Glory loosen ties to the Union Jack
For better or worse, Perth Glory have historically reflected a British football culture. But can Ian Ferguson match the changing philosophy and expectations of The Shed?
What exactly does the Perth footballing public want, or expect, from the Glory? The natives are getting increasingly restless in the west, and the question resonates louder than ever. Why?
Conceivably, the answer could be as simple as it could be predictable. Results and performance. Right now, Perth Glory aren't hitting either mark.
But there's still plenty of time to emulate, or even better, last season's runners-up achievement. Time, however, is fast becoming an illusion in the modern game, and these days nib Stadium rumbles to an undercurrent of discontent.
In that paradigm, the scapegoat is a familiar one. The coach. Ever since he came to Australia a decade ago to end his playing career with Northern Spirit, job security has proved to be an elusive concept for Ian Ferguson. It's no closer now than it's ever been.
But what Fergie has proved beyond doubt in Sydney, Gosford, Townsville and now Perth is that he's a fighter. So he dons his suit of armour and goes to work every day believing in his ability, and his purpose. He expects to be accountable, and he understands it. Whether The Shed loves or loathes him barely enters his head. What does pre-occupy him is success.
It's a benchmark he became familiar with during a record-breaking 10 championship wins with Rangers, and it's how he judges his own performance. For Fergie, the scoreboard provides the truest measurement.
If you expect him to take a more holistic approach, be patient. If you expect the pressure to get to him, don't. He thrives on it. All the same, he'll be the first to admit that as we enter the second half of the season, things haven't gone to plan.
For me, though, there are much deeper issues at play than the competition table. It goes to the heart and soul of the club. The great clubs of world football have an imbued culture. They stand for something.
For better or worse, Perth Glory have historically reflected a British football culture. It has always been their major point of difference, accurately representing their prime constituency.
No city in Australia has a more British outlook than Perth, and for the past 16 years the Glory have been the flag-bearers of local football's dominant expatriate community. Mostly, it's been a source of pride for the fans. But Barcelona, Brisbane Roar, and Ange Postecoglou, have changed everything.
The accents in the stands at nib Stadium are the same, but the expectations aren't. What we are witnessing is a fundamental shift in philosophy, and attitude, from a fan base which remains stoically British, but no longer wants the team to play the British way.
More and more, Perth Glory are effectively examining their own conscience. Hence the growing frisson. The fact the appetite for change is coming from within makes it almost unique in the annals of our game.
Nothing underlines this sense of confusion more than the mixed reaction to the news that Michael Owen could be on the radar.
Not so long ago, Owen would have been viewed as a potential Messiah by the Anglophiles. Nowadays those same supporters are taking a long, hard, look in the mirror. The evolution is fascinating to watch.
So where does this process end? It's impossible to say. The millstone for Ferguson is his passport. The former Scottish international is the latest in an assembly line of Glory coaches whose formative experiences have come through the prism of the British game.
The challenge for Ferguson is to convince the doubters he's a coach of the world rather than an ex-player from Glasgow. Every time Danny Vukovic punts the ball 60 metres, or Bas van den Brink lobs a ball upfield, makes the task just that much harder.
If you earn the privilege of talking technique and tactics with Ferguson you're left in no doubt he covets a passing game. The question is how long will it take for him to get his team doing more of it? I, for one, am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. Clearly, others aren't willing to be so patient.
In the meantime there is something more tangible Fergie can do to hasten the process of transition - give the kids a chance. There is a worthy case that Western Australia has, over the last few years, produced the country's richest seam of talent.
Gareth Naven, a fine player in his day, believes we are witnessing the emergence of the state's best-ever generation. Sadly, too few of these players have been graduating from Naven's youth team into the first team at the Glory. Instead they're making their mark elsewhere in the Hyundai A-League, or at overseas clubs. It's a waste.
Whatever Perth Glory eventually come to stand for, being the finishing school for the best young talent from the west isn't a bad starting point. Who knows, it might even help Ferguson get the knockers off his back.