In sport there are some people whose names are synonymous with the club they played for. In Australian football, Gareth Naven is one such person.
Gareth Naven was the inaugural captain of Perth Glory in 1996 and played with the armband around his arm until 2002, when he hung up his boots. He played 143 games for the club and was a player who lead by example, his passion and his commitment. While he was at the club they won two National Soccer League Premierships; they also almost made the finals in their very first season in existence.
When he retired his career had garnered so much respect that at Perth Oval/ME Bank Stadium or now NIB Stadium, he had a room named after him. Not only that he was made the first ever life member of the club in 2004.
In June of this year his contribution was recognised once again as an annual trophy was named in his honour. With Perth Glory having a side playing in the National Premier Leagues Western Australia, it meant the club where he is best known would play against the club where he made his name, Perth Soccer Club. The trophy named in his honour and sponsored by Macron is to be determined on aggregate scores during the home and away season. Former Perth Glory coach and now President of Perth SC Gary Marocchi said at the time the trophy was announced “Gareth Naven was fiercely competitive on the field and always gave you 100 per cent passion and commitment, whether it was in the Azzurri or purple shirt.”
After his playing career came to an end Gareth Naven took over the coaching reins of Perth Glory’s youth team when the National Youth League started in 2008. in 2009/10 he lead the team to the Grand Final where they were runners up.
Naven took on an assistant coaching role to the first team when Alistair Edwards became coach and former club legend Scott Miller also came on board. The club making it very clear that they wished to involve more former club luminaries to try and bring back the pride in the floundering club.
It became clear at that time that the club was looking back at the key aspects that made the club successful under former owner Nick Tana. The focus was very much on Perth Glory once more becoming a community club, one the people of Western Australia could identify with, and be proud of. With an emphasis on youth, young local talent was signed with a three year plan to lift the club back into the top echelons of Australian football. Nick Tana created Perth Glory on the back of such values and talent, yet in recent years it was clear the club had lost its way and many welcomed the shift in focus. In fact word is this is what the much talked about Hatt Report recommended.
It was almost a year ago in December 2013 the club and coach Alistair Edwards parted ways, following a spat between the coach and club captain Jacob Burns. It was clear that the path that the club was taking under the Edwards regime, youth was being favoured, and the 35 year old Captain was unhappy at being left on the bench. His frustration was not helped by the fact that the Coach’s son Ryan Edwards played in Burns position in midfield in that match against Melbourne Victory; It is worth mentioning that the on-loan Ryan Edwards has since returned to English Championship side Reading where he has made ten appearances and been hailed by coach Nigel Adkins.
From that point on the focus at the club shifted again, as the club brought in experienced players in the transfer window to assist their push for the finals. The three year plan, the return to Nick Tana’s model club, were no longer the way forward.
In June the focus shifted again. It was time for out with the old and in with the new, confirmation that the path chosen at the start of the season was no longer going to be the path taken. Following a review of the club’s coaching structure Naven and Scott Miller were shown the door. Former WAIS Women’s coach John Gibson replaced Naven in charge of the Youth team.(Even though Wikipaedia at the time of writing still has both in charge!) Gibson’s assistants are Steve McGarry and the first appointee in the newly created role of General Manager Football, Jacob Burns.
These appointments were announced on the same day it was revealed that the two stalwarts of the club were shown the door.
When asked by Not the Footy Show whose decision it was to part company with these two former players and reverse the planned increased involvement with former players the club advised “following the end of the 2013/14 A-League season the club completed an internal review of its coaching structure and football department to reflect the Club’s changing business needs. Given the nature of the matter no further comment will be made.”
The sad and unfortunate thing is the club that Gareth Naven represented so proudly, now finds one of its greatest ambassadors taking it to court, for unfair dismissal. The case is due to go to court later this month. This cannot be good for either party.
Many fans would like to know who made the decision to part ways with these two former players. Was it the newly structured Football side of the club? Was it new coach Kenny Lowe? Or was it the CEO Jason Brewer? Based on the statement from the club issued to Not the Footy Show, one would assume the latter made the final call, as he is the head of the club, and as CEO he would be the logical one reviewing the structures being put in place. However it could also have been the owner.
Some would say that Naven paid the ultimate price for speaking out against the former club captain after the altercation in the changing rooms at AAMI Park. Naven was quoted at the time as saying, “As a former captain of the club, I don’t like to see the club be in this position. When I was the captain of the club, it was really important to me that the priority always was the club, the behaviour of the club, the team and the players, and the integrity and humility you deliver as a captain. I’ve been highly disappointed with Jacob Burns’ behaviour at the moment. He is trying to cause a revolt, which taints this club.”
If that is true it is a shame that someone at the club could not mediate between the two combatitive former midfielders.
While looking into what is a very sad story, a club stalwart upon whom so many honours have been bestowed taking that very same club to court, Not the Footy Show was advised that state administrator Football West had been told that they could not employ Gareth Naven in a coaching capacity as long as he was taking a NPL club to court.
Football West CEO Peter Hugg was quick to refute that claim and said “‘as governing body of the sport in WA, Football West is entitled to and reserves its right to employ whoever it determines to be the best candidate for any such vacant position. I have received no directive from Glory not to employ any previous coach or staff member.”
We did ask Mr Hugg whether such a directive may have come from the FFA but he assured us that it did not.
There is no doubt that such a court case will bring more bad publicity to Perth Glory, and there is still a case pending with Alistair Edwards. It is very sad to see former stars forced to take such action and no doubt it pains them and tarnishes the memories they have of great times at a club they loved.
Coaching is a precarious game, and that is why coaches are paid more than most of us, as compensation when the inevitable firing happens. Is it therefore not fair for them to expect their contract to be paid out in full?
Sadly in all of this there will be no winners. Sadly in all this, irrespective of whether you love him or hate him, a true club legend – and the accolades were bestowed on him by the club – should not have to go down this path.
Would Nick Tana have ever let this reach this stage? Unlikely, as he had a passion for the club similar to Gareth Naven’s. He may not have shared your viewpoint, but he would go out of his way to make sure that nothing harmed the club.
It is a very unfortunate and disappointing situation, for the club and one who served it so well, Gareth Naven.