Sydney FC are determined to embrace the hype – not buckle under it – when Alessandro Del Piero makes his home A-League debut tomorrow.
Sydney are expecting a record regular season crowd of more than 30,000 when they face Emile Heskey and the Newcastle Jets for the most eagerly anticipated fixture at Allianz Stadium this season..
But with it comes added pressure to produce quality football – and a win – to keep notoriously fickle Sydney spectators coming back, especially after their disappointing opening loss in Wellington.
Coach Ian Crook wants his players to relish the opportunity and occasion.
‘‘It will be a great atmosphere here on Saturday with Alessandro’s first home game,’’ Crook said after training at Allianz Stadium yesterday.
‘‘There’s been a lot of hype around that, and I think it’s something we should just embrace and enjoy because it’s not too often that we’ve ever been able to get close to a full house.
‘‘There’s always pressure to win here [at home]. ‘‘There’ll be expectation every week, not just this week.
‘‘There will be a big crowd and that’s what we’re in the game for.
‘‘I’d rather be playing in front of 30,000 with some expectations on us – instead of 3000 with no expectations.’’
Del Piero looks set to play the full 90 minutes after going the distance in Wellington and, in an Australian football first, his every move will be followed by a special Fox Sports ‘‘hero-cam’’ which will enable TV viewers to track him for the entire match.
Crook admits he was surprised by the 37-year-old former Juventus and Italy legend’s stamina in Wellington with no pre-season warm-up clashes under his belt.
‘‘If you would have asked me last week I would have said ‘No way would he play 90 minutes’,’’ Crook said.
‘‘So I think we’ll just keep watching him and assessing him through the game.
‘‘Last week, every five or 10 minutes in that second half we called out to him and he said ‘No, I’m fine’, so we’ll do the same this week.’’
Young forward Terry Antonis has been ruled out after suffering concussion last week.