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Heaving Hindmarsh: Djite awaits Coopers comeback

Bruce Djite celebrates scoring against Melbourne City in the 2016 Semi Final at Coopers Stadium.

When it comes to match days at Coopers Stadium, Adelaide United’s 4-1 thumping of Melbourne City in the 2015/16 Semi Final must be a memory high on any fan’s list.

It’s certainly high on former Reds striker, Bruce Djite’s, list.

Djite scored a brace and provided an inch-perfect assist that night to guide United to a Grand Final appearance at Adelaide Oval.

In truth, it is hard for most to pick out any one memory or match from United’s 19-year history, featuring a league Championship, Premiership, and a record three Australia Cup titles, all of which were won at Coopers.

Bruce Djite celebrates scoring against Melbourne City in the 2016 Semi Final at Coopers Stadium.
Bruce Djite was ‘at the peak of his powers’ against Melbourne City in the 2016 Semi Final at Coopers Stadium.

But the shades of the title-winning 2015/16 season are hard to beat.

You probably know the story well. It took United until Round 9 to find their first win of the season, which came against Perth Glory at home and truly opened the floodgates.

It finally clicked for the Reds who went on a 14-game unbeaten run until they were finally beaten by City 0-1, only strengthening the rivalry further.

It was the Reds who returned serve a month later to defeat the Melbourne outfit 2-0 and lift the Premiership with other results eventually falling their way.

Another two weeks after that, and United delivered the final, fatal blow.

Bruce Djite celebrates scoring against Melbourne City in the 2016 Semi Final at Coopers Stadium.
Bruce Djite celebrates scoring against Melbourne City in the 2016 Semi Final at Coopers Stadium.

The atmosphere was electric on a cool Adelaide night in April. Djite recounts the build-up to the occasion and the buzz around Adelaide:

“The memory of that night is still very vivid,” Djite said.

“I remember in the lead up and the preparation of the game and it built up as a really exciting sort of game of course being a Semi Final.

“There was (Bruno) Fornaroli, Aaron Mooy, (Harry) Navillo as sort of this ‘big three’ in their squad and we had just beaten them in Melbourne two weeks before.

“At this game the atmosphere was amazing and you’re out there warming up and the stadium’s already three quarters full.

“Seeing Coopers Stadium, that boutique stadium, so full… it’s unique because you’re seeing more and more big stadiums and teams lacking the capacity to fill them regardless of the sport.

“It was electric before the whistle had been blown and I’d say it’s the best night I’ve had at Coopers given the magnitude of the game.”

After the first whistle did blow for kick-off, it took Djite 48 minutes to unleash a curling screamer from outside the box before converting a penalty.

He then turned provider for super sub, Pablo Sánchez, at the back post in the final minute to cap the win and book a place in the Grand Final at Adelaide Oval. A classy Dylan McGowan volley from a corner was sandwiched in between as the final scoreboard read 4-1.

Bruce Djite turned provided for Pablo Sánchez in the final minutes of the 2016 Semi Final at Coopers Stadium.

It all occurred in front of almost 16,000 of Adelaide’s faithful, and one of the most famous Hindmarsh nights since the Club’s inception.

Djite praised the quality of that match especially considering the half-time boil over in the match just a fortnight prior.

“Obviously there was always a natural rivalry with City there (and formerly Heart) because they’re a Melbourne team and that’s just how it is with South Australians and Victorians, in particular.

“This game was a good game of football between two teams who actually played a nice brand that night.

“Both teams were trying to play football, there was no anti-football and no hacking or one team just defending while the other attacking.

“Still there was a bit of a sense of a David vs Goliath battle in this rivalry that year as, typically, we are a club with limited resources, and they’ve got all the resources in the world.”

And as for Guillermo Amor, who worked closely with Josep Gombau, to assemble such a formidable Championship side, Djite added: “I remember Guillermo so well saying 100 times during the week: ‘We are playing a home game. We win our home games, that’s the expectation, that’s what we do.’

“It wasn’t the old adage of, it’s a finals game anything can happen, it was the expectation to win.”

Coopers Stadium’s renovations will be ready for the Reds’ Round 4 match against Perth Glory on Sunday, 30 October 2022.

Six years later and Adelaide will return to Coopers Stadium this Sunday with more than just a fresh lick of paint, with a fan base and playing squad eager to meet once again in the flesh.

Djite, who also served as United’s Football Director from 2019-2021 after his playing days and now affords his insights on Ten and Paramount, as well as being the Chief Executive Officer for the Committee for Adelaide, can’t wait for a Hindmarsh return.

“I’m looking forward to the return to Coopers and the new stadium this weekend and I think it’s going to be a massive game,” Djite commented.

“It’ll be a really good crowd and fans haven’t seen their team play at home for a long time.

“They’ve been unlucky this season until now and they don’t want to have a season of bad lucks.

“United has a great team, and a great coaching staff as well, so I’ll be expecting a win and an amazing atmosphere in a stadium that deserves to be full every week.”

Only at Coopers – Adelaide United memberships on-sale now.