Western Sydney Wanderers striker Brendon Santalab says he cannot wait for a cracking atmosphere at Saturday’s Sydney derby following last weekend’s Red and Black Bloc silent protest.
The RBB confirmed to FourFourTwo it would be business as usual, promising to be loud during the derby at Allianz Stadium where Wanderers will try to maintain their perfect record against Sydney at the venue.
WSW management declined to comment following the RBB silent protest and ensuing statement this week, and the focus has swiftly turned to the sixth instalment of the Sydney derby.
“In both derbies this season the fans have been amazing and I’m sure it’s going to be no different,” said Santalab, who admitted to FourFourTwo that Sunday’s atmosphere at Pirtek Stadium against Newcastle was a “...little bit strange.
“Our fans have been outstanding this season, the noise and atmosphere they generate is second to none. It’s like having a 12th man.
“We know they’ll be out in the force this weekend at Sydney FC’s home stadium, so it should be a cracker.”
Santalab is one of five Wanderers players in line to play on Saturday night, who have previously donned the sky blue of Sydney FC.
“I had a fantastic two years at the club. I’m not bitter about anything about Sydney FC,” he said.
“I’ll never forget the time I had there. For me it’s just a normal derby, but it doesn’t matter which club you play for, derbies are always different to normal games. It’s spicy.”
The 31-year-old netted the winner in the last derby back in January and felt he’d never been in better physical shape, paying tribute to the influence of coach Tony Popovic.
“I’m feeling great, probably the best I have in my career. It’s all about learning off Popa, especially what he’s done for my fitness levels,” said Santalab, who joined WSW in August.
“He’s great with his professionalism, discipline and his tactics. So far this season I’ve made steps forward which I’m really happy about.”
Santalab may arguably be in a position to return the favour to Popovic following the derby, with Wanderers set for an AFC Champions League trip to face Guizhou Renhe in China, where the striker previously spent four-and-a-half years of his nomadic career.
“He hasn’t asked me anything, but I’m sure he’s got plans,” laughed Santalab, who scored in Wanderers’ ACL opener.
“The Chinese are coming out of their off-season so they’ve made new signings with their foreign players who I’m not too familiar with.
“But the Chinese style is quite simple, they’re nippy and a bit like the Koreans, probably not as good technically. We want to go there with the intent to win the game, survive their early onslaught and take all three points.”