There was a certain symmetry to Ian Ferguson’s dismissal as coach at Perth Glory, in as much as he started his reign with a string of losses and he finished it as he started.
According to club chairman Tony Sage, Ferguson mutually agreed to step down, but one cannot help believing that the combative Ferguson would have certainly wanted to fight his way out of the club’s current situation rather than walk away. As a player he never shirked a challenge, and as a man he would never back away from one either.
Ferguson’s record as a coach is average. In the Hyundai A League at North Queensland Fury and Perth Glory he coached 99 games for 31 wins, 22 draws and 46 losses. He did last season steer the club to the Grand Final, but how much was that down to a quirk of fate and how much down to inspired coaching?
Last season the team went on a run that saw them lose eight games, draw one and win one, and then forced by injury and suspensions Ferguson selected Steve McGarry and Steve Pantelidis, and these two players coming in to the side turned the team around and helped them on their march into the Grand Final.
This season the club has entered a similar slump but Ferguson has not had the experience of players similar to these two to call upon to drag the team out of the rut. Some may say he is paying the price of not blooding the youngsters and giving them more experience so that he had some cover. Others will say the tightening of the purse strings this season certainly did not help his cause. As despite a strong squad that should be sitting at the other end of the table, this year’s group of players lacks the experience of last years.
Ferguson’s downfall may well have been trying to negotiate the quagmire of politics that have held the club back over the past five years. Trying to keep everyone happy and hang onto a job is no easy task. Ferguson was recently forced to let key players depart the club in order to save the owner money, as contracts run through to mid year well after the season is over – and money was not made available to bring in players with similar experience as replacements.
Following Michael Thwaite’s outburst a week ago Ferguson who had also commented on how he found players leaving before the season was over frustrating revealed owner Tony Sage had health issues; no doubt trying to protect the owner from a player criticising him, but it backfired. “I wasn’t happy Fergie mentioned my health” Sage said at the press conference before revealing that this had nothing to do with the coach being shown the door.
Sage also did not agree that budget constraints had anything to do with the team underachieving this season.
Western Australians and former players Alistair Edwards and Gareth Naven have taken over until the end of the season and have a tough task ahead of them. They will be popular appointments, and both have a strong belief in giving youth a chance, so there may be a number of young local boys given a chance to prove themselves before the season is out, and that can’t be a bad thing with little left to play for except pride. As for next season we will have to wait and see…