Monday, 24 September 2012

Wayne O'Sullivan

2001 - 2003 : Paramatta Power (Australia)
2003 - 2004 : Northern Spirit (Australia)
2004 - 2005 : Geylang United (Singapore)
2005 - 2007 : Central Coast (Australia)
2007 - 2009 : Wellington Phoenix (New Zealand)

"I like the term 'Sexy Football', style with substance".

Born in Cyprus, but raised in Ireland, this man would earn plaudits during a decent career at the other side of the world. Wayne O'Sullivan, born in Akrotiti in 1974, played for over six years as a midfielder in  Australia and a year sweating it out in Singapore.

He bagan his career with Swindown Town in England, with whom he signed whilst still a junior player. Impressive performances in Division 3 led to a move to Welsh side Cardiff City in Division 1 for 75,000 pounds. He would spend two years with Cardiff and another two with Plymouth Argyle before leaving Europe for sunny Australia in 2001.

He signed for Parramatta Power of the National Soccer League. Founded in 1999, the club were owned by the Parramatta Eels rugby league club. Playing at the 21,000 capacity Parramatta Stadium, the club's short history would witness poor attendances and financial trouble, due in part to their location in West Sydney, an already heavily clustered soccer market. 

Linking up with Englishman Dave Lee and Scotsman Joey Miller, he played over 60 games for the Power before leaving in 2003. He signed for Northern Spirit, another Sydney based franchise who played at the 21,000 North City Oval. Founded in 1997, Spirit endured financial woes for most of its time in the NSL. Owned by shaky foreigners with links to Crystal Palace and Glasgow Rangers (two financially unsound clubs), they, like Parramatta, would disband in 2004. He became the second Irishman to represent Spirit, after Ben Burgess' short stint in 2001.

In signing for Spirit, O'Sullivan would link up with Scotsman and former Dunfermline striker Stewart Petrie. O'Sullivan and Petrie would play together for the next four years in Australia and Singapore.

O'Sullivan (left) tussles with South
Melbourne's Andy Vargas in 2003
The summer of 2004, saw O'Sullivan's old club Parramatta reach the Grand Final of the NSL at home. They lost 1-0 to Perth Glory in what was the league's last ever game. After years of financial mismanagement, dwindling attendances and a lack of public support, the NSL had become a stagnant and expensive league. In 2004, the competition officially collapsed, taking clubs like Parramatta Power and Northern Spirit with it. It would be 18 months before a professional national soccer league would return to Australia.

For his part however, O'Sullivan had served Spirit well, playing 24 games in their final season. However, the hiatus in Australian soccer meant that he would have to look elsewhere for a wage. He turned North to Singapore after he was offered a contract by Geylang United.

Based in the S-League, Geylang were founded in 1974. Known as the Eagles, they play home games at the 4,000 capacity Bedok Stadium in Eastern Singapore. The club were league champions in 1996 and 2001 and had finished the previous season in 2nd place. O'Sullivan and Peterie were singed by manager Scott O'Donnell for the 2004 season with the club at the foot of the table.

His first game in Singapore was a 1-0 home win against Woodlands Wellington in August, with O'Sullivan himself scoring the winning goal in the 60th minute. On September 14th, he would strike again as Geylang hammered Tanjong Pager United 4-0 away, with the Irishman bagging two goals.

O'Sullivan helped improve results, and the side finished in 7th place, and steered clear of relegation. Outside the league, things went better for Geylang. In the Cup, they successfully reached the semi-finals, before succumbing to a 4-3 aggregate loss to Tampines. The Irishman was on the scoresheet in the first leg, but it wasn't enough to reach the final. 

On the continent they qualified for the AFC Cup due to their second place finish in the previous year's S-League. In the group stages, they recorded victories over Island FC of the Maldives and Negeri Sembilan of Malaysia to finish second in their group, behind Indian side East Bengal. In the Quater-Finals they met with Malaysian giants Perak FC, beating them 5-3 on aggregate. The Semi-Finals pitted O'Sullivan and co. against Syria's Al-Wahda. O'Sullivan was injured as his team-mates secured a credible 1-1 draw in Damascus. However this was followed by a bitterly disappointing 0-1 home loss to the Syrians.

The following season they finished in 8th place. However, by then Australian football had been revamped, and the brand new Hyundai A-League was calling O'Sullivan back. By now aged 31, O'Sullivan (and Petrie) went to join the Central Coast Mariners. In his first year with the club, he became a fan favourite due to his tenacity on the field and hard-work. As he had done with Parramatta and Spirit, his high-energy, pass-and-move game saw him become hugely popular on the Central Coast, where he still lives today.

However, an inconsistent 2006-07 year saw him released by the club. In fairness to the 33 year old, he had been deployed at right-back for most of the year, a position not natural to him. However, that was not enough to convince manager Lawrie McKinna of his worth, and O'Sullivan became a free agent.

Not seeing himself get any younger, and seeing Australian football become more competitive, the Irishman decided to retire that summer. He had played over 400 games during his long career, from the mud of Wiltshire to the beaches of New South Wales. 

After securing his coaching badges from the Asian Football Federation, he was appointed as Assistant Manager at New Zealand based A-League side Wellington Phoenix. He was hired by Ricky Herbert, the Wellington manager, who also manages the New Zealand national team. While New Zealand were away on World Cup qualifying duty in 2007 and 2008, O'Sullivan was appointed caretaker manager of Phoenix on various occasions. 

In 2009, he was appointed manager of the women's side Newcastle Jets in the semi-professional W-League, a position he still holds to this day. He also works with Australia's youth teams and is heavily involved in youth football in the country.
O'Sullivan bestows advice to his players of Newcastle Jets
In 2011, he briefly returned to playing football when he signed for NSW club Lake Macquarie on a short-term deal. By now 37 years old, the Irishman played 11 games for the club in the NBN State League, before hanging up his boots for the second and last time.

O'Sullivan is strongly regarded as a talented young coach in Australia and has been tipped as an A-League manager in waiting. Watch this space...

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