Glory touch and go for finals appearance
As much as I want to see Glory succeed, I think it is going to be a tough season and they will be touch and go to reach the finals.
It-s been two years since I pulled on my home team jersey - the purple and white of Perth Glory - but I-m nervous as hell as the new A-League season kicks off. As much as I want to see Glory succeed, I think it is going to be a tough season and they will be touch and go to reach the finals.
I don-t know whether it-s the fan coming out in me or the pessimistic ex-player, who feels you just can-t win football leagues with kids. I know ex-Liverpool defender Alan Hansen was made to eat his words when he said something similar about a young Manchester United team in 1995 - they went on to win the double - but there is no doubting the importance of experience in any football team. You can have an excellent coach on the sidelines but once the kids are in the thick of the action they need guidance and leadership from those who have seen it before and who are by their side on the pitch.
There have been a lot of changes around Glory and the dynamics of the club have changed enormously. Owner Tony Sage-s decision to get Alistair Edwards and Gareth Naven at the helm has been a huge coup for the club. Both are fiercely driven to succeed but they are also respectful of the players.
Alistair has also shown a genuine strength of conviction by bringing into the club his sons, Cameron and Ryan. He was also quick in his decision to get rid of Ljubo Milicevic, allegedly for being a nuisance at the club, soon after he had been signed. It was a strong stance that I respect, immensely.
There is always the potential for criticism when a coach brings into a club a member of his family and Alistair has done it twice. I put myself in a similar situation this season by signing my younger brother Jamie at Bayswater City, the club I coach in the WA State League. In my case, I signed Jamie because I knew he was a quality player with the right attitude to make a difference at the club. I-m sure Alistair has made his own decisions for the same reasons.
He has also made a strong statement by bringing back to the club as coaches some of his old playing “family” in Naven, Scott Miller and Bobby Despotovski. In some ways, this collection of coaches is reminiscent of the old boot room at Liverpool, which brought so much success to the Merseyside club. But Liverpool also relied on experience through their playing ranks, which was probably on Hansen-s mind when he made his “kids” statement.
This is where Glory are different. They have a really young squad and are likely to find it tough at times during the season. The likes of Danny De Silva, Riley Woodcock, Matt Davies, Brandon O-Neill, Jack Clisby, Harry O-Brien- the list goes on - are great players but they will need more experienced people alongside them to help them along their path.
A few injuries to the more senior players, who will also establish the club culture, and these young players could find themselves in unfamiliar territory and under the pump. In that regard, it-s patently clear how important players such as Michael Thwaite, Jacob Burns, Steve McGarry, Scott Jamieson, Danny Vukovic and Shane Smeltz will be this season.
On last season-s evidence, Glory fans are right to be excited by Alistair-s plans. It was almost seen as a Glory revolution and the new group of coaches definitely understand what is wanted over here in the west. Glory have had a merry-go-round of coaches in recent years and that rapid change has been reflected in short-term goals. The corner has now been turned with coaching staff focused on the long term and the development of young players, who should not be seen as a quick fix.
If this is done properly, and fans and the Glory executive show patience and have faith, the team from WA can build towards a strong future. And it can hardly get any better than having local kids playing, and playing well, for the team they grew up supporting.
My tips for the season: Glory to finish sixth, Liam Miller to win the Johnny Warren Medal and Melbourne Victory to be champions.
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