Wanderers great Shinji Ono has claimed “it is no surprise” Western Sydney are set to play their third Hyundai A-League grand final in just four years.
The former Wanderers marquee player started in both grand finals in Western Sydney’s first two seasons as they lost to Central Coast Mariners and Brisbane Roar.
Having missed out on the finals in 2014-15, Western Sydney will aim to finally lift the ‘Toilet Seat’ at the third time of asking on Sunday when they face Adelaide United.
Now with Consadole Sapporo in Japan’s second tier, Ono told Goal Australia that the Wanderers’ appetite for success began from day one under coach Tony Popovic.
“It is no surprise for me that the team has grown as they are today,” the former Japan international said.
“When I joined the club the coach really aimed to win the league in spite of the fact it was our first attempt as a club.
“The coach tried to get the players to have strong mentality and the players worked so hard during the training sessions, trusting the coach.
“So their achievement is not surprising for me at all.”
In the Wanderers’ first season in the A-League, Popovic impressively led the expansion club to the premiership.
Ono scored eight goals, including a stunning chip in a 2-0 semi-final triumph over Brisbane.
But in the grand final, the Red and Black went down 2-0 to the Mariners.
A year later and the Wanderers led 1-0 in the season decider in Brisbane but an injury to captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley halted their momentum.
Roar fought back to win 2-1 in extra-time and claim their third championship.
“I was sorry that we couldn’t win the grand final but all of us had the feeling that we did our best to win it,” Ono said.
While Ono takes great pride in winning the Premiers Plate during his time in Australia – as well as playing a role in the Wanderers’ landmark AFC Champions League success of 2014 – the 36-year-old remains disappointed he failed to win the championship.
“It was surprise for me that the grand final was valued more than winning the regular season because I was really pleased with winning the regular season,” he said.
“It was big disappointment for me not to win the league by losing the grand final.”