Perth Glory fans

A New Adventure: the Perth Glory Story 2005-2013

It is 25 years since Perth Glory took the national football league by storm. Here we look back on the clubs’ trials and tribulations across the opening years of the A-League.

After dominating the National Soccer League in its final few seasons with four Grand Final appearances in five years, much was expected of Perth Glory as Australian football launched its new-look national competition, the A-League, in 2005-06. But it would be five seasons before Glory experienced finals football again.

There was much optimism regarding Glory’s potential impact in the A-League when the club appointed former Liverpool and England midfielder Steve McMahon as coach. Mich D’Avray moved aside to become Technical Director. Add in the signing of Brian Deane, who had played for Leeds United, Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and England and expectations were understandably high.

Deane, however, played only seven games (scoring one goal) before injury forced his return to England. His contribution was overshadowed by loyal servants Bobby Despotovski (eight goals) and Damian Mori (seven goals) plus young gun Nick Ward, who bagged five goals and was named the winner of the A-League’s inaugural Rising Star award. Ward promptly left the club to join London club Queens Park Rangers.

McMahon, himself lasted only half the season before constant criticism over his style led to him stepping down in December 2005. Alan Vest was promoted to coach with national league veteran Mori, who had re-joined the club on a three-game contract but stayed for the season, filling a dual player-coach role as his assistant.

A roller-coaster season saw Glory fail to clinch finals football for the first time in seven years, placing fifth, two points outside the top four. There was some consolation when Despotovski finished as the A-League’s joint top scorer and also won the Johnny Warren Medal as the competition’s best player.

One of Glory’s original joint owners Paul Afkos had sold his shares in the club several years earlier, and majority shareholder Nick Tana indicated at the end of the 2005/06 season that he wanted to end his involvement. Football Federation Australia became the club’s administrator in May 2006 and soon after appointed Ron Smith as coach with David Mitchell as assistant.

Smith, unfortunately, had no magic formula and the club managed only five wins and finished second-last in the table. Even new signing Stan Lazaridis failed to find an inspirational touch. The one bright light was a hat-trick scored by Jamie Harnwell in the 4-1 home win over New Zealand Knights. The defender turned finisher ended up as Glory’s top scorer for the season with seven goals.

Tony Sage
Tony Sage, owner of Perth Glory since 2007

There was a hint of stability around the corner, however, when mining entrepreneur Tony Sage became the club’s joint owner in February 2007 in partnership with Brett McKeon and John Spence. Two years later Sage took on sole ownership, a position which he holds to this day.

The team had showed more promise under former Socceroo Mitchell and he was appointed coach for the 2008/09 season. Mitchell’s leadership brought more victories – six as opposed to four the previous season – but Glory still languished in seventh spot on the ladde

Smith remained at the helm for the 2007/08 season and brought in Dino Djulbic, Tando Velaphi, Nikita Rukavytsya, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Naum Sekulovski and Hayden Foxe amongst others. But another season of struggle had Glory fail to win any of its first 11 matches and home attendances fell to four figures. The axe came down on Smith in November with Mitchell taking over for the remainder of the season, which Glory finished in seventh spot

The addition of Eugene Dadi provided a bit more clout up front and the Ivory Coast international finished joint top scorer with Rukavytsya on 10 goals each. But the team showed defensive frailty early on, conceding 20 goals in the opening seven fixtures and ending with a league-worst 44 goals against.

Jamie Coyne was appointed captain for his sixth summer with the club. But the major achievement for Glory was the discovery of many bright young talents following the introduction of the National Youth League. With former club captain Gareth Naven as coach, the stars of the future to emerge included Trent Sainsbury, Josh Risdon, Scott Neville, Dean Evans, Ludovic Boi and Jack Clisby.

Perth Glory A-League programmes
Perth Glory programmes from the A-League era

2009/10 was Glory’s 13th in a national competition – and it proved lucky with the club qualifying for the finals for the first time since the end of the NSL in 2004. After 13 years in England, Chris Coyne returned to Perth to join his brother Jamie at Glory, whose other major signings were English league veteran defender Andy Todd, who would be voted the club’s Players Player and Most Glorious Player, and former Socceroos Jacob Burns and Mile Sterjovski.

Such a star-studded line-up of new players paid off with Glory winning 11 games to eventually finish fifth on the ladder to guarantee finals football. Sterjovski led the top scorers; he netted in Glory’s best home victory, a 4-0 win over Newcastle Jets on Boxing Day. The ever reliable Jamie Harnwell got two that day.

