Western Sydney Wanderers are set to feel the full intent of Leeds United as the Yorkshire giants bid to erase the gut-wrenching misery of missing out on promotion to the Premier League.
Leeds striker Patrick Bamford insists Marcelo Biela’s side will “put things right” in the new season, and will use the christening of Wanderers’ newly-refurbished Bankwest Stadium home as a catalyst for their own resurrection.
The Whites looked destined for a long-awaited return to English football’s top echelon before a late season implosion saw them ultimately bow out in the Championship play-offs, amid much incredulity.
The very thought of it still hurts and the looming clashes against Manchester United at Perth’s Optus Stadium on Wednesday night, and Bankwest Stadium next Saturday are the first steps on redemption road.
The Sydney match doubles as a house warming for the Wanderers as they return to their Parramatta roots at a pristine football palace.
There will be at least 7000 Leeds fans amongst an expected 30,000 sellout crowd, with a designated standing room only area at the northern end of the ground reserved for 1260 of Wanderers’ active support.
“How last season ended was unfortunate for us but that’s why so many people love football, because you never know what’s going to happen,” Bamford told The World Game.
“Ultimately, it’s just one of those things and we’ve just got to make it right this time.
“Sometimes it’s the luck of the bounce and certain things go your way and it just wasn’t our day (in the play-off semi-final loss to a Frank Lampard-led Derby County).
“I think we did most things right in terms of the season as a whole but it just wasn’t to be.
“We’ve got to forget about about all the heartbreak now. We showed ourselves that as a team we’re capable of being right up there, which is important.
“We’re a club that’s built for the Premier League and there’s no doubt we should be back up there.
“If you see how many people care about the team in the city it’s crazy.
“We have to get up back to the Premier League and the sooner we do it the better.”
Bamford, 25, poses a huge threat to Wanderers as he tunes up for a campaign which brought him nine goals from just 21 appearances after injury saw him miss more than six months.
He admits his knowledge of Australia is scant, having never visited the country before, though he played alongside Socceroos defender Rhys Williams briefly during their time together at Middlesbrough.
The former Chelsea forward spent five years at Stamford Bridge without making a Premier League appearance, with loan spells at the likes of Burnley, Crystal Palace, MK Dons and Norwich.
He’s become a key man under the guidance of Bielsa at Elland Road and views the obsessive and eccentric Argentine’s decision to extend his contract as vital to Leeds’ prospects of promotion in 2019-2020.
“Continuity is really crucial ... it’s difficult to achieve anything if there’s chopping and changing,” he added.
“It took a bit of time to get used to his ideas and the fact we’ve had a season under him, and he’s shaped us into the mould he likes, will make it easier for us to push on again.
“You have to be very fit (to play for him) and you have to be mentally strong and focused. We work on that every day.”
Bamford concedes that Markus Babbel’s Wanderers will be mystery eleven for Leeds, but one thing he is expecting is a team high on “fitness and physicality”, though they also are only in the first weeks of pre-season.
“I think when teams like Manchester United and ourselves come here it can only help the game grow,” he added.
“Maybe it will convert a few more Australians to the game, which can only be a good thing.”
Though a club with a strong Aussie tradition, with the likes of Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka still evocative figures among fans, that era pre-dates Bamford and his cohorts.
“I do remember Viduka well but for me when I think of Australians in the Premier League Tim Cahill comes to mind because that’s from the more recent past.”