Wanderers keep lid on hype

The Western Sydney Wanderers might be the masters of avoiding the hype but defender Shannon Cole admits it is hard not to be excited about Friday's table-topping clash against Brisbane Roar.

There won't be a spare seat in the house at Parramatta Stadium for what could be a grand final preview, given that both have occupied the top two positions since the start of the year.

The Wanderers are trying to keep a lid on the hype but the players can't wait to embrace the occasion.

“We're a team that has always taken things one week and a time but I'd be lying if I said we weren't all incredibly excited about this game,” Cole said. “We treat each game the same in terms of our preparation and focus but, as a player, it's true that you look forward to the big matches. We know they don't get much bigger than this.”

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The 29-year old is desperate to play in the finals-like atmosphere but knows the return of first-choice right-back Jerome Polenz could see him relegated to the bench.

“Jerome is back to full fitness this week and if he takes my spot, that's fair enough, he's a great player,” Cole said. “I'd much rather see all of our team fit and firing and I think everyone in the squad would say the same, even if meant losing their spot.”

It may be argued Brisbane head into the clash with a psychological advantage given their win at Suncorp Stadium earlier in the season as well as holding a seven-point buffer but Cole isn't reading anything into it.

“Anything can happen in games like this and they can often be decided by an act of brilliance,” Cole said. “We beat them last year at Parramatta in the finals and that was the night that Shinji Ono scored with that unbelievable chip. You never know if something like that could happen again.”

The ex-Sydney FC utility has played only seven games this season and is hoping to get more game time in the coming months.

“I was injured for a long time, that was the only thing that's not gone right this year,” he said. “But since then, I've been given a few chances and I think it's gone well. Hopefully I'll have no more injuries and have a bit more of a role to play in the run home.”

The Wanderers nearly took a hard-fought win in Newcastle last week when they were leading 2-1 going into injury time, only for the Jets to pull out a shock equaliser through Adam Taggart.

“Disappointing is a good word for it because we did well to fight back from a goal down away from home and take the lead,” Cole said. “We dominated possession but maybe could have been a little more clinical in the final third. It's a good reminder of needing to close out the game.”

Cole is already deep in planning for the off-season, where, like thousands of other Australian fans, he's heading to Brazil for this year's World Cup.

“I've just spent the past day booking flights to Porto Alegre for the Socceroos match against Netherlands,” he said. “It's going to be pretty exciting, every day I can't wait to get over there. It should be pretty crazy adventure.”

However, Cole has the boost of navigating Brazil with the aid of his Portuguese-speaking brother, Liam, who has lived in the country for several years.

“He's spent the past year creating an online guide (worldcupinbrazil.com.au) for the Australian fans who are coming over,” he said. “I'll be studying that over the next few months but I'm a bit worried he's got me covered for Portuguese banter.”

Meanwhile, Football Federation Australia has fired back at criticism from Newcastle Jets' chief executive Robbie Middleby over the independence of the Match Review Panel following the two-game suspension issued to Joel Griffiths.

“The MRP is ideally composed of people with a range of football experiences who work independent of FFA,” said A-League boss Damien de Bohun. “Any assumption as to how individual members approach cases based on whether they are a former referee, former player or a former player/referee is uninformed and has no foundation in fact.”

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