The Perth side had to travel to New Zealand for the do-or-die elimination final against Wellington Phoenix, who triumphed 4-2 on penalties after the sides had been tied at 1-1 after extra-time in front of a crowd of nearly 25,000. Neville had got the Glory’s equaliser in a tense affair in which Phoenix goalkeeper Liam Reddy made several inspired saves in normal time and two in the shoot-out.

The big news at the start of 2010/11 was the recruitment of former Liverpool and England forward Robbie Fowler, who had moved west after a season with North Queensland Fury. He led the team’s scorers with nine for the season – but it wasn’t enough to change Glory’s fortunes as they slumped to second-bottom in the league despite winning three and drawing two of the opening five games. Seven successive losses then put paid to the side’s ambitions.

David Mitchell opted to become the club’s Football Director (he later resigned) and was replaced by former Glasgow Rangers and Scotland star Ian Ferguson, who previously had coaching experience with the North Queensland Fury and Central Coast Mariners. Although his first season was disappointing, there was better to come with Ferguson leading Glory to their first A-League Grand Final in 2011/12.

Fowler departed after one season but the man who replaced him up front, New Zealand international Shane Smeltz, proved to be a crucial addition to the side. Other new faces for 2011/12 included Irish international midfielder Liam Miller, talented goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, Irish under-21 international Billy Mehmet plus Socceroos Dean Heffernan and Travis Dodd.

Mehmet was on the mark in his first Glory game, getting the only goal in the 1-0 win over Adelaide United as 9,452 watched the Glory make a promising start to their 2011/12 campaign. Smeltz then underlined his class with a double in the 2-1 away win over Melbourne Heart, and the unbeaten start to the season continued as Smeltz netted again in the 1-0 home victory over Wellington Phoenix.

But the Perth side won only one of the next 11 games before stopping the rot with an away success over Wellington Phoenix in early January 2012, which led to impressive showings with three big wins in a trot to revive finals hopes. In the final home and away contest of the season Smeltz got all four goals in the 4-2 home win over Melbourne Victory, which enabled Glory to clinch third spot, eight points behind minor premiers Central Coast and six adrift of second-placed Brisbane Roar.

The prolific Smeltz was again the hero with a hat-trick as Glory thumped Melbourne Heart 3-0 in the semi-final. They overcame a stubborn Wellington Phoenix 3-2 in the minor semi-final before clinching a Grand Final spot with a penalty shoot-out win over Central Coast in the preliminary final.

A crowd of 50,334 turned out at Suncorp Stadium to cheer on home team Brisbane in the season finale. But Glory grabbed a surprise lead on 51 minutes through an Ivan Franjic own goal. Besart Berisha equalised with a bullet header in the 84th minute then nabbed the winner with a controversial penalty in the fourth minute of injury time. Glory captain Burns was awarded the Joe Marston Medal for his man-of-the-match performance in the middle of the park.

Glory’s line-up for the 2011/12 Grand Final was: Danny Vukovic, Josh Risdon, Steve Pantelidis, Bas van den Brink, Dean Heffernan, Travis Dodd (Scott Neville 75), Liam Miller, Jacob Burns, Todd Howarth, Shane Smeltz (Steve McGarry 79), Billy Mehmet. Unused Subs: Neil Young, Josh Mitchell, Andrezinho.

Jacob Burns and Billy Mehmet
Jacob Burns and Billy Mehmet exchange pleasantries with Besart Berisha during the 2011/12 Grand Final

There was a Grand Final re-match at the start of the 2012/13 season – and Glory claimed revenge by 1-0 with Mehmet getting an 88th minute winner in front of 14,385 at Subiaco Oval, which was being used while Perth Oval was undergoing re-development. Amongst the faces at the club were Michael Thwaite, Scott Jamieson, Ryo Nagai (on loan from Japanese side Osaka), Chris Harold and Nick Ward, while Brandon O’Neill and Ndumba Makeche were promoted from the youth ranks.

Ward and Harold both scored in the 3-2 win over Newcastle Jets as Glory made a promising start to the campaign. But the team’s form was extremely patchy and Ferguson left the club in February 2013 to be replaced by Alistair Edwards, who then led the team into the finals series by grabbing the last spot on the ladder. Unfortunately they stumbled at the first hurdle when beaten 2-1 at Melbourne Victory.

For the 2013/14 season the club dedicated the number 12 shirt to their supporters, announcing it on game days as ‘Glory Fans’. Edwards led the team into the summer but was sacked in mid-December following an indifferent start. Kenny Lowe stepped in as interim coach to guide Glory to a disappointing eighth on the ladder – but better was to come from the charismatic Lowe.

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