SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 01: Nikolai Topor-Stanley of the Wanderers watches on during the round 14 A-League match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and the Melbourne Victory at Parramatta Stadium on January 1, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images) WESTERN Sydney Wanderers star Nikolai Topor-Stanley said yesterday that “leaving Newcastle was the best thing that has ever happened to me” after being named in the Professional Footballers’ Association A-League team of the year.
Topor-Stanley and prolific Wellington Phoenix striker Jeremy Brockie, both let go by the Jets after the 2011-2012 season, were named in the PFA’s starting side, voted on by players.
With only a handful of players, a rushed preparation and a rookie coach in former Socceroo Tony Popovic, the Wanderers were tipped by all and sundry as wooden spoon favourites.
Fast forward to now and the Wanderers are the fairytale of Australian sport, claiming the Premiers’ Plate and building a passionate fan base previously unseen in this country.
As for Topor-Stanley, the 27-year-old Canberra product has found a home at his fourth A-League club and is in discussions for a Socceroos recall in time for June’s World Cup qualifiers.
“When I left I didn’t know what was going to happen, but from what I knew about Poppa and the other players he had already signed, I knew we were going to be competitive no matter what and at least capable of giving it a shot,” he said.
“I wasn’t sure how the fans were going to embrace us, but obviously that is out of this world.”
No more true than the incredible show of support at a street parade in down-town Parramatta on Tuesday.
Despite going down to the Central Coast Mariners 2-0 in the grand final 48 hours earlier, the Red and Black Bloc came out in their droves in a sign of the great strides the club has made in its short existence.
“It was a very humbling experience to see so many people turn up and it kind of put the loss of one game into perspective,” Topor-Stanley said.
“The connection between the fans and the club is something that will last a lot longer than the loss of one game.
“As a community, we’ve embraced each other and we can go to another level.”
The same can be said for the powerful central defender, who is signed with the Wanderers next season.
Having fallen off the radar for national selection in recent years, Topor-Stanley’s resurgence after stints at Sydney FC, Perth Glory and the Jets has him in Socceroos calculations.
The last of his three caps came in 2008, and the former Tuggeranong United junior says he would relish a call-up if it came his way.
“I was a lot younger then, and at the time it didn’t really sink in that I was representing my country and playing for everyone here,” he said.
“Now that I’ve kind of matured as a player and as a person, I know it’s a true honour and a pinnacle of a footballer’s life.
“I’m really happy that I have experienced it, but I’d love to do it again.”
PFA A-League Team of the Season (4-3-3): Ante Covic (Wanderers); Jerome Polenz (Wanderers), Trent Sainsbury (Mariners), Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Wanderers), Adama Traore (Victory); Shiji Ono (Wanderers), Mark Milligan (Victory), Michael McGlinchey (Mariners); Jeremy Brockie (Phoenix), Alessandro Del Piero (Sydney), Marco Rojas (Victory). Bench: Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide), Michael Thwaite (Glory), Marcelo Carrusca (Adelaide), Archie Thompson (Victory), Daniel McBreen (Mariners).
Coach: Tony Popovic