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A Western Perspective: It’s time to stop the vicious cycle

Perth GloryAs a Glory fan for 18 years, I’ve seen some high points and I’ve seen some low points.

But none have fallen as low as the last few months at Perth Glory Football Club, where I’ve witnessed infighting, disparity and favouritism run rampant amongst my club.

That’s right, I said “my club” with a sense of ownership because, at the end of the day, the club is as much mine as it is my fellow supporters, and as it is owner Tony Sage’s.

This isn’t an indictment of anything or any one player, but rather the club culture which has seemingly been thrown to the wind with as much ‘future’ vision as a university student looking to head out for a night of exorbitance.

The fact of the matter is simple – the club has ditched it’s coach for a short term ‘interim solution’ before promising the masses that a ‘big name’ coach would be put in place for next season.

Next season.

Which at the beginning of caretaker manager Kenny Lowe’s tenure was ten months away with five months of A-League football yet to play.

Suddenly, the focus on youth has been replaced by the smacking desperation of trying to win points with a system that is about as foreign as a Starbucks in Perth, and effectively the season has been designated a write-off.

The results have been mixed but in recent weeks far more disparaging with the Glory not having picked up any points in four matches, and going 2 wins, 3 draws and 7 losses under Lowe’s guidance.

His midseason signings have proven to be hit and miss with Lithuanian Darvydas Sernas proving adept with a shot on goal but lacking fitness and aclimitisation, Serbian Nebjosa Marinkovic showing glimpses of class but also suffering from the same climatic affliction, whilst Rostyn Griffiths has been inconsistent since his return from China.

Most fans are still holding out for the big international coach, but there is a growing concern that any prospective saviour is a long way off.

Promoting the news that Jamie Harnwell has put his name in for the job seems like a distraction from the key issues of the club, as it tries desperately to return to it’s former glory.

Normally, I would take the story as a fluff piece to instill a bit of confidence. However, the fact that Glory media partner The West Australian had released a very similar piece just under two months ago raises a few red flags.

And it’s a dangerous cycle, as the Glory have a poor record with hiring interim managers on a full time basis – with all three in their history being given the punt before the end of their contracts.

David Mitchell was the first to go after a three match losing streak into his third year at the Glory, and despite getting them into the Grand Final, poor performance and style of football saw Ian Ferguson out after 1 full and 2 half seasons at the club, before Alistair Edwards took over and was removed from his position in December.

Management has reportedly told a recent fan forum that they hope Kenny Lowe will be around for another season, with the coach citing a full preseason as a pre-determinant factor as to his latest signings and their performances.

Regardless of a coaching decision, the clean out has seemingly begun at Perth Glory, with the fire sale starting to warm up.

Despite signing goalkeeper Danny Vukovic to a long term contact, the stalwart has now signed on to a lucrative J.League loan deal with Graham Arnold’s Vegalta Sendai, with the option for the club to buy him after the five month duration.

Yes, you heard right, with the option to buy.

Arguably the clubs best performer all season, it would seem ludicrous for the club to accept to these terms, especially after signing Vukovic to a contract so soon.

There are only two feasible ways that the club would have accepted this option – if the player and loaning club requested the buyout clause, or if the club was trying to cash in on a star player performing out of his skin.

Ndumba Makeche was also let go this week after limited game time at the Glory, and scored on his debut for FELDA United in Malaysia.

How many more are going to go overseas? Will it be Jamie MacLaren, who’s scoring for fun in the Youth League? Or maybe Brandon O’Neill, who despite his start on the weekend has played more as a centre back than his favoured defensive midfield role?

So having touched on the results and the exodus, it is only logical that we now take a look at the infighting that has caused the club so much grief over the last couple of months.

From the outside in, there is only one thing that most fans have been able to take out of the entire saga since Alistair Edwards took over, and that is there is a common denominator amongst all of it – Jacob Burns.

Jacob vs Alistair or Jacob vs Ryan – if your surname is Edwards, and you’re up for a bit of rough housing, it would seem that you’re destined to get it.

A key proponent in the ousting of Alistair Edwards, it would seem that less that two weeks ago Burns was involved in a fracas with Reading loanee and Alistair’s son Ryan.

