|Full name||Sydney United 58 Football Club|
|Ground||Sydney United Sports Centre|
|2021||2nd of 12|
(note 2021 season cancelled)
Sydney United 58 Football Club is a semi-professional soccer club and current NSW NPL Champions based in Edensor Park, Sydney, New South Wales Australia. The club was formed as Sydney Croatia in 1958, by Croatian Australians in the area, but it was renamed in 1993 as Sydney United after having the name Sydney CSC for a season.
Sydney United currently competes in the National Premier Leagues New South Wales, hosting matches at the Sydney United Sports Centre in Edensor Park. United are a sister club of the Melbourne Knights, a Croatian club in the NPL Victoria.
The club is a regular participant in the Australian-Croatian Soccer Tournament.
Formed in 1958 as a sports club, the Sydney United Football Club played its first season in 1958 (undefeated) in the old NSW Soccer Football Association (NSWSFA). After transferring to the NSW Soccer Federation (a breakaway league established in 1959), they competed in the third division. In 1961 they were promoted to the second division and in 1963 to first, where they were amongst the elite teams nationwide. Teams like St. George Budapest, Pan-Hellenic (who later become Sydney Olympic), APIA-Leichhardt, Yugal and Hakoah were United's major rivals.
For the seasons of 1964 and 1965 a part of the name changed (from Croatia to Metropolitan Adriatic), reverting to Croatia in 1966. However, this was not the last name change; the NSWSF ordered Croatia and Yugal in 1968 to anglicise their names after several incidents of crowd violence. Croatia changed their name again to South Sydney Croatia, since they resided in the South Sydney area with the local Croatian club at Surry Hills.
After a few lean seasons during the late 1960s and early 1970s, United won their first NSW Premiership in 1977 with Luka Fabijinic as coach and Atti Aboyni as the team's striker. The team beat Auburn 2–0 in front of a crowd of more than 6,500 at the Sydney Sports Ground. In 1978, Aboyni took over as captain and coach of the team. Croatia amassed 62 regular-season goals (Aboyni scoring 21 of them) and winning the minor premiership for the first time; they lost 2–1 to Sutherland in the grand final replay (the first game was a 1–1 draw) in front of 9,700 fans. Aboyni then coached again in 1979 to another minor premiership, before quitting after Croatia lost 0–2 to Sutherland in the preliminary final.
In 1980, the club purchased a block of land in West Sydney to call their new home, now known as the Sydney United Sports Centre at Edensor Park. Sydney United won minor premierships in 1981 and 1982 the Premiership in 1982 and 1983. In last year of the NSW State League, the Third Grade Sydney United team defeated Canterbury-Marrickville on the Sydney Sports Ground 3–0 under coach Luka Fabijinic.
During the early 1980s, United were often drawing home attendances of 10,000 in the NSW State League; however, National League clubs averaged crowds of only 3,000. The national league needed a heavily supported club to enter national competition; however, the national league executive deemed it inappropriate for clubs with nationalistic names to enter the league and Croatia did not wish to change their name. However, after a National League shake-up in 1984, Sydney United (and its sister club, Melbourne Knights) were accepted into the national league under those names.
The new NSL club established a record in 1984. Over the season, the club had six coaches: after Aboyni quit and Harry Noon and Mick Jones were sacked, Bill Bicanacic and Bruno Vidaic took caretaker roles before Vedran Rozic took over. Rozic was brought from Croatian football club Hajduk Split as a sweeper, but accepted the role of player-coach as the club stumbled to sixth place in the standings. Large home crowds in these early national-league days made Croatia the most popular club in Sydney.
1985 and 1986 saw better success, with United winning the Northern NSL Division crown over powerhouse clubs such as Sydney Olympic, Marconi, and Sydney City. However, in the preliminary final they lost to Sydney Olympic. 1987 saw a lean season in the league, but a successful cup season which brought them another trophy: the Beach Fashions Cup, with a 2–0 aggregate victory over South Melbourne (with United strikers Robbie Slater and Graham Arnold scoring).
After finishing second in the normal season in 1988 Sydney United made its first NSL Grand Final, playing neighbours Marconi-Fairfield at Parramatta Stadium in front of a 17,000-strong crowd. Alan Hunter and Manis Lamond scored for Croatia, with Frank Farina and Zlatko Nastevski scoring for Marconi. With the score 2–2 after extra time, the game went to a penalty shootout. At 4–4, United's young midfielder Shane Clinch hit the post with his spot kick followed by Marconi veteran Tony Henderson scoring against Croatia's Tony Franken, winning the game for Marconi.
Two more name changes, first to Sydney C.S.C. (Croatian Soccer Club) in 1992 and then to Sydney United, and the move from a winter league in Australia to a summer league saw a few lean seasons for the club during the early 1990s. The 1992–93 season saw the appointment of ex-Sydney Olympic coach Mick Hickman; however, he resigned during the pre-season. Ex-Socceroo defender Manfred Schaefer was appointed coach, and United finished seventh. United's youth policy, training players such as Tony Popovic, Zeljko Kalac, Ante Milicic and Ante Moric, was coming to fruition; these players later represented Australia at a number of levels. During the 1993–94 season, Zeljko Kalac keep an NSL-record 12 shutouts in 26 games. The club finished third, after leading the league.
