Western Sydney defender Jonathan Aspro insists the A-League club has set a positive platform for next season despite finishing the year without reaching a final.
Western Sydney were knocked out on penalties by Brisbane Roar in the first round of the A-League finals and then eliminated from the Asian Champions League, finishing bottom of its group.
The Wanderers had a poor start to the 2016/2017 A-League campaign but found form in the second part of the season and were unbeaten in the last six games to finish in sixth spot. Tony Popovic’s men bowed out of Asia last week with a 3-2 win over Shanghai SIPG.
“It was a really good end to the season especially for us in the last game against Shanghai,” Aspro told FourFourTwo.
“Obviously disappointing for us to lose against Brisbane, we thought we really competed that night. We were really proud as a team that we represented the club well that night, but just unfortunate to go out on penalties.”
Aspro declined to use the amount of turnover in the squad last year as a reason for the club’s ordinary start to the season.
“It’s a tough one to answer because it’s never easy when you have turnover in any club, in any sport around the world,” he said.
“It’s always going to be difficult for players to integrate and get used to each other, that’s always a challenge. But in saying that we’ll never hold that as an excuse for us. We know that we started the season pretty slowly and we had a fair few draws there that we would have liked to manufacture pressure into wins.
"But come the second half of the year we really hit the ground running and we felt that we’ve really set a platform for next season. Now we’re just looking ahead to what’s going to be a really exciting 2017/2018 season.”
The form of Aspro was one of the bright spots for Western Sydney last season with the 20-year-old making a total of 27 appearances in all competitions.
“I’ve been satisfied with my season and happy to contribute to the team and really happy to have taken on the added responsibility of playing every week and the added pressure that that has on any player,” he said.
“I’ve been fortunate to be exposed to some big games and high-pressure games in the Asian Champions League and also in the finals. So for a young player it’s a good experience and those are experiences I’ll take into my career.
“We’ve got another big pre-season ahead of us and as a team we can all improve and get better. That’s no different for myself, I’ve still got a lot of improvement in me.”
Aspro was rewarded for his performances with a nomination for the NAB Young Footballer of the Year award and with selection in the Olyroos training squad for the tournament in Mynamar. The Olyroos are currently in camp together in Sydney and play Sydney FC tomorrow.
“It’s always a privilege and an honour to head into the national team camp because you know you’ve been selected amongst the best young footballers in the country,” he said.
“It’s always nice to be acknowledged and work with some of the best coaches and players in the country. It’ll be good for everyone to come together to get that continuity that we need heading into that tournament.”
The Olyroos need to top their group or be one of the best five second-placed teams of the ten groups in the tournament in July to book a place in next year's AFC U-21 Championship in China.
Previous Olyroo outfits have struggled in Asia in recent times but Aspro said this is a new team with a fresh slate.
“Josep’s come in and got us soley focused on this campaign and taking it one step at time,” the centre back said.
“We’re just looking forward to this tournament – not looking forward further than that. In terms of previous history we’re not too much worried about that, we haven’t got too many of the boys who were in those campaigns that are in the team now.
“Any previous results that have gone by haven’t affected any of the boys at the moment. The vibe’s pretty positive and everyone’s keen to work.”