Stage one complete of Popovic's exciting vision for Perth
Stage one of Perth Glory’s journey to the summit of the Hyundai A-League is complete says Tony Popovic, despite the heartbreaking nature of Sunday’s Grand Final loss to Sydney FC.
Popovic, 45, suffered another gruelling Grand Final loss – his fourth defeat as a coach in the showpiece match – after going down on penalties to the Sky Blues in WA.
It was a bitter way for Glory to end a superb season – after setting the competition benchmark in 2018/19 under the former Western Sydney Wanderers boss.
But instead of lamenting Perth’s failure in the shootout, Popovic chose to focus on the bigger picture, and championed the efforts of his distraught players.
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“There is a group of champions in that room, including the staff and everyone associated with the club,” Popovic said.
"We wanted to be a big team this year, and we’ve been a big team this year. That’s clear.
The plan is to be a big club, and that takes time.
“That’s the next building block. Can we be another big team next year and start considering ourselves a bigger club? That’s exciting, and [it's] exciting that we can build on the great success we’ve had this year."
The elation of Perth’s Premiers Plate win – Glory’s first ever Hyundai A-League trophy – should not be swept aside amid Sydney’s Championship celebrations, nor should the sheer scale of the club’s transformation under Popovic be underestimated.
Familiar shortcomings, such as Perth’s soft underbelly in defence and vulnerability playing away from home, were corrected in emphatic style by the ex-Caltex Socceroos hard man.
Glory had tallied a meagre 23 points on their travels in the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons combined, but managed 24 by the end of Round 22 this time around.
Similarly, Perth had conceded 50 and 53 goals respectively across the course of the two previous regular campaigns. In 2018/19, the WA club were breached a meagre 23 times.
With the club’s talisman Diego Castro signed up for another two seasons, and prolific ex-Melbourne City man Bruno Fornaroli to come into the fold, Perth will be optimistic about their venture into the AFC Champions League next season – particularly with the man who won the 2014 competition at the helm.
“We couldn’t get the icing on the cake today. We did everything we could, we had the support and the players gave everything,” Popovic said.
“We’re in the [AFC] Champions League, we won the Premiers Plate – it’s a phenomenal season.”