Tony Popovic preferred to deflect the praise onto everyone at Western Sydney Wanderers FC and admitted it’s a “surreal” feeling to have been awarded AFC Coach of the Year in Manila on Sunday night.
Popovic became the first Australian coach to win the prestigious award after guiding the Wanderers to an historic AFC Champions League success with a win over Al Hilal in the final last month.
“It is a great feeling, a little bit surreal,” Popovic said.
“It comes down to a little personal recognition, but it is difficult to accept as I feel like I am accepting it on behalf of the club and definitely the playing group that has made this possible for me.”
It was a special night for the Wanderers, with the club also being crowned the AFC club of the year for their ACL success, a stunning result given the club has been going for less than three years.
On top of their continental title, the club has also reached two Hyundai A-League grand finals and have won the Premiers’ Plate in their astonishing short history.
“We are a very young club just over two years old, and it is our first attempt at the AFC Champions League and we have won it,” Popovic said.
“It is a special achievement that will go down in history and just the resilience of the group, the belief when you think that it wouldn’t be possible to get through the group stages.
“We are where we have won the AFC Champions League and this is recognition for great work that everyone has done.”
It’s been a whirlwind couple of days for Popovic, who was at the helm for the Wanderers 1-1 derby draw on Saturday night before rushing off to receive his award in Manila on Sunday.
The Wanderers boss is now dashing back to Sydney today to help his side prepare for Wednesday night’s crucial Hyundai A-League clash with Brisbane Roar FC at Pirtek Stadium.