Perth Glory interim coach Ruben Zadkovich hopes the wooden spooners' shock home win over Melbourne City can prove a step towards turning things around…
I had some really high hopes for Daniel Sturridge when he announced that he was joining Perth Glory.
It took up all the talk in not just the Australian football circles, but it was a big story here in Perth as well.
In the days before and after the first match of the season, I’d get people from everywhere asking me about this new big signing coming in from England, and that hype turned into numbers in the stands with 17,000 people showing up to the Round 1 match against Adelaide United.
While his five-minute appearance off the bench was nothing special, it showed the potential of everyone.
Speaking personally, it was the best atmosphere I’d ever seen at a match at HBF Park, and many people I know who’d been going to games longer than I have thought along the same lines.
We hadn’t seen this sort of excitement around an individual player since Alessandro Del Piero arrived at Sydney FC ten years ago, but it didn’t last long.
And after only 139 minutes on the pitch in conjunction with the club’s first wooden spoon in history, the move has been deemed a failure by pretty much everyone, including club CEO Tony Pignata.
Despite all of that, I believe Perth Glory should re-sign him for next season.
Let’s go back through the events. The signing was officially announced by Perth Glory on October 1, 2021, almost 21 months after he played his last game for Turkish club Trabzonspor.
While I’m sure he tried to maintain match fitness in his time away from football, you can not expect a player to spend over a year and a half away from a professional set-up, and come into a team the way Richard Garcia wanted him to.
Sturridge was trying to complete a pre-season during the season, which may have been the cause of his groin injury that put him out of action for two months.
After the Glory’s 1-0 loss to Melbourne City on December 8, 2021, a large COVID outbreak went through the playing squad.
They’d have to wait until January 19, 2022 before playing their next game, which was another 1-0 loss, this time to the Brisbane Roar.
Perth missed nearly a month of training, with the squad rarely ever working together and having to resort to individual training, if they weren’t in isolation. I don’t think you could walk into a worse situation than that.
So when Sturridge did get to start a match, you could see small moments of what we were all hoping to see, in a 45-minute shift against the Western Sydney Wanderers.
I was a big fan of his positioning throughout the game. The plan going into the game was clearly that Bruno Fornaroli was the main man up top, and Sturridge seemed to get more into the middle, where he did get an assist, even though it was a shot that took a deflection.
He also played a very nice pass to Antonee Burke-Gilroy, which did result in a goal after he sent the through ball to Nick Fitzgerald, although he was controversially ruled offside.
Sturridge still no doubt has potential. Yes, I’m saying this about a 32-year-old.
But what would happen if he was given an extra season in WA?
Initially, you’d get a full pre-season, and if needed, some of the off-season to get him fully fit to play 75-plus minutes, and you can get him doing what he should be doing during the season, instead of playing catch-up.
While COVID-19 is still prevalent across the country, the chances of another outbreak within the Glory squad, like the one in December last year, are unlikely.
Teams are going to be able to prepare for matches properly this season without the risk of venue changes and postponements just a few days before kick-off, when analysing the other team has already begun.
Of course, Sturridge can’t expect to be on the same salary that he was given this season. The supposedly hefty fee that Perth paid for Sturridge’s wages meant the club couldn’t find a replacement for attacking midfielder Diego Castro.
Neither Sturridge nor Bruno Fornaroli were able to receive the service they needed to score goals. If the club are able to convince him that they can find an attacking mid to service him, he may be inclined to take a pay cut.
As bad a signing as it has been for Tony Sage and Perth Glory, they might just be crazy enough to offer him another season, and I for one hope they do.