Last night’s bust up in the Perth Glory dressing room does not come as a surprise as the atmosphere has been simmering for a number of weeks, and it was inevitable that it would come to a head at some point.
The tension had been mounting for a number of weeks. First there was a senior player feeling he was ‘at kindergarten’ rather than at a professional football club. It may have been a throw away line but the undercurrent was there.
Next was an error of judgement by one of the young players revealing what his contract was worth. Whether this was a young player showing off it was taken at face value and upset players of a similar age earning less, as well as senior players who had taken pay cuts to remain at the club this season.
Then came William Gallas, a big name signing, with a world class reputation. Many thought it was a good signing in football terms, but again when senior players had been advised that money was not available to meet their salary demands, the signing of an ageing star on a contract upwards of half a million dollars caused more angst.
Gallas started his first game in round 7 against the Central Coast Mariners, a game that saw the ever reliable Steve McGarry dropped in favour of one of the coach’s sons, Cameron Edwards. A move that apparently sparked a heated discussion behind closed doors.
Little things started to mount up such as the changing of training times from mornings to evenings with little or no discussion with the playing group. Then came Jacob Burns suspension via the ridiculous Match Review Panel.
The Perth Glory owner Tony Sage threatened legal action if the two game suspension wasn’t overturned. Yet two days later the club announced it was going to accept the ban. Leaving Burns no doubt even more frustrated and let down.
A defeat to Melbourne Victory and Jacob Burns left on the bench for the full 90 minutes and having to watch two inexperienced midfielders put on ahead of him while the Glory was trailing 1-0 was bound to leave many senior players baffled and frustrated.
When the arguments kicked off post match Alistair Edwards failed to attend the obligatory press conference, for which he or the club will be fined. This situation could have been controlled had the club had the media manager travelling with the team; as that is one of his roles. He drags the coach away to meet his media obligations on time. If the coach will not come he pulls rank and takes the assistant coach. An initial cost saving may well have ended up costing the club in the long term both financially and in adverse publicity.
Alistair Edwards will face the media when he lands at Perth Airport today and no doubt will have had plenty of time to prepare a defence for what has happened. If the club is smart he will read a prepared statement and then walk away without entertaining questions.
Edwards however will face his toughest time in the coaching hot seat as views have now been aired by the players. The same things happened in season one of the A- League and in December inaugural coach Steve McMahon resigned; coincidentally a coach who signed his son as a player.
Since coming back to Perth Glory as coach Edwards has made it quite clear that he is the man in control, his decisions are final. He made a brave move to sign both his sons, a move that put them both in a very difficult position should their form not meet expectations. Many within the squad obviously feel that this is currently the case, and that senior more experienced players are being sacrificed for them to receive game time. This situation will be a serious test of his mettle as a coach.
Can he regain the support of the dressing room? There is no doubt something has to give and the key will be how Edwards handles the situation. It could be vital to the rest of the Glory’s season. One thing is for sure the simmering tensions that came to the surface last night need to be quelled and quickly.