Branko Culina replaced Schaefer as coach during the 1994–95 season; with a squad consisting of 75 percent locally produced players, United finished third. During the 1996–97 season, under Culina's the guidance United won another minor premiership and made its second Grand Final (this time in Brisbane). In front of an Australian soccer record crowd of 44,000, United lost 2–0 to Farina's Brisbane Strikers. Kresimir Maursic was voted the Prestigious NSL Player of the Year award, and David Zdrillic was the NSL's leading scorer with 21 goals (Ante Milicic finished second, with 19). However, the club lost players to overseas clubs: Popovic, Kalac, Milicic, Zdrilic and Robert Enes.
Former Socceroo striker David Mitchell took over as coach for the 1997–98 season. The club, while struggling, finished fourth with Abbas Saad its top scorer for the season. With Paul Bilokapic and Mark Rudan off to Northern Spirit, United won its third NSL minor premiership during the 1998–1999 season. Led by former St. Albans Dinamo defender Velimir Kupresak and talent from the youth league (such as Jacob Burns, Joel Griffiths and Mile Sterjovski), United reached the NSL Grand Final for the second time. However, in Melbourne against South Melbourne, United lost 3–2 (with goals by Mile Sterjovski and Danny Townsend) in front of 15,000 fans.
During a dark period in the club's history, in 1999–2000 Sydney United lost all their players (except Velimir Kupresak) and their coach to a new professional soccer club called Parramatta Power; however, the new team only lasted fiveseasons. Ex-Socceroo defender David Ratcliffe was appointed coach for that season. Although finishing last in the standings, United defeated Parramatta Power 1–0 at home to end the latter's final aspirations. Ex-Sibenik and United midfielder Ivan Petkovic took over as coach after Ratcliffe was sacked in January 2000.
Former defender Alan Hunter returned to Edensor Park as United's new coach for the 2000–01 season; however, he only lasted until February 2001 when captain Velimir Kupresak took over as coach. Croatia 1998 World Cup midfielder Alojsa Asanovic came out for a two-game stint with United, scoring a goal against the Auckland Kingz. United finished tenth, after winning their first three games of the season.
Branko Culina came back for a second stint as coach for the 2001–02 season, finishing 11th. For the 2002–2003 season, the club imported three Croatian players: goalkeeper Vanja Ivesa and defenders Bozidar Cacic and Boris Pavić. However, the club finished 10th and Culina was replaced in January by former United striker Tony Krslovic.
Ex-Olympic defender Grant Lee was appointed coach in the 2003–04 season, when the club again finished 10th. Highlight of the year was the last away game with United's sister club, the Melbourne Knights. In front of an 8,423-strong crowd, the game on 29 February 2004 (which ended 0–0) saw flares, celebrations and a mass pitch invasion; this would be the final NSL game.
With the demise of the NSL, the club once again played in the New South Wales Premier League. With new coach Zlatko Arambasic at the helm in 2005 United started off well, only to finish fourth. However, United enjoyed success with a 3–1 victory over the Belconnen Blue Devils in the Continental Tyres Cup Final at Parramatta Stadium in front of 1,500 fans.
In 2006 Arambasic was dismissed as coach, replaced by Jean-Paul de Marigny. United started slowly, but finished third. During the top-four Vodafone NSW Premier League final series, United defeated Blacktown City Demons 4–0 in the 2006 Grand Final; Luka Glavas scored all four goals. Jean-Paul de Marigny left the club in 2007 to pursue a coaching job with FootballNSW, and United appointed Bankstown City Lions assistant coach Peter Papoythis as head coach. On 8 May United, in eighth place, dismissed Papoythis; this saw another ex-United player, Ante Rumora, appointed coach. United finished the season in sixth place, four points from the top four.
In 2009, Sydney United finished top of the New South Wales Premier League, seven points clear of the Marconi Stallions. United had a disappointing finals series, though, losing to both Sutherland Sharks and Marconi and therefore failing to qualify for the grand final.
In 2013, Sydney United took out the league title once more, but failed to make the grand final courtesy of two penalty shoot-out defeats to Bonnyrigg White Eagles and Rockdale City Suns. Despite this, their league title meant they qualified for the 2013 National Premier Leagues finals series. United beat Canberra FC 2–1 in the quarter finals, Olympic FC 4–3 in the semi-finals and South Hobart FC 2–0 in the final to take out the inaugural National Premier Leagues Championship.
Sydney United qualified for the inaugural FFA Cup in 2014. United drew Far North Queensland FC in the Round of 32 and progressed after a 4–1 win. They then faced A-League powerhouse Sydney FC in front of over 8,000 people at the Sydney United Sports Centre, eventually going down 3–1 to the fully professional outfit.
Sydney United qualified for the 2015 FFA Cup the following season. United drew South Hobart FC, whom they beat in 2013 to claim the NPL championship. United crawled through, coming back from 2–0 down to draw 3–3 and then take it on penalties. In the Round of 16, United faced Heidelberg United FC but lost 2–0 in front of 2,200 at Olympic Village in Melbourne.
