When Joe Lolley arrived down under in the off-season, expectations were high for the ex-Nottingham Forest winger. Coming into the league at 30 years old, it seemed like he still had a lot to offer as a senior player perhaps just past his peak.
It’s fair to say the Englishman has delivered on that considerable promise, already netting five goals and laying on three assists in 17 appearances in the Sky Blue jersey.
“I didn’t come (to Australia) with any preconceived ideas of what to expect,” Lolley tells Kick360 on a rainy Tuesday in Sydney.
“Physically it’s been demanding – a lot of running. Technically and tactically, all of the teams try to play football, and they’re interesting games. It feels at times more European than an English-type game that can become more intense and physical.
“It’s quite different to the style of football in England, so it’s taken some time to get used to, but it is physical and every week you have to prepare right. You can’t just coast. If you don’t put in the work, you will get found out.”
As Lolley and the Sky Blues gear up for the third and final Sydney Derby of 2022-23, club officials have announced that general admission tickets are sold out and they are expecting a crowd north of 30,000 to witness the season finale of the league’s most heated rivalry.
Despite coming off a 1-0 loss at the hands of Wellington Phoenix in Auckland, Steve Corica’s side remain in sixth spot with the likes of Western United, Newcastle Jets and Macarthur snapping at their heels. A win on Saturday would be a big boost to their finals hopes.
The season ledger stands at one win apiece – both sides got the job done away from home – and Lolley will be hoping that Sydney can claim the season series with a big victory on Saturday evening.
“It’s a huge game,” the 30-year-old says.
“I think any derby is a big game. When you see all the crowds you get, and the atmosphere, the hostility, you can feel that tension and it feels like a really big game. (They’re) the sort of games you really enjoy and want to be a a part of.
“It’s a game like any other (in the sense that) it gets us closer to our season objectives, and hopefully we can get a result.”
Allianz Stadium will be the scene on Saturday evening as Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers do battle for the last time this season, and there’s plenty on the line. Stay tuned to Kick360 for all the wash-up and reaction post-game.