Like him or hate him, Sir Alex Ferguson is hailed as one of the great football managers of all time. One of the key aspects of his success at first Aberdeen and then Manchester United was his instilling in his players ‘it is us against the rest’ mentality. Now when Kenny Lowe has instilled the same attitude to great effect amongst his charges at Perth Glory the East Coast Australian media are telling him he must stop it, why?
Perth Glory have been prejudiced against ever since the A-League started whether you want to believe it or not. First there was the matter of three seasons in a row having to play more away games than home games, when the FFA said it was on a rotation basis. Then we had the Boxing Day game in Perth, East coast clubs complained about having to fly out on Christmas Day; Newcastle Jets complaining they had to leave even earlier. Now who has to fly East on Christmas Day? Perth Glory.
One issue that may appear small but one that was raised by three consecutive Glory coaches, was the fact that when playing away if a player is a 60/40 chance of playing, and East Coast team can afford to fly that player and an extra one up and down the East coast in the hope he may be fit for the game. Perth Glory cannot afford that luxury as rather than spending $200-300 on an airfare, they have to spend $800-1000.
When the FFA actually ran Perth Glory, Ron Smith was told to start rebuilding the club for the future. He was encouraged to sign the best young talent around the country, yet when a youth international came up and those who were progressing in the first team were called up, the Glory’s A-League fixtures still had to go ahead, even though the squad had been decimated. Talk about hanging a coach and a club out to dry.
The fact that Perth has become the most expensive city in Australia to live in and a few years ago rental properties were being auctioned to the highest bidder in terms of rent, made it very difficult to attract players across the Nullarbor. The FFA were asked on several occasions to allow Perth a “Weighting Allowance,” but once again their requests fell on deaf ears. For those unfamiliar with such an allowance, it is used when employees move from a lower cost location to a major city such as New York or London, to help them adjust to the increase in the cost of living. If Perth Glory has indeed given incentives to players outside of the salary cap one can totally understand why they did; as year after year their cries for help or even a more even playing field fell on deaf ears. It does not of course make it right, if they have, but it does make it understandable. When playing by the rules does not work, sometimes people look for other ways to stay up with the big boys.
The final straw in ten years of prejudice against the West was the hosting rights of the FFA Cup final. In making their way to the final Adelaide United played one FFA Cup game away from home and that was against Sydney FC in the quarter finals. They hosted three games at home. Perth Glory on the other hand had three games away from home and only hosted one game in Western Australia, their quarter final against Melbourne Victory. Based on trying to help clubs get ahead and make money to stay viable everything would say the final should have been hosted in Perth.
Kenny Lowe is no fool. Lowe was employed as an assistant coach under Ron Smith and stayed on in the role when Dave Mitchell took over the reins. In that time he would have seen the problems the coaches faced. He would have no doubt looked at things that they tried, and in his own mind worked out what wasn’t going to work and what would. Lowe is without doubt a great student of the game, and he would have been well aware of the mentality Sir Alex Ferguson created wherever he coached. Knowing how at every turn Perth Glory seem to get a rough deal and having experienced it first hand, instead of protecting the players from it, he has used it to invigorate them. There have been many pluses this season but the key has been Perth Glory winning on the road. Up until recently every week, the pundits over East wrote them off, and Lowe played along. Every week Perth Glory made the pundits eat their words. Now it appears that some are choking on them.
Kenny Lowe has managed the expectations and the media superbly. He has cleverly tapped into the parochial vein that pulses through the most isolated city in Australia and it is paying dividends. Rest assured if the ‘us against them’ mentality continues to produce some of the best football played by Perth Glory in ten years, and the battling display shown against Melbourne Victory on Friday night, there will be no complaints from Western Australians. If it also results in complaints from over East, then that will be the icing on the cake.
Very few criticized Sir Alex for adopting such a culture, so why should Kenny Lowe cop it for using the same policy to equally good effect?