Perth Glory have made a sensational start to the Hyundai A-League season, surprising many to be leading the pack after the first third of the campaign.
But can they maintain the rage and go on and collect the first silverware since the league’s inception with the Westfield FFA Cup next week and the Hyundai A-League Finals in May 2015?
The club went close three seasons back, making it to the grand final in 2011/12 under coach Iain Ferguson, only to be beaten at the death by Brisbane Roar FC.
So what makes this season's squad capable of going one step further?
We pick out the three reasons why Perth may be bound for Glory.
Glory’s all-important ‘spine’ is among the best in the competition, a perfect mix of grit, experience and more than a touch of class. Goalkeeper Danny Vukovic is one of the Hyundai A-League’s most experience shot-stoppers, in front of him a central-defensive pairing of Dino Djulbic and Michael Thwaite that complement each other superbly. With Rostyn Griffiths anchoring the midfield, Glory have a solid base which is proving extremely difficult for opposition sides to break down. Further forward Nebojsa Maronkovic and Mitch Nichols are always scheming and probing with smart runs and passes behind the prolific Andy Keogh. If they can keep that spine fit and firing, Glory won’t be far away at the business end.
A quick glance through Glory’s playing roster and the one thing that strikes you is they have a little bit of everything. A physical presence in the likes of Djulbic, Thwaite, Griffiths and Ruben Zadkovich, speed to burn from Josh Risdon, Jamie Maclaren and Chris Harold, the creative flair of Marinkovic and Daniel De Silva while Andy Keogh is banging in the goals. And age wise there's a good balance of younger, older and those in the important mid-20s age group. Kenny Lowe seems to have all bases covered and they are capable of finding more than one way to win a match. History could also be on their side. Perth are only the third team in Hyundai A-League history to win seven games from the opening nine rounds of a season. The two clubs who did that previously were Melbourne Victory (2006/07) and Brisbane Roar (2013/14) and both went on to win the championship.
Astute recruiting = Increased depth
In the past, losing a player of Youssouf Hersi’s quality for the rest of the season would be a dagger blow for Glory. While Hersi’s energy, pace and quality is sure to be missed, you get the feeling Perth will be able to fill the breach. Jamie Maclaren, Chris Harold and Socceroo midfielder Mitch Nichols haven’t been regulars so far this season but will now certainly have more opportunity. Livewire Brazilian Sidnei Sciola is another option for Lowe once he returns to full fitness. Glory have options in almost every position, not only giving their likeable boss plenty of cover if injuries strike but ensuring competition for places every week on the training pitch.
Hyundai A-League Season 2014/15 squad
Danny Vukovic (GK), Josh Risdon, Dino Djulbic, Michael Thwaite, Scott Jamieson, Rostyn Griffiths, Richie Garcia, Mitch Nichols, Nebojsa Marinkovic, Daniel De Silva, Andy Keogh, Ruben Zadkovich, Diogo Ferreira, Sidnei Sciola, Chris Harold, Jamie Maclaren, Youssouf Hersi, Jack Clisby, Jack Duncan (GK), Cameron Edwards
Hyundai A-League Season 2011/12 squadDanny Vukovic (GK), Josh Risdon, Bas van den Brink, Chris Coyne, Dean Heffernan, Travis Dodd, Jacob Burns, Liam Miller, Todd Howarth, Billy Mehmet, Shane Smeltz Neil Young (GK), Andrezinho, Steve Pantelidis, Josh Mitchell, Scott Neville, Steve McGarry, Tommy Amphlett, Jesse Makarounas, Adam Hughes