Glory surprised by PFA A-League snub
On paper, Melbourne Heart should upset A-League rivals Perth Glory in Sunday’s elimination final at nib Stadium.
That’s the opinion you would reach looking at the PFA A-League team of the season, which incredibly failed to include a single Glory player despite the club’s impressive third-placed finish.
Even Shane Smeltz, who became the A-League’s all-time top scorer last week with a bag of four goals against Melbourne Victory, failed to make the bench.
In contrast, sixth-placed Melbourne Heart had four players named.
Defender Michael Marrone and midfielders Fred and Aziz Behich made the starting line-up, while goalkeeper Clint Bolton was included on the bench.
Glory coach Ian Ferguson was reluctant to get dragged into the debate about why a host of his star players missed out.
But if it was up to the Scotsman, at least four of his charges would have made the PFA team, which is voted on by A-League players.
“I would’ve put Smeltz in there and I think (Steve) McGarry has been great for us,” Ferguson said on Saturday.
“Smeltz is a big-time player. Whenever you need goals he pops up with them.
“Jacob Burns has been outstanding for us this season, along with Liam Miller.
“Before Liam got his injury, him and Burns were probably the best two players in the league in the midfield.
“But I don’t pick that. That’s up to them.
“Maybe they’ve got somebody watching every game and probably missing our games.”
After battling through a heavy injury toll over the past month, the Glory suddenly have an embarrassment of riches to choose from.
Miller (hamstring), Burns (ribs) and Bas van den Brink (calf) are set to return to the starting line-up, while defender Josh Mitchell (back) is also ready to resume.
Melbourne Heart were dealt a severe injury blow earlier this week when defender Simon Colosimo was forced out with a hamstring injury.
Colosimo’s absence means it will be up to 19-year-old pair Brendan Hamill and Curtis Good to curb the goal-scoring nous of Smeltz, who has notched 13 goals this season.
Ferguson admitted he was feeling some nerves ahead of Perth’s first home final since 2004.
But the prospect of losing and crashing out of the finals race hasn’t entered Ferguson’s thoughts.
“We’re not going to lose. We’re going to go out there and win,” Ferguson declared ahead of his team’s final training session.
Sunday’s winner will take on Wellington in a minor semi-final next week after the Phoenix’s thrilling 3-2 victory over Sydney FC on Friday night.© AAP 2013