Santalab opens up after a turbulent season at the Wanderers

Fresh from a clinical double in a 3-1 win against Wellington Phoenix, The Football Sack got to speak with Western Sydney Wanderers striker Brendon Santalab.

As far as seasons go, it’s been a very turbulent one for the affectionately known Santa.

From eight goals in 14 games, a red card and subsequent three game suspension to the departure of Kerem Bulut and the club’s relocation away from Pirtek Stadium, it’s truly been a rollercoaster season so far for Santalab.

Often referred to as the super sub, the 34-year-old started on the weekend in Wellington with the striker making the most of his extra minutes.

“I was due for a start and it was great to score two goals and most importantly put in a good performance,” Santalab said.

His first start since he picked up a red card against Brisbane Roar six weeks ago, Santalab admitted though he’s learnt from the experience but has no plans of changing.

“No, definitely not, I’ve played three games since the suspension and not got one yellow card,” he said.

“If anything I think you learn from things like that, it was my mistake, I had a yellow card already. I gave the referee no choice but to give me my marching orders.

“It’s all about learning and I’m not intending to get sent off anytime soon.”

During Santalab’s suspension, 19-year-old Lachlan Scott led the Western Sydney attack with Santa impressed with what he saw.

“He’s been working hard and got his first goal. It’s always tough for a young player to come through but he’s held his own,” he said.

One player Santalab wasn’t so kind to was the now departed Kerem Bulut.

“If you don’t meet expectations, it’s simple, you don’t last, and that was the situation with Kerem. It just didn’t work out. He moved on and we had to accept that,” he said.

Bulut’s departure put added pressure on Santalab and Scott with the veteran striker under no illusions about what that meant at the time.

“Lachlan Scott and I had coffee and I told him, it’s up to us now, we have to get the job done.”

Soon to be aided by the recent arrival of Ryan Griffiths, Santalab backed his fellow striker to be a real asset despite his age.

“Sport science plays a massive factor in the game now and they can basically see everything, all the statistics. They know who can keep going and who can’t,” he said.

“Griffiths is a smart player and a very agile player. Once het gets up to speed and full fitness he’ll be a great acquisition for us.”

Prior to Griffiths’ arrival, the Wanderers were linked with some big names including Robbie Keane and Santalab admitted he was excited at the prospect.

“When those names fly around I jump, it was exciting times and ok it didn’t happen but it’s great to have those names linked with our club,” he said.

Kicked out of Pirtek Stadium, the Wanderers have been struggling at their new homes this season and it was something Santalab saw coming.

“It hasn’t been an easy transition. Home’s home, when you leave your home it will be difficult,” he said.

“We didn’t go to one stadium, we’ve transitioned into three and it was never going to be easy but we’ve just got to deal with it.”

Despite these struggles on their own soil, Western Sydney are now sixth with Santalab confident of what they can achieve this season.

“We have one goal and that’s to make the Grand Final so being in the six now we have a lot of belief,” he said.

“We’re in a good place at the moment and I think peaking at the right time.”

As the side prepares for another Asian Champions League campaign, Santalab is looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s a prestigious competition, some of these Chinese teams have budgets of $100 to $150 million and any player that shies away from playing in this tournament is crazy,” he said.

In the A-League, the Wanderers play Central Coast Mariners on Sunday and it’s a side Santa enjoys playing having scored in each of their past five encounters.

“That would put fear into them there’s no doubt about that,” he said about the stat.

“It’s great going into a game knowing you’ve scored against an opposition and I’ll go in with confidence on Sunday.”

Confidence is one thing Santa never seems short of as he continues to defy the doubters and prove he’s more than just a super sub for the Wanderers.

Feature image: Steve Christo

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A football fanatic and journalism student who won't leave you wondering about any Wanderers news this season as I cover all things Red and Black for The Football Sack.