Ahead of the Western Sydney Wanderers’ Asian Champions League Final first leg clash with Al-Hilal Travis Dodd shares with the PFA Adelaide United’s journey to the 2008 final and why the Wanderers can go one step further.

“I remember being ready to go out of the tunnel for the game and you are totally aware of just how big a match it is, especially considering all the obstacles you have to overcome to get there,” Travis Dodd says of what it was like just moments ahead of the 2008 Asian Champions League Final first leg. “It is the pinnacle of club football in Asia, just like the UEFA Champions League is for European clubs.”

In getting to the final the Reds had become the first Australian side to reach the regions biggest club match, however they would fall short of scaling the summit losing the two-legged final 5-0 on aggregate to Japanese giants Gamba Osaka.

“There was so much excitement and anticipation ahead of the game,” said the former Socceroo of the build-up. “We knew just how good they were as a side, with players such as Endo at the top of his game at the time. It was always going to be tough but we hoped for a much a better result.”

Six years on from the final Dodd said the scale of their achievement was one that still amazed him. “It is a hugely difficult to be successful in the competition and it is one of the biggest moments of my career,” said the former Reds captain.

To reach the final, the Reds, like the Western Sydney Wanderers in this season’s competition, had to overcome clubs with much larger budgets and grueling travel, whilst still managing their A-League commitments.

“I thought it would be a long time before an A-League team managed to do what we did and I think it will be some time before another team replicates what Western Sydney have done. Coaches and players always talk about the rigors of the travel, the back-to-back games, but you can’t get a grasp on it until you have actually done it. We traveled hours on hours, sometimes it would take us a day to get to the hotel from leaving Adelaide going to a place like Uzbekistan.

“You often travel straight after games, which makes it very hard. We played a game in Uzbekistan and then traveled to Adelaide and played the very next day against Perth. To be able to pick up results is phenomenal, there is a lot of credit that has to go to the back room staff for keeping players fit.”

With the Wanderers having also had to deal with Guangzhou Evergrande’s fans trying any means possible to keep them awake ahead of their quarter final second leg in China Dodd said this added another aspect of playing in Asia that players must also overcome to be successful.

“I think when we were in the ACL not many people in Asia gave us a chance so we didn’t encounter the type of thing that Western Sydney faced in China in terms of the fans trying to intimidate them. On one occasion we were going to China and we had a connecting flight out of Beijing that was delayed six or seven hours and you do wonder if it is gamesmanship, you do wonder if these clubs can delay a flight.

“When we went to Uzbekistan we arrived at 2am and there was no one at immigration so they had to call someone in. When someone came after an hour asking for all our passports we blindly handed them over and he disappeared into another room and was gone for an hour and we were left wondering if we were ever going to get our passports back.”

Like Adelaide before them Western Sydney Wanderers have faced these difficulties and overcome them, however for Dodd he feels they are in better shape to go one step further than he and his teammates were in 2008.

“We would sit back and absorb pressure but I think Western Sydney have been much better at controlling games then us. They have looked very solid and organised but also very good going forward and comfortable on the ball. I think they are an example of how much we have progressed.

“We are further down the track now and clubs and managers are a lot more knowledgeable about the competition then they were when we competed in the ACL. Our first campaign we had no idea of what to expect and were finding our feet. For us the second time we were much more prepared.”

For Dodd the success of the Wanderers further highlights the rise of the A-League but he cautioned that more needs to be done to ensure Australian teams are regularly excelling in the competition.

“In my opinion the clubs that are competing in Asia need to be afforded every opportunity to do well. They are putting this country on the map and they need to put in good performances. Whether that means moving fixtures or whatever it really needs to be done as success in Asia is what everyone wants and it should not be a case of the having to prioritise one over the other, they should be given the opportunity to compete fully in both.”

On Saturday the Wanderers will attempt to go one further than Dodd and his former Adelaide United teammates with the A-League hopefully becoming the home of the Asian Champions.