season came away from home against defending champions Brisbane Roar. Sydney FC produced an exquisite and now-famous 2-0 win to end the Roar’s 36-game undefeated streak.
This was unfortunately followed by a period of poor form which resulted in Sydney dropping down the ladder and out of the top six. But thanks to talented youngster Joel Chianese and some superb form found by Emerton, the club managed to turn things around at the business end of the season. It culminated with a thrilling last-game victory over Newcastle Jets, which led to qualification for the finals in 5th position.
Sadly however the sky blues couldn’t get the better of Wellington Phoenix away from home in the semi-finals. They went down fighting in a thrilling 3-2 encounter, with Chianese grabbing both of Sydney’s strikes. But the season was a period of transition. Now, with Ian Crook taking over as head coach, marquee players Emerton and Carle both settled and in form, and electrifying youngsters like Chianese and Mitchell Mallia coming up through the ranks – the upcoming 2012/13 season promises to be gripping!
Table position: 5th
(Eliminated from the finals by Wellington Phoenix 3-2)
Highest goalscorer: Bruno Cazarine (8)
Goals scored: 37
Goals conceded: 42
W – D – L record: 10 – 8 – 9
Average crowd attendance: 11,861
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