Tony Popovic

International Football Coach & Keynote Speaker

Tony Popovic's success as a coach/manager, following a very successful playing career in the English Premier League is unrivalled in world sport.

A former English Premier League (EPL) captain and assistant coach of London EPL club Crystal Palace, he has also had huge success as the Head Coach of Western Sydney Wanderers FC in Australia and as manager of Kardemir Karabukspor in Turkey. In 2018, Popovic featured on a National Australia Bank ‘Future of Football' television program, which aired on Foxtel on A-League grand final day.

Regarded as one of Australia's ‘Golden Generation" of players, Tony is an exceptional keynote speaker, MC and Q&A panelist, who engages with broad audiences on topics related to leadership, team motivation, workplace culture, managing change and staff turnover, talent development, and excelling domestically and internationally while embracing different cultures ... the list goes on.

More about Tony Popovic:

Tony Popovic is perhaps best known in Australia for his success as head coach / manager of the Western Sydney Wanderers FC. Starting from literally nothing in 2012, he assembled a squad mostly made up of players that established Australian clubs had rejected. While football media and "football experts" said his team was most likely to finish towards the bottom of the table, Popovic led the Wanderers to become the most successful football club in Asia. This was done with the added handicap imposed by the Football Federation Australia (FFA) law that only allows a maximum of 23 players per team with a GBP1.5 million total salary-cap while his Asian competitors have first team squads of at least 32 players without any salary restrictions. By any standard this is an incredible achievement by a club that did not have any players in April 2012.

With Popovic as head coach/manager of Western Sydney Wanderers, the team won the Asian Champions League (ACL) despite having been formed just two years earlier. In his first attempt to win the ACL, with a total yearly budget of GBP3.5 million and a playing squad more than 30% smaller than his Asian competitors, Popovic knocked out clubs with budgets that were five to 20 times greater - Marcello Lippi's Guangzhou Evergrande, Chinese Super League Champions and 2013 ACL Champions; Sanfrecce Hiroshima, 2012 and 2013 J-League Champions; FC Seoul, 2013 ACL Runners-Up and 2012 K-League Champions; and Al-Hilal, 2014 ACL Runners-Up and Saudi Champions.

Many people in Europe belittle Asian football, but it may be worth considering that even a coach of Arsène Wenger's stature failed to qualify for the knock out stage of the Asian Champions League (then called Asian Club Championship) in the two years he coached Nagoya before joining Arsenal.

Popovic's reputation was further enhanced on 30 November 2014 when he won the Asian Coach of the Year award ahead of football luminaries like Marcello Lippi, plus his team won the Asian Team of the Year award. His achievements are best summed up when you consider the calibre of coaches that have failed to win the Asian Coach of the Year Award - Arsène Wenger, Manuel Pellegrini, Marcello Lippi, Scolari, Carlos Queiroz, Zico etc. It's also worth noting Guus Hiddink is the only coach from Europe or South America to win this award.

Popovic's many career first include:

  • He is the first coach in the world from any professional team sport to win the Premiership in the same season that the team was formed and entered an already existing professional competition.
  • He is the first coach in the world to qualify for the region's Champions League (or equivalent competition) in the same season that the team was formed.
  • He is the first coach in the world to win the region's Champions League (or equivalent competition) on his first attempt.
  • In the 2015/16 season he became the first coach in the world to change more than 80% of a team (18 players from a 23 man squad) while they were the Asian Champions League holders. This team went from 2nd last to contesting the Grand Final for the Australian Championship in 1 season.
  • His team qualified for three Grand Finals (Australian Championship) in his first five attempts and qualified for three Asian Champions League campaigns in his first five attempts.
  • He became captain of his Australian National League club Sydney United at the age of 20 and played in the J-League (Japan) at age 22 where he also became the captain of Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
  • He captained English Premier League club Crystal Palace (eventually becoming their assistant coach) and played at the 2006 World Cup as a team member of what is regarded as Australia's "Golden Generation".