I was given a copy of the Sunday Times at the West Coast Fever’s game against the Melbourne Vixens and after glancing through it I was reminded why I never buy it. What was most disappointing was the full page story “Glory Fails to tap Fountain of Youth,” written by London-based Dave Davutovic about football here in Western Australia. Knowing Dave personally and that he is a very good journalist I was surprised that he would put his name to such a sensationalist piece of factually dubious writing.
In his piece about all the young players Perth Glory has failed to sign he suggests that Perth Glory “tap into the expertise and knowledge of Stan Lazarides.” Stan was a very accomplished footballer, and is a successful businessman, but since retiring is hardly seen around the grounds and has not done any coaching. So what could he bring to the table in this regard apart from a past reputation?
Perth Glory’s Youth team as we have stated previously has never been given the structure that it requires, in part because each coach is on a one year deal so spends the bulk of their time focussed on the first team in the hope of gaining another year at the club.
Last season there would be few players – excluding those on first team contracts already who played – that was on a youth team contract ready to step up and challenge for a first team place, as the squad was too young and physically too small. Ryan Pearson did step up and did well and it was surprising to see him discarded so quickly, by Ian Ferguson. Storm Roux will definitely make the step up eventually but is not ready yet. Cameron Edwards shows glimpses of Hoddle-like brilliance but drifts out of games he should control with his ability, and there are question marks over his physicality. Having covered all of the away games on the radio for the past two years and only missed one youth league game at home, I feel I can comment.
Perth Glory constantly cop abuse for overlooking young talent, but in this instant this would appear unfair. The key players in this article all left Western Australia before the Perth Glory Youth team existed – it is 3 years old – and there was no pathway. Some even left at an age that the Glory could not sign them as they were too young, under FFA rules and regulations.
To be fair to the club, last season Dave Mitchell had the most local players in his squad than any other coach since Gary Marrochi. Over 50% of his squad, 13 of the 22 – and once Baird was offloaded that increased to 14 of 22 – yet it appears that the club is still wrong, because they signed the wrong ones. Where they were wrong was signing, Griffiths, Fondyke, Skorich and Jukic all on two year deals. All should have been on one and been forced to fight for a second year. Amphlett as stated before will need to fight hard for his place this season, or will find himself going the same way.
In the piece at the bottom of the article by Paul Tombides he talks about the AIS boys who all got away, Trent Sainsbury (Mariners) Eli Babalj (Heart) and Mark Birghitti (Adelaide); the first two were approached by Perth Glory but opted to play over East. Mark Birghitti was training with the Perth Glory who had their goalkeeping slots filled when Adelaide had injury issues and Willie McNally – the then goalkeeper coach – helped secure Birghitti the job at Adelaide. So Willie and Perth Glory did the right thing by a talented West Australian player.
The fact is the boys at the AIS are watched more by the East coach coaches due to their proximity and unless the Glory is given first option on these boys they may always opt for East coast sides.
Another big issue is that many talented players are not being picked up by the NTC, which reduces their chances of securing a Perth Glory youth league contract. Exacerbating the situation is the wrong belief on the East Coast that if the Glory or the NTC haven’t picked you up you can’t be any good. Yet the key players in the article, Chris Hurd, Shane Lowry, and Rhys Williams, all came through ECU Joondalup’s junior ranks, as did Alex Grant, Andrew Higgins, Ryan Williams and Aryn Williams. That contingent making up seven of the thirteen players mentioned, so all players who have not come through any FFA or Football West program, which raises the question, should Perth Glory be so closely aligned to the NTC program?
This article was hugely disappointing as it has levelled unfair criticism at the Glory and has given a false picture of the complex pathway that currently exists in Western Australia. It is currently far from perfect and needs a lot more care and attention, but presenting a picture without all the facts simply compounds the problem.