Glory mates fight for spot

Newly signed Perth Glory stopper Aleks Vrteski is thrilled to be taking on 'best mate' Tando Velaphi for the No.1 goalkeeping position at the club.

Newly signed Perth Glory stopper Aleks Vrteski is thrilled to be taking on 'best mate' Tando Velaphi for the No.1 goalkeeping position at the club.

Speaking on Monday, the 20-year-old junior Australian representative has returned to his native Perth leaner, meaner and much fitter than when he played eight matches for the Glory during the 2006-07 season.

Since then Vrteski has played 20 games for controversial Macedonian club FK Pobeda, which was the subject of a UEFA investigation last March that eventually found it guilty of match-fixing in 2004, the club banned from European competition for the next eight seasons.

Vrteski admitted he'd seen things in Macedonia that he'll 'never see anywhere else' as the club reportedly struggled to pay its player's wages following the guilty verdict.

As a result, he was subsequently released from his contract and quickly picked up by Glory coach Dave Mitchell after training with the club for the last fortnight.

But the goalkeeper refuses to see his time in Macedonia as anything but positive, Vrteski using it as a chance to lose up to 18 kilograms and set himself on a path to fulfilling his undoubted potential.

"When I went away I got a big wake up call," Vrteski said.

"I was told over there I did have to lose some weight, get myself right and I mean going away from home, being out of your comfort zone so to speak, you kind of wake up to yourself a bit."

"You learn a lot of things personally about yourself, not just as a footballer but also as a person, so I'm never going to look at it in a negative light, there's only positives to come out of playing there."

"I worked hard, got myself right and played a good season-and-a-half."

"(And now) Mitch has been great to give me the opportunity to come back to the Glory."

"I just hope I can repay him as well, in a way he's given me another chance to play for the club that I've grown up loving. So really excited about that," he said.

Vrteski said it was thrilling seeing the mixture of old and new faces at the club, saying he his existing friendships would only serve to strengthen camaraderie within the playing group.

But he's most excited to be linking up and training once again with close friend Velaphi, even though the pair will be competing for the No.1 position between the sticks.

"I don't look at it necessarily as competition to be honest," Vrteski said.

"He's one of my best mates. I've grown up with him and it's more a case of both of us getting better as we go on, wherever we play."

Vrteski's signing has meant 35-year-old former Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Frank Juric has moved from his position as Velaphi's understudy into a coaching role at the club.

Juric spent 11 years playing for Leverkusen but was restricted to a minimal amount of first team matches by the form and durability of the club's No. 1 stopper Robert Enke during that period.

Having returned to Australia, though, Juric struggled for form during the opening rounds of last year's Hyundai A-League season, Glory coach Mitchell saying the veteran knew the time was right to move into coaching this season.

"I sat down and spoke with Frank about the upcoming season, I said, 'look Tando's got the No.1 spot and there is a position opening up for a goalkeeping coach'," Mitchell explained.

"He indicated when I signed him that he had an interest in getting into a coaching role so all that came together at a nice time and made it an easy fit for him, for Aleks and the club, so it was I think it's great."