Perth Glory made a big song and dance about the review carried out by David Hatt and how this was to be the way forward for the club. CEO Paul Kelly and owner Tony Sage both publically stating that the mistakes of the past would not be made again. That they would not sign older players on long term contracts. In fact the press release that related to the review stated “to refine the existing player recruitment function, to focus on youth as a priority, and where possible WA youth, and ensure all new recruits are thoroughly tested (physically and physiologically) prior to contracts being executed.”
There is no doubt that Ian Ferguson is assembling a very impressive squad, although quite how he is doing so within the salary cap is another issue.
The question is have the lessons of the past been learned?
Dave Mitchell last season took virtually all of the flak for the team’s dire performances even when he was no longer coach. Many pointed to the fact that he had signed ageing players as the reason for the poor performances. There is no doubt that he did sign players who appeared inspired signings, who then under performed; but even the top coaches suffer that, but with bigger squads they can bring in other players to hide their mistakes.
Last season, Dave Mitchell had nine players in his squad who were 30 or over at the start of the season, one of those being Robbie Fowler, a player signed by the owner not the coach. Jamie Coyne turned 30 in January, in fact around the time the club decided to stop playing him.
This season Ian Ferguson has eleven players over 30 in his squad, having signed Heffernan, Dodd, Miller and Smeltz. He also signed Adam Hughes who is 29 the same age as Todd Howarth. Had Fowler returned that would have been 12 players over 30.
There is no doubting that the players he has signed on paper and reputation look to be good signings, just as Mitchell’s recruits did.
Once again though the club has signed these players to long term contracts despite saying otherwise. Heffernan, ‘club policy is we do not discuss individual contracts,’ is believed to be on a two year deal with the third year an option. Travis Dodd is on a similar contract two years with a third year as an option. Shane Smeltz, a three year deal, Liam Miller a two year deal, and Neil Young a two year deal.
They stated the focus was on youth, and local youth as well, they have even appointed respected local coach Graham Normanton as their local recruitment manager, yet appear to be slow to identify local talent.
The club has signed Jesse Makarounas from the AIS back in April, yet he still does not appear on their website, while Robbie Fowler does! This says a lot about their focus on local talent. Makarounas is undoubtedly a talent, but what is a major concern is have they simply signed him because he is a local boy. Does or will his style of play suit Perth Glory? Having watched him he may find that it does not and then could be kicking his heels in the youth team, as former AIS colleague Howard Fondyke did. It would be a dreadful waste if we witness another local player’s game go backwards during their time at Perth Glory.
Despite assurances that this season would be a clean slate and a new direction, it would appear to be more of the same. Hopefully however there will not be more of the same on the park, and the team will be in the top half of the table.