The year 2021 is potentially going to be a make-or-break one for the Central Coast Mariners.
This afternoon Ian Ferguson and his purple army will be landing on a beach near Gosford, New South Wales. Accompanying him on inflatable dinghies will be his hand-picked squad of professional football mercenaries.
They will be embarking on the first stage of an A-League coup d’etat.
Perth Glory owner Tony Sage has stumped up the cash for a mission that will prove to be more difficult than anything Freddie Forsyth’s Dogs of War ever had to attempt.
A victory tonight over the Central Coast Mariners will provide a beachhead before the final assault next weekend on the seemingly impregnable Brisbane Roar fortress of Suncorp Stadium.
Sage will be, if not confident, at least hopeful that no stone has been left unturned in Ian Ferguson’s meticulous preparations to overthrow Australia’s democratically elected purveyors of good football.
He has expertly assembled a team to win games, not popularity contests.
This is best exemplified by the players he will have at his disposal, including Jacob Burn for close combat, Travis Dodd and Andrezinho for outflanking manoeuvres, Liam Miller for intelligence, Steven McGarry for special operations and Billy Mehmet who looks as if he has just escaped from the French Foreign Legion.
When they get close to their objective, responsibility then falls on their crack shot Shane Smeltz to finish off the job.
They are also expert at psychological operations. A close friend of mine almost jumped into the Yarra and vowed never to watch Glory again when their pragmatic brand of anti-football got the points away to Melbourne Heart this season.
Essentially, Ian Ferguson has succeeded in turning Perth Glory into an effective utilitarian football army: a team stripped of ornamentation and willing to forgo beauty in order to get the right result.
As for tonight’s match, three months ago I wrote “Unfortunately for Arnold I can’t see the Mariners winning the championship, let alone reaching the Grand Final. This time the football gods will take a back seat to football Darwinism.”
“The race to the championship will become a case of survival of the fittest. The Mariners will struggle to adapt to the punishing schedule of mid-week Asian Champions League matches and A-League finals.”
So, according to the script, Perth Glory will grind out a win against the Mariners and progress to the decisive battle against Brisbane Roar.
Watching on from the bench Graham Arnold will be left to lament…
“Purple haze all in my brain
Lately things just don’t seem the same…”
Athas Zafiris is on Twitter @ArtSapphire