Since the fracas, Ryan has not been seen from or heard from in terms of team selection, with his last involvement coming on January 31 when he collected just a solitary minute of game time as an injury-time substitute.

Then there are the unsubstatiated rumours of malcontent between marquee signing William Gallas and assistant coach Andrew Ord.

All of these have failed to have been quelled, and have made their way to the media in one form or another.

No matter what sport you partake in, fighting between teammates is toxic, and a surefire sign of fracture between factions in a club.

The Glory have came out and spruiked words such as ‘passion’, and owner Tony Sage has defiantly declared that:

“You’d be more concerned if they (the players) weren’t passionate  and they didn’t give a shit about the club. The best thing that happened for me witnessing some of it at the end was Gallas fuming. If he didn’t care about Perth Glory he wouldn’t have done anything or said anything. But it shows it means a lot to him and his professional pride that he actually did step up and say a few things.”

This is a nice little segue into the next cause of discussion regarding club culture, and that is the lack of professional understanding of football management within the club.

Whilst Sage surely does not lack love, passion or ambition for the club, the proposition that William Gallas, a player who has played at some of the biggest clubs in the world, was fuming due to his ‘care’ for the club is a little silly.

CEO Jason Brewer, who also sits on the board of other interests Sage controls, has come out this week to declare it a ‘storm in a teacup‘, and that despite Gallas’s signing being ‘contradictory’ it was ‘crucial’ to the development of the latest crop of Glory youngsters.

But these aren’t the issues, and the Glory faithful see this clearly, as they have been here and seen it all before.

Whether it’s the exodus of selling youngsters and stars, poor performances, infighting (who can forget Webster v Harnwell) or even questions of management, during the tumultuous first ten years of it’s A-League life, Perth Glory Football Club has experienced it all.

Sadly the fans now are feeling a sense of reproach from the club, particularly from its recently bolstered social media department.

Just last week, the club introduced a new set of  ’social media guidelines’ for users of the Perth Glory Facebook page, after a spate of negative commentary.

Whilst this is common place amongst the sports fraternity, the decision to announce it and declare the post would be deleted 12 hours later smacked of a desperate attempt to assert control over a fan base that was already feeling silenced in the wake of posts being deleted.

Whilst the recent members-only fan forum has made steps to contain this disappointment from the fans, there is a long way to go before the club can re-engage with a lot of its supporters.

Even fans are aggressive against one another, as some take the stance of standing by the club no matter the action, whilst others are progressive in their approach on the topic of perceived transgressions by the club.

Before devolving into an analytical article, I began by saying it was my club, something that many with the ability to write for a prominent football website rarely do.

And I did so because, I am one of these fans, but am afforded the ability to display my sadness at what this once great club has become.

I was there when we lost to Wollongong in 2000, I was there when we won three years later. I’ve travelled across the country to see the Glory play and lose valiantly.

And these fans, who don’t have the same soapbox as myself, are even more passionate than I, but are staring down the barrel of a plethora of years where the club will do as it sees fit, and not necessarily what is right for the paying membership holder.

This is an act to implore the club into action to the point where the fan feels as though they are a key ingredient in what makes this club tick, and that they have a true definition in the bearing and trajectory of which the club is going.

So whomever is in charge of fan interaction, don’t send out a mascot – send out an official. Get Tony Sage to the Shed. Get some players down in the active support.

The club is great with its community efforts on a primary and high school level, so why not extend it to the paying membership?

With all the talk of how the hundreds of thousands of dollars for William Gallas was ‘worth it’ for the global recognition and for brand awareness, imagine if that money was spent on the fans?

Wiping off the cost for tifos or providing materials could be one way, or as aforementioned, the involvement of key officials could be a big part of it too.

A-League rivals Central Coast Mariners are a prime example of a club that listens to its passionate fans and gives back to them.

Sure, they might not be the loudest crew, but the club acknowledges them and that is what makes them so strong. They don’t have the money to give back to active supporters but in their position they don’t need to.

And right now, more than ever, this club needs its fans.

Please – let’s not continue the vicious cycle of the last few years.

DISCLAIMER: These thoughts are the thoughts of the journalist and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Ultimate A-League or it’s employees. 

About the author

avatarKris is a freelance sports journalist, a two-time WA media guild award winner, and podcast host and writer for Ultimate A-League.

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