Perth Glory on a road to nowhere

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Perth Glory's Steven McGarry celebrates after scoring their first goal against the Newcastle Jets. (AAP Image/Theron Kirkman)

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Jesse Makarounas might just be remembered by Perth Glory fans as the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Instead of becoming the lightning bolt from the youth team he should have been, the 18-year-old is the latest in a parade of Western Australian prospects who have headed east for first-team football.

You just know Ange Postecoglou is going to use him at Melbourne Victory, and use him properly. And it will enrage the Glory diehards.

Rightly so. Perth likes to preach it is a club that gives opportunities to young locals, but aside from Josh Risdon there is very little evidence of this.

That’s despite the outcomes of that independent review commissioned by Tony Sage and headed by Ric Charlesworth a couple of years ago.

Remember? It said they should aim to nurture Perth products with the end goal of filling the senior squad with WA-born, Glory-bred footballers. The opposite has happened.

It’s maddening stuff because if anything, now is the time the Glory could do with a handful of new faces in attack to freshen up a side that has always looked more mechanical than majestic.

This is a club with what is often described as the best squad on paper in the competition – a nice little back-handed compliment.

It’s true though. Perth have one of the A-League’s all-time best strikers, Shane Smeltz, an assortment of competent midfielders headed by the still-criminally-underrated Liam Miller, and a defence marshalled by Michael Thwaite, who by rights would probably be a regular senior Socceroo but for a desire to keep his family in Australia.

The ingredients are there. The pieces should fit. They should be playing smooth, flowing football as promised – and consistently, because the key players have all been there and done that.

But under Ian Ferguson, Perth are the lowest-scoring team in the A-League, arguably the least exciting and – given the exodus of young WA-born players – the side with the bleakest future.

There’s obviously plenty of concern over what’s happening over in Wellington with the club’s misguided attempt at introducing Kiwi tiki-taka, and also the meltdown at Brisbane Roar that Mike Mulvey seems incapable of halting.

Were it not for the admittedly great run that got the Glory to a grand final last season, the torch would be on them too.

The truth is they have gone backwards.

Let’s be real – Perth are a very senior side. There are no valid excuses for why this team is wallowing in mediocrity.

The current plan of attack – which is essentially give the ball to a wide player and cross to where Billy Mehmet used to be, instead of working it into the box with a bit of patience and care – is not working.

It’s in the final third where a skilful kid like Makarounas, or even the lightning quick Chris Harold, would be handy – but Ferguson is so hesitant to use youngsters he has effectively forced the former out.

You wonder what would have come of Tom Rogic had he ended up in Perth instead of Gosford?

Predictably, it seems like the Glory are set to pin their hopes on some Argentinian No.10 pulled from obscurity in the hope he settles immediately and pulls some strings. Unlikely to happen.

Tony Sage has been patient with his coach, which is to his credit given the propensity of mining oligarchs in football to fire first and think later. But when are the results going to come?

Of course, they could make another run towards the finals as the annual game of top six musical chairs kicks off in earnest. But it seems far less likely this year than last.

And anyway, should it have to come to that?

Can anyone really say this current Perth Glory regime is capable of actually taking the A-League by storm, in the manner that Brisbane have in the past and like Central Coast, Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney currently are?

Surely that is the goal. How far along are they, really?

Vince Rugari is an Adelaide-born journalist who cut his teeth on the sporting graveyard of the Gold Coast. He fancies the round ball and the Sherrin, and used to be a handy leg-spin bowler before injury curtailed a baggy green push. A Port Adelaide fan by birth, he now is a sports reporter for The Cairns Post.
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