By Lance Jenkinson
The inner west is about to get its first taste of Western United in the A-League.
United has opted to transfer its blockbuster Australia Day clash with Adelaide United to the VU Whitten Oval in Footscray.
It will be the first chance for western suburbs supporters to cheer on Western United in a home game without having to travel to Ballarat or Geelong.
United defender Andrew Durante has supported the move, which is aimed at capturing the United fans that find it hard to travel to the country towns and capturing new supporters in the suburbs.
“I think it could work,” Durante said. “It’s a nice little stadium, I think it holds 11,000.
“I think it’s good for the club to be able come to areas like this, a little bit more inner west than Geelong and Ballarat and really broaden our fan base.
“There’s quite a lot of fans around this area, so hopefully they turn out in numbers, come out to this game and really support us.”
One of the qualms about Western United playing home games at Geelong’s GMHBA Stadium is its large size.
With relatively small crowds for a big stadium, it has put a bit of a dent on the atmosphere generated by the enthusiastic crowd.
A recent United home game at Ballarat’s Mars Stadium, which has a similar capacity to the VU Whitten Oval, generated a much better atmosphere.
“I think this [Whitten Oval] is a perfect little boutique stadium to generate some noise and atmosphere,” Durante said.
“At the moment we’re a small club with big ambitions and we’re trying to grow our fan base as quickly as possible and little things like this, coming to different stadiums, can really help us broaden our fan base.
“Until our stadium is built [in Tarneit], maybe a bit of this is required, that we do venture around to different areas to maximise our audience.”
Durante is adamant the short-term pain of playing in Australian rules football stadiums will be worth it in the long run for Western United players and fans once its new stadium is built at their home in Wyndham.
“I think we’re in a unique situation where once the stadium is built, we’ll have a real strong home base, probably one of the best in stadiums in Australia that’s owned by us,” he said.
“Players want a set home base and fans want a set home base, but it’s quite a unique situation where we’re waiting for this stadium to be built.
“The players are happy. We like to go to different stadiums and play in different atmospheres, so we’ll make the most of it.
“It will be a home game for us [at Footscray] and I know we’ll get a really good crowd here, so it’s going to be exciting for the players and the fans.”
Before Western United makes its VU Whitten Oval debut, it will face Central Coast Mariners at GMHBA Stadium this Sunday at 4pm.
A special day is planned by United with it doubling as a fundraising event for the bushfire appeal.
“This day is bigger than football,” United chief executive officer Chris Pehlivanis said.
“It’s an event for the entire football community to come together and show we are united in helping those communities in need. “What’s more, our members, fans and the broader community will have the opportunity to show their appreciation for the emergency services and volunteers.”