A-League Season Preview: Perth Glory – time to deliver
Roar players celebrate following the A-League season 7 grand final between the Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
Perth Glory bucked years of underachievement with a Grand Final appearance last season and should be aiming to repeat the feat this time around.
The Recap – Perth Glory
Playoffs: Beat Melbourne Heart 3-0, beat Wellington Phoenix 3-2, lost 5-3 (pens) to Brisbane Roar
Perth Glory went into last season’s Grand Final as underdogs yet came within a whisker of being crowned A-League champions.
They were clearly second-best to the all-conquering Roar but will be hoping to change that given a shift in A-League dynamics over the off-season.
The Western Australian side has recruited well for the upcoming campaign. Former Socceroos defender Michael Thwaite will help improve an already powerful defence, while Scott Jamieson and Nick Ward likewise offer plenty of experience.
Adrian Zahra and Chris Harold have also had promising starts to their A-League careers and both offer versatility, while the Glory have surprised many by bringing in Cerezo Osaka striker Ryo Nagai on loan.
Nagai is far from a big name in Japan, in part because he’s made his way through the ranks of a Cerezo side which has seen the likes of Shinji Kagawa, Hiroshi Kiyotake and Takashi Inui all move on to bigger and better things.
But his arrival could mark a watershed for the A-League, with Nagai looking to use his time in Australia to improve as an all-round player before returning to Japan.
Nagai will add another dimension to an attack which relies heavily on New Zealand international Shane Smeltz, particularly with Billy Mehmet proving more of a hold-up man than a goal scorer last season.
But having retained the services of the scheming Liam Miller – who enjoyed an excellent maiden campaign in Australia – and with the likes of Travis Dodd and Steven McGarry also likely to chime in with goals, Perth should have enough firepower to trouble most sides in the league.
And with such a solid spine down the middle, including goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, versatile Dutch defender Bas van den Brink, a rejuvenated Steve Pantelidis and midfield hard man Jacob Burns, it’s hard to see why Perth shouldn’t be considered one of the favourites to win the league.
Yet the caveat to that statement is surely coach Ian Ferguson.
The former Rangers midfielder has always rubbed certain folks the wrong way in Australia and he’s unlikely to become a media darling any time soon.
But after watching Perth set out their stall to simply contain Brisbane in last season’s Grand Final, one wonders whether Ferguson will ever break the shackles and employ a more adventurous brand of football.
For when it came to the big games last season, the Glory lost far too many of them, particularly to Brisbane and premiers Central Coast.
And trying to rely on Smeltz to consistently nick a goal could prove a dangerous tactic in a league which has seen an influx of creative talent arrive during the off-season.
Nevertheless, with plenty of experience and some shrewd acquisitions to call upon, Perth owner Tony Sage should rightly expect his side to challenge for a place in the Grand Final once again this season.
They won’t be helped by ongoing renovation works at their NIB Stadium home, which will operate with a significantly reduced capacity this season.
That has incensed Sage, who has repeatedly clashed with authorities over Perth’s tenancy and appears determined to walk away from the venue.
The unwanted distraction aside, Glory fans should expect nothing less than a run to the finals following their unexpected success last season.
They won’t be able to fly in under the radar this time around, but with such a solid squad behind them, anything less than a top-four finish will constitute a significant failure.
In: Adrian Zahra (Melbourne Heart), Michael Thwaite (Gold Coast United), Scott Jamieson (Sydney FC), Chris Harold (Gold Coast United), Nick Ward (Wellington Phoenix), Brandon O’Neill, Ndumba Makeche (promoted from youth league)
Out: Trent McClenahan (Sydney FC), Josh Mitchell, Adam Taggart, Scott Neville (Newcastle Jets), Andrezinho (released), Todd Howarth, Viktor Sikora, Chris Coyne (retired)
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman
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