Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has praised the "outstanding" achievements of Tony Popovic in his inaugural season as coach of the Western Sydney Wanderers, admitting he never expected such a rapid rise for the A-League newcomers.
Western Sydney have the chance to wrap up the Premiership in this weekend's derby clash against Sydney FC and are currently on the longest winning streak in Australian football with ten consecutive victories.
Schwarzer, who has joined up with the Socceroos camp in Sydney ahead of next week's World Cup qualifier against Oman, played alongside Popovic in the national team and believes the 39-year-old was always destined to prove his mettle as a coach.
"It's been outstanding, I don't think anyone would've expected the club, at such a young age of its existence, and a manager who is very new in the game in terms of coaching to be so successful at this early stage," Schwarzer said.
"On the other hand, if you know Tony Popovic you know the way in which he works. I know what he was like as a player, how professional he was and how meticulous he was with his preparation.
"From what I'm aware of, that has all been carried on [in his role] as a manager and what he has been able to accomplish has been outstanding."
Schwarzer spent four years with Marconi Stallions in the National Soccer League [now A-League] at the beginning of his career and insists he will be clinging to his roots as he watches the Sydney derby on Saturday.
"I've always had an interest in the A-League, I've always had an interest in football in this country full stop, regardless of whether it was the A-League or the old NSL," he said.
"We would've loved to [have gone to the Sydney derby]. It's been talked about and players have already asked but we understand why it probably isn't a good idea at this stage because the game on Tuesday is such a vital game for us and we need to make sure we prepare well for the game
"But there will be a big screen set up for us, it's not going to be the same. It would've been fantastic to go and watch it but it's the way it is. You have to make sacrifices but we'll all be supporting the game and I'll definitely be supporting Western Sydney."