For the 2016 season, United signed the likes of former Melbourne Knights captain Tomislav Uskok, who joined the club after a brief spell in the A-League with Central Coast Mariners, former Sydney United NSL player Eddy Bosnar and Manly United marksman Chris Payne, among others. After losing to Blacktown City in Round 1 of the NSW NPL, United went on to win their next eight games, including a 2–1 derby win over Bonnyrigg to move into top spot on the ladder. On 10 July 2016, United claimed the Waratah Cup for the second consecutive year, with a solitary strike from Japanese import Yutaro Shin guiding the side to a 1–0 victory over Manly. In the 2016 FFA Cup Round of 32, United were drawn against fellow NPL NSW side Blacktown City FC with the match to be played at Gabbie Stadium on 27 July 2016. Chris Payne and Robert Mileski gave 58 a two-goal lead, but City responded with two of its own to take the match to extra time. Blacktown's Danny Choi then scored a goal from inside his own half to give the home side the lead, with Blacktown going on to score another three goals in extra time to win the game 6–2, despite Riku Sasaki receiving his marching orders in the first half of extra time. On 31 July 2016, United grabbed its second piece of silverware for the season, winning the 2016 NPL NSW Premiership with two rounds to spare, with a 4–1 win over fierce rivals Bonnyrigg at Valentine Sports Park. United grabbed a third major title for the 2016 season when it was crowned 2016 National Premier Leagues Champions after defeating Northern NSW's Edgeworth FC Eagles 4–1 in an entertaining clash with Glen Trifiro bagging a hat-trick at Sydney United Sports Centre. With the victory, Sydney United became the first club to win the title two times, winning it in its inaugural season in 2013. After the triump, Mark Rudan stepped down from his role as senior head coach, having accumulated a number of successes in his four-year spell as manager of the club, including two NPL Finals Series Championships, two NPL NSW Premierships, two NSW Waratah Cups and four FFA Cup qualifications.
Sydney United appointed Davor Bajsić to lead the side in 2017, but resigned from the role after his side lost its opening three games of the NPL NSW season. United brought Mark Rudan back to the club to lead the senior side. On 16 August 2017, Sydney United appointed Jason Culina as head coach after Rudan stepped down.
In 1981 Sydney United FC moved from the city to the United Sports Centre in Edensor Park (known to fans as "King Tom"), which has a capacity of 12,000. The main stand is known as the Boka stand (Boka was the main sponsor of the project). In the Boka stand is the Senator's Club, for lifetime members of the club. Inside the Senator's Club is the Kalac Bar, in recognition of Željko Kalac's transfer to Leicester City in the English Premier League (which helped pay for the Boka stand).
The club recently installed a new artificial grass field which was certified FIFA 2star standard. This "system" was installed by overseas contractors and overseen by the club as a virtually unique self installed field which saved many dollars.
Previous home grounds include:
United and Croatia have experienced a number of rivalries with other clubs.
A short distance (1 km) north of Edensor Park in the neighbouring suburb of Bossley Park is the prosperous Marconi-Fairfield club. The Italian-backed club has been a rival of United's since 1970, when Marconi was promoted to the NSW State League. The clubs have had some close games: a 1988 Grand Final between the clubs saw the game go onto a penalty shoot-out (which Marconi won), and a semifinal game during the 1997–1998 season saw United's Kupresak sent off for headbutting Marconi's Sean Babic in the nose.
"Nomads" of the NSL and backed by a heavy Greek following, the club formerly known as Pan Hellenic have had a rich history with United since 1963 when they first met at Lambert Park. Both clubs have seen more activity off the field than on, especially with transfers of players between the clubs. Players such as Ante Milicic, Ned Zelic, Emil Dragicevic, Labinot Haliti, Jim Patikas, Graham Jennings, Ante Moric, Eric Hristodoulou, Ante Juric and Petar Markovic have switched between the clubs over the years.
Both Northern Spirit and Parramatta Power were clubs admitted into the NSL to promote non-ethnic clubs. Northern Spirit (based in North Sydney) became a United rival when it signed former United players Graham Arnold, Robbie Slater, Kresimir Marusic, Paul Bilokapic and Mark Rudan. United, underdogs during the 2000–2001 with a depleted team, won 2–1 at North Sydney in wet conditions.
Parramatta Power, backed by the prosperous Parramatta Eels Rugby League Club, entered competition during the 1999–2000 season after luring 16 United players and staff. United, however, defeated Parramatta 1–0 to end their aspirations for a finals berth.
Sydney United has a fierce rivalry with the Serbian backed Bonnyrigg White Eagles. The teams often met in the late 1970s with then Sydney Croatia dominating majority of the encounters against then Avala. The clubs would not meet in a league competition until 2005 after the demise of the National Soccer League. The games were often met with crowd violence, most notably in 2005.
All time Head-to-Head NSWPL and AMPOL Cup (from 1977 to present)
Bonnyrigg White Eagles wins: 15
Sydney United wins: 18
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
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