EXCLUSIVE: New Sydney FC acquisition Richard Garcia says he’ll relish the buzz of his first Sydney derby – and the attacking midfielder believes Wanderers should’ve been in the league from day one.
After playing in the Melbourne derby with Heart last season, the 2010 World Cup Socceroo now has a chance to experience the Harbour City’s own derby.
And Garcia's pumped for the visit of the red and black in a fixture that’s quickly become a major part of Sydney’s sporting calendar.
“It’s fantastic. Fantastic for Sydney. To be fair I can’t see why Western Sydney wasn’t there from the start [of the A-League]. Rivalries are what make football, football,” he told au.fourfourtwo.com.
The first Sydney Derby of the new season is set for round three at Allianz Stadium.
Last season a noisy and passionate crowd of just over 26,000 was at Allianz for the December derby clash.
This time, there is a good chance of a 40,000 crowd after Wanderers’ surge in memberships over the off-season.
The chance to outnumber Sky Blue fans is fuelling speculation of a red and black invasion on October 26 (kick-off 7.30pm), similar to the A-League grand final last April when an estimated 35,000 Wanderers fans descended on venue to make for a fabulous finale to season.
“You always lift, especially when there’s a big crowd,” said Garcia, who turns 32 on Wednesday.
“For players it’s part of the reason why you play. You like to play in front of big crowds and it should be a great event. It’s good that it’s finally in the A-League.”
Another reason for Garcia’s excitement was a spell training with a semi-pro club in WA before joining Sydney. It gave him a new lease on life after his surprise split from Melbourne Heart in the off-season.
The former Socceroo wasn’t able to agree a new contract at the red and whites after a six-goal season with the Melbourne outfit.
So the Perth-born Socceroo headed back to WA as negotiations with a new club began. While in Perth, the former EPL star at Hull City worked with a personal trainer friend, and for some ball work, he approached a local state league club.
“It’s good to be part of a bunch of guys who do it for the love not just because it’s a job,” he said.
“I’m sure everyone loves it in the A-League but it’s a different kettle of fish for them [in the state leagues].
“Having that interaction with the guys and getting just some ball-work done. I really enjoyed it as it goes.
“It was good for them too and for them to realise we’re just normal guys too like them and we do the same things as them – just we do it daily.”
Despite the interrupted off-season and missing his new club's Italian summer tour, Garcia has no concerns about being ready for the new season. For the former West Ham player – who played in England for over a decade – a six-week intense off-season preparation is par for the course.
“I feel pretty good. I’ve done a lot of work in the gym in the last few months. It’s now about doing the hard yards on the pitch. And getting used to the ball again. It’s going to be an intense six weeks."
“For me six weeks is normal for a pre-season so I’m looking forward to it.
“I was getting a bit edgy there, it was a bit too long off. I’m only used to the six weeks off. That’s a proper pre-season for me.”
Sydney FC trained at their Macquarie University base yesterday morning with a triple session that began with shape work on the pitch.
Garcia said what attracted him to the club went beyond the chance to play alongside Alessandro Del Piero – though that was a factor.
“The size and ambition of the club," he said. "It’s a massive club and obviously bringing Alessandro here and the squad they’ve brought together.
"Rado [Vidosic] and Frank [Farina] are ambitious guys who want to achieve things, and that for me is number one: I want to achieve stuff and the club has the capability to achieve it.”