With the excitement building at Sydney FC in the lead-up to the Sky Blues' 100th Hyundai A-League match next Monday, goalkeeper Clint Bolton is arguably among the most qualified to discuss the evolution of the club and the competition ahead of the historic Round 9 clash with arch rivals, the Central Coast Mariners.
Bolton, Steve Corica and Terry McFlynn are the only three survivors from Sydney's inaugural title winning side. The 34-year-old gloveman believes it's now a very different competition to the one that kicked-off against the Melbourne Victory in August 2005.
"I think the teams have gotten stronger in general," Bolton said.
"You can see this year it's a very strong league across the board. The expansion with the two extra teams (North Queensland Fury and Gold Coast United) has been a good thing. It's a sign of the league getting bigger and bigger.
"There are a few more foreign players," Bolton continued.
"They bring their own individual flavour to the league. It's (also) become a young man's game in a way. There are a lot of young players out there now getting their chance at the top level in Australia."
While the changes have been many, both in club and competition, the experienced custodian believes at least one thing has remained constant through so many changes: Sydney 's desire to win.
"We've always been a hardworking side that spends a lot of hours out on the pitch," he said. "That's always been our trademark really, despite the old tag 'Bling FC'. As players we never bought into that. It doesn't matter which coach has come or gone, that's one thing that's been consistent for us - hard work."
"We've had a good rivalry with Central Coast from day one," explained Bolton.
"We know we're in for a fight against them every time and we've had some great battles with them over the years. They're the type of team that doesn't give up, and I expect the same thing on Monday."
With just one point and one place separating the Sky Blues and Mariners on the Hyundai A-League ladder the match is shaping up as another classic contest, worthy of Sydney FC's century celebrations. The game is scheduled for a 3pm kick-off on Monday (October 5) at Sydney Football Stadium, following the Westfield W-League curtain-raiser.