The Blog FC’s A-League previews continue. Today, Mark Houston takes a look at a team who clock up thousands of miles in travel every season, Perth Glory. Last season saw the retirement of captain Jacob Burns, and after a bottom-half finish they will be hoping some new faces can push them higher up the pack.
Manager: Kenny Lowe
Captain: Michael Thwaite
Ins: Danny Vukovic (returning from loan), Youssouf Hersi (Western Sydney), Dino Djulbic (Al-Wahda), Mitch Nichols (Cerezo Osaka – Loan), Jordan Thurtell (FFA COE), Diogo Ferreira (Brisbane), Ruben Zadkovich (Newcastle), Richard Garcia (Minnesota United).
Outs: Jacob Burns, Travis Dodd, Steven McGarry (all retired), Ryan Edwards (end of loan), Darvydas Sernas (end of loan), Adrian Zahra (Valleta), Shane Smeltz (Sydney).
Last Season: 8th
2013-14 was… Disastrous. Alistair Edwards was sacked after 10 matches, with allegations of nepotism being the mark of his reign as sons Cameron and Ryan made several appearances for the Western Australian club. Kenny Lowe was named his replacement in an interim capacity – before being handed the position full-time – but results failed to improve and Perth finished the season in 8th position. Lowe was the third coach in 12 months for the Glory, and the instability affected the side as they slumped to a bottom-half finish.
The Glory signed French World Cup winner and Premier League stalwart William Gallas, but it was clear the former Chelsea and Arsenal man was past his best, with some amusing highlights. It were the departures that probably hurt Perth most, with Liam Miller and Storm Roux both having impressive seasons away from NIB Stadium and were sorely missed by a team that never really got going.
The goals tally told the story of Perth’s season, joint-top scorers Shane Smeltz and Steven McGarry only managed four each while the team scored a miserable total of 28 goals in 27 matches. Barely averaging a goal a game, a 10 match winless run in the middle of the season and only winning one match away from home make for grim reading for the boys in purple.
Captain Jacob Burns, a real favourite of opposition fans and players, called time on his career at the end of the season – as did McGarry and Travis Dodd – and the former Socceroo has been appointed General Manager of Football at the club, continuing on in a coaching capacity.
2014-15 will be… Marked improvement or bust for Lowe. The Glory are a proud footballing institution in Australia, and back to back seasons outside the finals spots will be deemed a failure. While there is much work to do, their form in the transfer market has been decent so far. The additions of Djulbic, Zadkovic, Hersi and Keogh strengthen the side and make up for the experience lost in Gallas, Smeltz, McGarry and Burns, while also being genuine upgrades on their older predecessors.
Mitch Nichols could prove to be the signing of the year, the former Brisbane midfielder was at the heart of their premiership sides and following an unsuccessful spell in Japan will be hoping to rekindle the form that helped his side to a period of unrivaled dominance.
Daniel De Silva signed for Roma in a record fee for the A-League, but is back on loan at Perth for one more season and could very well have the breakout year everyone had tipped him to have after debuting for the club as a 15 year old.
They need to improve on both ends though, particularly in the goalscoring department, and even though they’ve recruited well it make take time for all of the new signings to gel. The rest of the competition has improved as well though, and Perth were already playing catch up, so Lowe will really need to get his team firing early if they’re going to be involved in the business end of the season. A slow start and the instability of this time last year may return and Lowe’s position could be in question.
Key Player: Youssouf Hersi. The Dutch trickster became a fan favourite during his time at the Wanderers, and made 47 apperances scoring eight goals. He also broke the Australian record for most consecutive wins for a player (14). Hersi will add some valued creativity in the final third, and if he links up well with fellow new signings Nichols and Keogh, the Glory’s woes in front of goal could become a distant memory.
What, or whom, do Perth need? Goals. With a league low 28 goals scored last season, it’s a simple equation this season: they must score more. They’ve brought in some decent attacking players, upgrading on last season’s striking options of Steven McGarry and Shane Smeltz – who seems to have lost the killer instinct that made him the most feared striker in the league. Andy Keogh, with 30 caps for Ireland since 2007, looks to be the man Lowe will be looking to this season to fire up front. While he has never been a prolific scorer in his time in the Championship, a change of scenery and the status of being the main man could see him thrive. Service from Hersi and Nichols will be required, but this new-look Glory attack, on paper at least, looks like it will be more fruitful than their 2013/14 counterparts.
The Blog FC Predicted Finish: 9th