EXCLUSIVE: With the A-League season kick-off tomorrow, Sydney FC skipper Terry McFlynn insisted the most hyped build up yet has not distracted his side from their task.
The Sky Blues have been at the centre of the most talked about A-League season in the competition’s seven-year history.
The signing of former Juventus superstar Alessandro Del Piero has given the club a profile it could only have dreamed of in recent years.
Media coverage has gone through the roof as the club - and league - has been suddenly thrust into the national and international spotlight.
And with two other superstars also inking A-League contracts – Emile Heskey for the Jets and Wanderers’ Shinji Ono – it’s undoubtedly been the biggest few weeks ever for media coverage of the A-League.
For Sydney, this has translated into crowds flocking to training sessions and public appearances, including yesterday's Sydney FC In Business luncheon at the Ivy Hotel in front of around 350 guests - including the club's Russian billionaire owner/major shareholder David Traktovenko.
But Sky Blues skipper Terry McFlynn said the hype hasn’t taken the focus off the main game for the players.
“Certainly there’s a lot more exposure and adulation on the club at the minute. And for me it’s a good thing,” he told au.fourfourtwo.com.
“For the young players it shows them what it’s like from where Alessandro has come from and the passion and fanaticism of fans overseas.
“We want to embrace that in Australia. And as players you love having 50 or 60 people watching you at training. It gives you as a buzz.
“But our main focus always has been and always will be, playing football. Our work starts at 9am when we arrive at the training ground and finishes when the boss lets us go home.
“Even then, when you get home, you’re thinking about the training and the games.
“All this [the media build up, social engagements and hype] is a necessity to launch a season and make the business community and the public more aware of Sydney FC and what we’re trying to achieve on and off the pitch.
“But primarily we’re footballers.”
And with this in mind, Sydney fly to Wellington on Friday morning ahead of their season opener against Phoenix at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.
Sky Blues defender Trent McClenahan is likely to take up a central spot in place of Pascal Bosschaart who continues to target full fitness after a serious leg injury late last season.
Other than that, it’s a full strength 16-man squad to pick from for Sydney coach Ian Crook's 15-player travelling party.
For Phoenix, talented 19-year-old winger Louis Fenton is set for a debut start on Saturday.
Ricki Herbert’s side has strengthened in the front third this season with Jeremy Brockie and Belgian Stein Huysegems both key signings and ready to play roles in the clash that's tipped to attract more than15,000 fans.
Phoenix could line-up with a 4-1-3-2 using Manny Muscat as the defensive midfielder tasked with shackling Del Piero.
However key striker Paul Ifill may be used from the bench after a spell on the treatment table in recent weeks.
It should be an intriguing clash between two sides who both made the play-offs last season.
Crook will make a final decision on the 15 players to travel after putting his squad through its final training session on Thursday.
McFlynn added: “The structure and philosophy that the boss has put in place has been embraced by the players and everyone knows their jobs and how we’ll play.
“And obviously bringing in someone of Alessandro’s class is the icing on the cake. With him, class is permanent."