Monday, May 9, 2011

Can the West be won?

By Paul Frederickson

Some football clubs have successful on and off-field operations that are the envy of clubs across all football codes. These clubs become the benchmark for how they game should be played and importantly, how a football club should be run. In decades past that club was Perth Glory, the former NSL powerhouse is, at this time, an A-League also-ran. Commencing the 1996/97 NSL season few would have predicted the success and following that the Glory would garner.

When the A-League was announced Perth Glory was expected to continue as a perennial premiership and championship contender. This has yet to eventuate and it was perhaps the expectation and belief that they would be instantly successful in the game's new incantation that has so far handicapped the team. Each season the Glory seem to make key signings and be mentioned as finals contenders. So why has it yet to happen for the Glory in the A-League?

Instant success
An almost two year gap between the NSL and the A-League seemed to initially catch the Perth Glory out and they have never really recovered. The have only made the A-League finals once in the first 6 years of the A-League. Compare this to the 2 Championships, 2 times runner-up and 3 Premierships that was garnered in their first 8 years of existence as a club and you can see the two-edged sword that has hung over them. The history and expectations of success have highlighted how poor their first 6 years have really been for this proud West Australian club.

Most successful clubs have stability. The starting block for a club's stability is the owners themselves. Nick Tana had owned the successful Glory as they entered the A-League with high hopes and within a season the FFA took back the Perth Glory's licence. After a year of FFA ownership Tony Sage, John Spence and Brett Mckeon formed a private consortium that led to them being announced as the new owners of the Perth Glory. After two years of internal bickering Tony Sage became the sole owner of the Glory. The owner will hopefully give the club the much needed soundness it craves. From the club's own website (1):

Tony has in excess of 20 years experience in the fields of corporate advisory services, funds management and capital raising.

In the same way that owners bring stability to a club, so to do managers. Steve McMahon, Alan Vest, Ron Smith, David Mitchell and Ian Ferguson have been the managers for Perth Glory so far. 5 managers in 6 years does not give a manager confidence that their plan and visions will be given time to see fruition. Perth will need to make sure that they believe in the manager's vision which will in turn give the squad confidence in their manager. It is no surprise that arguably the most successful club in the A-League to date, Melbourne Victory, had the same manager for 5 and a half years of their existence.

One of the most loyal and vocal supporter groups in Australian football, the Perth Glory fans are well known for one of the countries famous supporters areas, 'The Shed'. A day in the shed is everything that is good about football, passion, friendships and support. Due to their participation in the NSL the supporter groups had formed well before the inception of the A-League. This loyal group does need to grow as the Glory's average attendance is 8470 and well below the stadium's capacity of 20,500. The support can grow again and will do so if the team can become a consistent finals contender.

New squad
As was mentioned earlier, each year the Perth Glory squad looks a winning combination on paper, but for numerous reasons they haven't gone anywhere near meeting the expectations of the pundits, fans and most likely themselves. The signings announced for the upcoming season are some of the most experienced and exciting talents in the competition.

According to Perth Glory's Media and Public Relations Manager, Steve Nelkovski, the club has signed 8 new players with more signings to follow:

Danny Vukovic
Evan Berger
Shane Smeltz
Travis Dodd
Adam Hughes
Jesse Makarounas
Dean Heffernan
Neil Young

The players include a former Golden Boot, players who have ventured and returned from overseas and the former captain of Adelaide United. Whilst these additions look excellent on paper it will once again be how they gel on the field that will count.

Training resumes

Steve Nelkovski advised a Game of two Halves on the 2nd of May that Perth, "Began pre-season training today and will progressively increase the players work loads throughout the pre-season."

"We could have the game against Celtic to look forward to in July and are also looking into pre-season two camps away from Perth," he said.

With a new jersey to be unveiled in the next few days supporters will hope that this will herald a new and successful era in Perth Glory's footballing history.

(1) Perth Glory FC, Board and Management.