The phrase ‘Charity begins at home’ means according to the Oxford English dictionary that ‘one’s own family (or country, etc.) comes before any other responsibilities.’ It is a phrase that the Perth Glory would do well to remember at this point in time.
The spineless performance against the Central Coast Mariners at the weekend, where basic errors by players that would be unacceptable at amateur level has highlighted how the performances at the start of the season may have been a case of papering over the cracks at the club.
Once again the club’s marquee signings have proved to be poor decisions, Mile Sterjovski and Robbie Fowler as disappointing as predecessors Lazarides, and Foxe. Fowler, may have been a good marketing tool, but as predicted has not delivered. Possibly because he has not been used as the coaching staff had said. They stated that he would be left out of key games to nurse him through the season, yet he has played every game this season, barring one when in the UK. Why would this be if it was agreed he would be used sparingly for most effect when he signed?
There have been other poor signings, as well as limitations on the squad due to the number of unproven youth players who have been signed on two year deals; sadly some of these simply are not good enough to make the next step at this point in time. In addition an injury-prone Sikora was signed for a further two years, Sikora has yet to kick a ball this season and there is talk his career could well be over due to injury.
Questions have to be asked as to the structure at the club. It is a fact that Perth Glory’s staffing levels are well below those of clubs on the East coast and staff frequently have to double up in roles. It is a fact that the money allocated to run Perth Glory is at least half the budget of a club such as Melbourne Victory. Money is not essential to run a business such as this, but if you are to try and run a leaner organisation you have to have a structure that ensures greater efficiency. This appears to have been lacking.
Dave Mitchell was the Perth Glory coach, and as has been reflected in his new role, as Director of Football is respected to be the man who knows football best at the club. If that was and is the case, surely he should have been the man negotiating contracts with the players and ensuring that if he only wanted to offer a one year deal, that was all that was offered. If he had tabled a certain pay for a certain player, that was all that was offered, and that he had back up players should the offer be rejected, although as we know that can be easier said than done.
If that was not the case then it needs to be the case now, and in close liaison with the coach.
This new position is a great opportunity for Perth Glory to finally get things right. There may not be a team from the Western Suburbs of Sydney in the league next season, but there will be one. That means yet another club on the East coast that will attract players before Perth Glory. It will be North Queensland Fury as a last resort on the East coast followed by Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory, in players’ minds when looking to find a club.
That means that Perth has to invest in its own future. They have to look to developing home grown players. Dave Mitchell, and ideally Kenny Lowe should be lured back into the fold, to scour, the state league, Premier and first division, first team and under 18’s, the top two amateur divisions as well as schools football. They should be attending country week, when it takes place and identifying talent that can be nurtured with a view to making it to the next level.
Football in Europe may have moved ahead, but in Australia we should look at the models that served clubs like Manchester United so well in the past. The club should be looking to buy a house, in which the young players can stay and where they have paid houseparents to feed the boys and keep an eye on them. If they are still at school, these “parents” can keep an eye on them and nurture them through these years. When the husband of the family David Beckham stayed with in his early days at Manchester United passed away over 100 former players attended his funeral, including Beckham. This set up breeds a team culture as well as one of respect, responsibility and loyalty; Values that have sadly evaporated in recent years.
Some of these players may be too old for the Youth league, but may still have the potential to make it to the top level, and so, as Ron Smith does in Canberra, the club should run coaching sessions in the evenings to try and help these players correct the flaws in their game, that may then enable them to make that next step. Steve Hesketh, captain of the Youth Team last year is a case in point, a great leader on the park, the sort of man you would always want in your team. Was he good enough to step up to first team? Probably not yet, but with full time training and coaching – and we are not talking formation coaching – to make him a better player, could well be in a year. Instead he is playing in Indonesia, and we wish him well.
Perth Glory disengaged the Perth footballing public many years ago; if it wishes to be competitive in the next five years it has to re-engage them with a long term plan of making those identified as talented local players, better players. This in turn will benefit the local game and clubs.
Forget the scouting trips to the Asia Cup which have been talked about, spend more time in your own back yard, put in the time and effort to develop the talent that is here. With the right structure and coaching, there is no reason why Perth Glory cannot field a side in five years time made up of predominantly home grown players that will be a challenger for a title. We are nowhere near that stage yet, especially with the current standard of the state league, but that can be changed, with strong leadership, and leaders who have a long term vision for football in this state.