Derby day: Sydney FC goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic is ready for the Sydney derby. Photo: Brendan EspositoGiven the propensity of Sydney’s west to churn out elite footballers, it’s only inevitable a few will end up on the wrong side of the Strathfield divide.
Incredibly, no less than 10 of Sydney FC’s first-team squad – almost half – grew up or played junior football in the city’s west. Throw in some of the club’s youth players who occasionally appear in the senior team, and the number rises further.
It has always been thus since the A-League began and probably always will be. While those in the Sky Blue shirt are wholly committed to their cause, the “westie” spirit is hard to douse among those who spent their Saturday mornings traipsing from Bankstown to St Marys and all points in between.
Vedran Janjetovic, who immigrated to the region from Croatia as a child, straddled the divide between two of the west’s great NSL clubs, Sydney Olympic and Sydney United, before Sydney FC called him up to the big time in 2012.
He will stand between the posts for the Sky Blues at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night with an express mission: to keep the Red and Black Bloc frustrated.
“I grew up in the west, I’m considered a westie and now playing I’m playing for the opposite team,” Janjetovic conceded at Sydney training on Friday. “But I’ve made my living here. I’ve started here and I’m going to continue to be loyal to this team, so my heart stays here.”
The 26-year-old has experienced multiple derbies between the posts for the Sky Blues but is yet to play in a winning side. The only time Sydney won against the Wanderers was in round three last season, with Ivan Necevski – now Janjetovic’s understudy – between the posts.
Despite not tasting victory, the feeling of playing in the cross-town clash makes the hairs on his neck stand on end.
“They’re awesome – unbelievable,” he said. “The atmosphere is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. It comes close to the European derbies. It’s very loud and very exciting. They’re our biggest rival, we’re sitting sixth on the ladder, so every game from now on is a big one and we need points.”
It goes without saying Sydney have plenty of respect for the Wanderers.
“The Wanderers are a top team,” Janjetovic said. “They’re the premiers, they’ve got good form coming in and have everything to play for with the Asian Champions League coming up.
“But we’ve got to go in level-headed and simply must try to come out on top.”
However, Janjetovic reckons the Sky Blues will at least have the edge in the stands and he wants to give the fans something to cheer about after another inconsistent season.
“Every week they inspire us, they come out and support us and do everything for us,” he said. “So for us to give them three points in any game is big, but we want to do it this week, especially for them, because they need it us much as we do.”
Losing to Central Coast last week snapped a two-game winning streak, but there’s belief among the players that they’re not far away from putting together a 90-minute display, something coach Frank Farina has pleaded for all season.
“Teams have ups and downs, that’s just the norm to slip up, but we’ll bounce back,” he said. “The boys have been absolutely excellent at training this whole week. Everyone is buzzing and everyone is ready to go.”
There is just a handful of points between third and eighth on a suffocating table, Sydney wedged in the middle of the dog fight and desperately needing more points to stave off the teams below.
“The competition is just so close now and it’s something that’s been happening for the past couple of years,” he said. “It seems to be getting closer and closer. All the teams are level pegging, you might say, and three points would be massive.”