Credit should be given to Perth Glory on the eve of the coming season as great effort has been made to re-connect with the Western Australian public.
Not only have the coaching staff looked to give the team a real Western Australian feel by bringing home many of the players developed locally who have gone off to play overseas or inter state, but even off the pitch there has been a concerted effort to engage with the local football fans.
It is great to hear that the club will be looking to honour those who took part in Perth Glory’s inaugural season back in 1996; it is also good that the FFA has allowed such a nod to the past before they were involved.
There are many who will never forget that day, at what was then known as Perth Oval, when skipper Gareth Naven led the Gary Marocchi coached Perth Glory out onto what has consistently been an outstanding pitch to take on Sydney Olympic on October 13 1996.
The ground was very different to what it is today. The now famous Shed had actually been branded “The Hill,” and rather than running in a straight line behind the Eastern goal was on a curve. In front of the terracing was a grass area where all the kids would congregate and play. There were two temporary stands along with a much tattier looking Fred D Book stand than stands today.
Glory lost that match 4-1, and Alan Mackenzie scored the club’s first ever goal. The crowd was much larger than anyone expected and the atmosphere was outstanding. Some will argue that the atmosphere that first season has never been beaten. The club was new and everyone was behind it. Western Australia had fought so long to have a team in the National Soccer League that everyone wanted the team to be a success.
One thing many people do forget is that the side went right up until the last round of the season to see if it could make the finals in its first season; had it done so it would have been the first team in a national competition in Australian sport to do so. They missed out by one point, finishing seventh in a 14 team league.
The new Perth Glory will this weekend pay tribute to that team, its coaches and administrators, and all will be presented with a Heritage Jersey, modelled on the original shirt before kick-off.
The club has in recent times tried to capitalise on the feats of the NSL side and the Perth Kangaroos the forerunner to the Glory, and on both occasions it has not been executed properly or with the correct amount of respect; it has been a PR exercise rather than a genuine celebration of the club’s history.
This time it feels as if it is being done with all the right intentions. Hopefully that will be the case, and it will be the perfect platform and incentive for the current crop of players to go out and emulate the players of ’96, who played with pride and passion, and represented everyone involved in football in Western Australia, and more importantly made them proud.
As a mark of respect, the team will wear the commemorative heritage kit in their opening game against the Central Coast Mariners on Saturday night. Again this is a nice gesture, but regrettably these shirt changes have lost some their meaning of late as they happen too often. The FFA using such changes as a marketing and merchandising tool. Most fans prefer to see the team stick to the strip they have chosen for that season and not have a new shirt for any other reason than a cup final or Grand final.
Perth Glory has in the past been beset by pre-season issues with season tickets not being sent out and all manner of other administrative issues, but on and off the pitch in 2016 it looks as if they may have finally got it right. Mind you, as the new A-League Perth Glory has now been around for eleven seasons, fans would have a right to say, about time.
Yet this is a great way to start the season when everyone is looking forward to another A-League season that will see the team from the West back amongst the best in the country. Now, all that is needed is for the team to emulate those local boys that many of the current team would have grown up watching, and this will be a season to remember on all fronts.