With a spot in the finals now theirs to lose, Sydney FC coach Frank Farina says his side is capable of generating the momentum that could take it all the way to the grand final.
The nature of the current finals system means the Sky Blues need only to win two knockout matches to make the decider and a crack at their first piece of silverware in four years.
No team from outside the top three has ever made a decider – and nobody outside the top two has won the league – but Farina is warming to the idea of making history.
“It would be great, for the club and the team [to make the finals]. The last two years have probably been a bit lean when it comes to that,” he said. “But once you get in, it’s two or three games, and anything can happen. Hopefully we’ll be able to deliver that.”
Farina is also bullish about how his team has performed against the league’s better teams, having recently drawn with Brisbane, claimed two wins and a draw against Melbourne Victory this season and winning the last Sydney derby.
“They’ve been pretty good results against the top sides,” he said. “We’ve only lost to Adelaide in the last four games but that doesn’t really count for anything. Now we’ve got two teams, Wellington and Perth, who are fighting for pride and for the finals as well.”
Despite the lofty ambitions, Farina is no closer to resolving his own future.
He is out of contract at season’s end, unless he can vault the side into fourth, which would activate a clause for another year. He is already on target for a handsome financial bonus that comes with making the top six.
While the 49-year old has experienced a tumultuous period in charge of the two-time champions, he’s keen to stay on.
“We’ve been doing planning in terms of player recruitment and whatever else and that hasn’t stopped,” he said. “That [new contract] will be determined at the end of the season, which is still two games away,” he said. “We just want to make sure we do everything we can to make sure we get into the finals and we’ll go from there.”
Asked if it was a contradiction that he was in charge of recruitment while his own future was not assured, Farina replied: “To a degree. When I say we’ve had discussions with players, obviously we signed Nikola [Petkovic] and Sasa [Ognenovski] who I think are very important going forward but we’ve still got nine or 10 spots to fill and that will take care of itself at the end of the season.”
The Sky Blues are raging favourites to win both of their last two matches at home and Farina said it made for a refreshing change to be in the box seat for a change.
“Particularly in my time here. Last year we were chasing from day one. To have your destiny in your own hands, it’s nice,” he said. “But you’ve still got to take the opportunity and if we can manage to win both games at home, we’ll be in.”
Farina reckoned the nature of the clash with the Phoenix on Sunday was equivalent to starting their play-off campaign two weeks early.
“Without doubt, this is the first of the finals for us,” he said. “I thought Wellington played pretty well against Adelaide last week, it’s going to be tough, but we’re playing at home and that is an advantage.”
Midfielder Hagi Gligor is also back in contention after missing last week and is a chance to win his spot back.
Meanwhile, it looks as though Terry McFlynn will be denied a farewell match unless the club manages to play deep into the finals series.
The former captain has started only three games this season and has missed the past month with a torn thigh.
While the 33-year old remains a fan favourite, the unlikelihood of a new contract and the ongoing injury means he has possibly played his last professional game.
After famously landing a foundation contract with Sydney FC while backpacking in Australia in 2005, McFlynn has since played 178 games and scored seven goals, starting in both championship-winning teams.