With the worst kept secret in Australian sport now well and truly out of the bag, Australian football at an elite level appears to be just months away from being on its knees.
Last season, Tony Popovic had the men in purple playing the greatest football the club has ever displayed in the A-League era.
The squad mounted the fourth highest points tally ever recorded after 27 games, only losing three games all season, and having the away consistency that Perth has always struggled to get. The single away loss only came in a meaningless trip to Sydney FC after fielding a weakened team.
Although the Glory maintained brilliant performances throughout the season and managed to win their first silverware in 15 years, the squad failed to achieve their ideal results in the highest pressure games.
They did not manage to win in regulation time in all of their three highest attended home matches, losing 2-0 to Melbourne Victory in Round 23, only narrowly winning a penalty shootout against Adelaide United in the semi-final after capitulating from a 2-0 lead to a 3-3 draw, and of course, their attack’s inability to break down the Andrew Redmayne wall in the grand final, both in regulation time and in the penalty shootout.
This season, however, Perth Glory have been relatively quiet, not making quite as many big signings as last year and getting poor results in friendlies against rival A-League teams. However, the poor pre-season results – including losses to Newcastle Jets and Brisbane Roar – look similar to the last season, where the club was not able to get a win against A-League opposition, due to the sheer amount of rotation used by Popovic and the emphasis on performance rather than results.
The movement in the transfer market from Perth Glory, while arguably not as good as last season, has been some of the best in the league this campaign.
The most notable signing has been former A-League golden boot winner Bruno Fornaroli. His clinical finishing and attacking positioning has been something Perth supporters have been calling out for in the last few years, with groans about Andy Keogh coming many times last season. Keogh earned the nickname ‘Offside Andy’ by restless fans on the terraces, although some supporters had great admiration for his goal-scoring statistics and were bothered by his position on the bench during the grand final.
While Andy Keogh’s departure has been given a mixed reception by supporters, the open striker position will surely give Bruno Fornaroli the ability to gain form, hoping to play in every match this season, and score buckets of goals.
While the departures in defensive positions have certainly been well publicised after Perth Glory lost Jason Davidson, Scott Neville, Shane Lowry and Matt Spiranovic, the management have replaced these players.
There are two new left backs to replace Jason Davidson, in Korean Kim Soo-beom, who will provide Asian Champions League experience, and ex-Millwall and two-time Socceroo James Meredith.
Scott Neville has been replaced by Brisbane Roar youngster Dane Ingham, and Shane Lowry and Matt Spirinovic have been replaced by Gregory Wüthrich from UEFA Champions League club BSC Young Boys in Switzerland, and Sydney FC player Jacob Tratt, who looks to have to stepped up majorly since coming west, and could prove to be in for Socceroos contention during the season.
Other transfers include promising youth players Riley Warland and Nick D’Agostino coming in, and Jacob Italiano, Fabio Ferreira and Brendon Santalab also leaving.
Perth Glory will definitely be one of the top favourites for honours this season, and I predict they will finish second.