If you believed all the media coming out of the East coast Perth Glory’s main problem is the power being held by a group of senior players, but of course the problem is deeper and far more complex than that.
Key senior players were signed by the club with a vision for the future, and the part that they would play in restoring Glory to the club. The problem is several were given that vision by a coach who has now seen three people succeed him in just three and a half years: Dave Mitchell stepped down in October 2010, 40 months later the club is on its third new Manager, and he is only there on an interim basis.
The vision which was shared by Mitchell’s then assistant and ultimately the man who took over the reins, Ian Ferguson was to make the finals and have Glory consistently competing in the Finals, a condition that was written into their contracts. Both achieved that and in fact Ferguson steered the club to the Grand Final thanks in the main to him selecting Steve Pantelidis and Steve McGarry; selections that turned the season around.
Ferguson was sacked the following season and replaced by Alistair Edwards who as part of the clubs future development turned his attention to signing young talent, also partly because it saved the club money. Interestingly some of these young players who were signed, were “encouraged” to sign up with an agent, rather than have their parents represent them. Many coincidentally signed with the same agent, which has ultimately raised a few questioning eyebrows.
Suddenly from being title contenders the club was never going to be more than also-rans with such a lack of experience. They were never going to challenge for a top three place, but if luck and results went their way there was a chance that they may slide into sixth spot and claim a finals berth. The key was blending experience with youth.
Everyone looks at Ange Postecoglou’s 2010/11 Championship winning Brisbane Roar side and points to how their success was built on the back of youth. The truth is it wasn’t! The average age of that squad was 23.2. Thomas Broich who was such a key part of the team and played an almost Cantona-like role was 29 years old, Matt McKay was 27 years old, his midfield partner Massimo Murdocca was 25 years old. In fact the only players in the squad under 20 years of age were Rocco Visconte (19) Daniel Bowles (18) Chris Bush (18) and Luke Brattan (19). Of the four only one, Rocky Visconte started a game, and in total they made of 19 appearances of the bench of which Visconte made 13 appearances.
The senior player issue at Perth Glory came to a head when several key players stood up to then coach Alistair Edwards, feeling that he was favouring the two sons he had signed at the club; there had however been simmering tensions on a number of issues prior to that confrontation. It is worth pointing out that some of the junior players were also unhappy with the state of affairs.
The trouble has not stopped since Kenny Lowe was appointed interim coach. The PFA have been called into the club to mediate on the fact that five of the younger players have been separated from the main squad and told to train with one of the assistant coaches, or on their own. The fact that the players go to their union rather than the management at the club shows that there is a breakdown in trust.
Another dressing room bust up showed that the club did not learn from the earlier incident, owner Tony Sage’s comments in the West Australian newspaper showed just how out of touch he is. He was claiming that the spat between Marquee signing William Gallas and assistant Coach Andrew Ord was nothing out of the ordinary, which may be so, but good clubs and teams keep these issues in-house.
The West Australian went on to say “Sage conceded Gallas had not provided an adequate return for investment on the pitch. But he said the international exposure created by the former France defender’s signing had given the club value for money. “We’re getting a lot of recognition,” Sage said.”Every club in Europe now knows Perth Glory.” Sadly Mr Sage if your Marquee signing is that unimpressed by the coaching – as was allegedly one of the issues raised in the dressing room debate – the club will not be known for the right reasons.
To be fair the success achieved on the pitch under Mitchell and Ferguson hid a great many cracks administratively, as once Brett McKeon left so too did CEO Scott Gooch. Mr. Sage took sole control and he appointed business associates to run the club for him rather than suitably qualified people. Sadly running a football club is not the same as running a business and although some of the same business principles apply a great deal of the tools used in every day business do not apply in football clubs, or work. Some of the documents shown to the the club’s members at Wednesday’s meeting showed this to be the case. All very pretty in terms of layout and principle, but pointless unless actioned.
After the poor handling of the Jacob Burns/Alistair Edwards spat the club revamped its Media department, but this would appear to be a bigger mess than it was before. First of all they have a new Facebook policy whereby criticism of the club even if warranted will be deleted. So where can disgruntled fans vent their anger? Drive them underground and you create bigger problems. Knowing about them enables you to deal with them.
Then player Adrian Zahra came out an raised some very pertinent points on the fitness levels of the new recruits and their fitting into the team. To counter that and try and calm the flames of discontent Interim Coach Kenny Lowe came out and said “You’ve got 23 men, and you’re not going to keep them all happy,They’re all going to have a moan. It’s like having 23 wives. ” This may have been an attempt at humour and a throw away line, but once again is an unfortunate turn of phrase. For Lowe when appointed to the coaching job at Perth Glory was serving a suspension – lifted inexplicably by the FFA – for abusing a lines woman. In that instant he used a sexist remark and many may say that this too was in a sexist vein.
Lowe is right however when he says “When you don’t win games, everybody acts up,” but a well run club will control incidents like this, many will see them coming and nip them in the bud before they become public.
Perth Glory despite the spin the club wants to try and put on it are out of control. The club cannot plug the leaks of information and the players are not happy.
The senior players will be moved on but will anything change? Shane Smeltz out of contract at the end of season will no doubt return to Queensland to be with his family and is likely to replace Besart Berisha as he heads to Melbourne Victory. Thwaite and Vukovic have signed new contracts, but expect many of the other senior players to be released without any input from the new coach. It will take that person a while to mould the players he inherits into a competitive team, and no doubt he too will suffer the constraints placed on his predecessors. Let us hope he is given more than the average 13 months the last three coaches have been given.
In the meantime the club needs to bring in people who know how to run a football club, not just football fans who have been successful in business. If he doesn’t nothing will change.
Will there be Finals for Perth Glory in 2014 or 2015? What does the Future hold for the club? Two words beginning with “F” that have thanks to events in the past six months have left many fans scratching their heads.