The biggest mistake that has ever been made at Perth Glory, apart from a few signings, was keeping the name and carrying it over from the old NSL to the Hyundai A League. For the past five seasons they have been paying the price for that decision and will unfortunately continue to do so until they win a title.
As the NSL was being delivered the last rites, Perth Glory were one of the few clubs not in need of life support. They were the new kids on the block with plenty of life in them.
Initially they rode in on the back of a footballing public starved of football higher than the state league competition. Then they evolved into a well managed and well run club with Roger Lefort as Chief Executive Officer and Jeff Dennis and Justin Everley in the marketing department. But in those days the clubs were responsible for their own marketing and could put on their own pre-match entertainment. This is no longer the case, it is now controlled by the FFA, and in five seasons one would have to say that their methods have assisted in hurting a club renowned for its off field promotion.
Bernd Stange arrived as coach and at the same time money was made available to make Perth Glory the best club in the land. The best players queued up to come to Perth, and many wore the famed purple, Con Boutsianis, Damian Mori and John Markovski to name a few.
Then Stange split the club in two. Having been employed on a two year deal to raise the profile of the club so that co-owner Nick Tana could sell his shares to David Rodwell, he was supposed to leave once his contract expired. Rodwell would be the major shareholder and Mich D’Avray would take over as head coach. Stange decided not to go, and used the power of public opinion to obtain a contract extension. Co-Owner Paul Afkos backed Stange as did Lefort, and the club became factionalised. This factionalisation also went further with some fans backing the Afkos view that Stange was the man to lead the club into the future, and vowing to never support the club after that day.
D’Avray did eventually take over, and Perth Glory did win the league, but one with no salary cap, where they bought most of the best players, and a league in which only four teams realistically would win, South Melbourne, Parramatta Power and Sydney Olympic.
The A League was born, and the salary cap prevented Perth Glory attracting the cream of the country’s footballers, as they now could get good salaries in their home towns. The salary cap meant that often the Glory could only sign those players who could not get a club on the East coast.
The Perth Glory was the only team to take into the new competition a history, by keeping its old NSL name. With that name came expectation, based on previous successes, based on the calibre of players the fans were used to seeing. Also came some negativity from some of the public that lingered from the Stange fall out. No other club had that baggage.
Nick Tana, erred when he appointed Englishman Steve MacMahon as coach, but the fodder that he had to work with that first season was well below the standard Perth fans were used to seeing wearing their colours.
Following three poor seasons and three coaches David Mitchell was given the reins. In three seasons the club went from being owned by Nick Tana, to being owned by the FFA – who did not use the full quota of the salary cap on players, and it showed – to being owned by three men, which in another season came down to one, Tony Sage.
The result being a very unstable three years with no clear direction on or off the pitch being shown. After all of that turmoil the last thing the club needs is a new owner or a new coach at this point in time.
Whether you like Dave Mitchell as coach or Tony Sage as owner, they are building a club that once again can see Perth Glory compete with the other clubs around the country. This is a work in progress, and a little patience is required. However a failure to make the finals is unacceptable, when you look at the players on the clubs books.
This season the club have re-established Perth Oval as a fortress, only losing once so far at home. They became the first team in the Hyundai A League’s short history to score in 14 consecutive games, until the 0-0 draw against the Mariners stopped that run. They have not lost a game all season by more than one goal, never being thrashed.
Very few of the media outlets in this town report these facts. They choose instead to take a negative view as that they believe is more interesting reading.
The club is a work in progress, they have quality on their books, but have sacrificed the second tier players that are required when suspensions and injuries occur. The young players although talented lack the experince required at this point in time, and they too are a work in progress. Some members of the current squad are simply not yet ready for the demands of the A League on a weekly basis and when called upon it shows. When the coach looks to his bench to change a game, rarely is the firepower there. This is where the focus needs to be next season if the improvement is to continue.
Finals football is a must this season. If they fail to make the finals the damage done to the club could be irrepairable. If they do make the finals anything is possible, and memories of past Glory’s may come flooding back.
The name however continues to carry with it great expectation, and one has to wonder whether it was wise to let the club keep the name as it entered a new era in Australian football. It has weighed the club down over the past four years and could end up suffocating it, as no other club suffers the comparisons to former years as does Perth Glory, from fans and media alike.