It is 25 years since Perth Glory took the national football league by storm. Here’s part three of our anniversary salute to the club that changed the face of the game in Western Australia…
When the very personable 50-year-old German Bernd Walter Stange arrived in Western Australia in August 1998 to begin what was to be a roller-coaster three-year stint as coach of Perth Glory, home-town fans thought they had won the lottery. The club’s inaugural leader Gary Marocchi was a West Australian legend with much success as a player and coach – and many thought he was harshly treated when axed after only two years – but the man replacing him had international experience in spades, and had won many trophies.
Stange had coached the East German national team in 53 international matches, was responsible for the development of 1986 Ballon d’Or winner Matthias Sammer and had success at club level with Carl Zeiss Jena, Hertha Berlin and VFB Leipzig. And he had a winning personality, with a great sense of humour. Presumably the players loved him, the fans certainly did, as did the media. He was rarely out of the headlines in his first season. Such was his popularity that the Swan Brewery featured him, with arms outstretched, on their cans of Emu Draft.
Stange’s assistant was another high-profile personality – former Ipswich Town star and South Africa under-23 national coach Mich d’Avray, who would go on the enjoy his own slice of history with the Glory (but more on that in Part Four of the Glory Story). To supplement the dip into the big personalities market, Glory made several significant player signings which included Socceroos John Markovski, Rob Trajkovski and Con Boutsianis. Young Socceroos goalkeeper Danny Milosevic and midfielder Vasko Trpcevski also came on board along with local young guns Jamie Harnwell and John Carbone.
Markovski and Trpcevski were among the goalscorers when the Glory beat Canberra Cosmos 3-0 in a challenge game in Bunbury in mid-September. But despite the new look it was an old hand, Paul Strudwick, who gave Stange a winning start in his quest for Ericsson Cup glory when he scored in the 1-0 away win over Adelaide City. And Strudwick was on the mark again, along with Markovski, in the 2-0 home victory over Northern Spirit in front of 17,580 the following week.
By Round Five Glory were really buzzing. A 5-1 away win over Canberra Cosmos was followed by a 2-1 home triumph over the much-fancied South Melbourne, with a crowd of 18,067 loving every minute of it. After six games they were top of the ladder three points clear of Marconi, a buffer which grew to six points after downing Adelaide Sharks 2-1. But a run of indifferent performances which included home losses to Wollongong Wolves, Adelaide City and Newcastle Breakers saw Glory slip to sixth on the ladder after Round 18.
However, Glory climbed back second with defeats of Adelaide Sharks, Brisbane Strikers, Sydney United and Canberra Cosmos, new signing Alistair Edwards scoring twice against the latter. They eventually finished third on the table to qualify for the play-offs for the first time. After a scoreless at Adelaide City, a crowd of 25,067 saw them beat the Zebras 2-1 in the return leg at the WACA Ground. 27,556 turned out to witness Glory overcome Marconi 1-0 in the minor semi-final before they bowed out 2-1 away to Sydney United in the preliminary final.
After a season in which Glory brought a new edge of excitement to the league, much was expected from Stange and his men as they entered the 1999/2000 campaign – which turned out to be one of extreme joy (with a first Minor Premiership in the bag) followed by bitter disappointment. The club initially recruited five new faces – Kasey Wehrman, Peter Buljan, Hamilton Thorp, Dion Valle and exciting youngster Ivan Ergic, who was to prove the find of the year, being voted the best under-21 player in Australia.
Con Boutsianis, the previous season’s leading scorer, provided the match-winner in the season opener away at Gippsland Falcons before the teenage Ergic celebrated his home debut with the opening goal in the 3-3 draw with Marconi. A 3-0 away win over Melbourne Knights followed, but then came a run of indifferent results which saw the club slip to seventh on the ladder. Glory got back on track with a stunning 6-1 home victory over the Knights with Edwards and Ergic each scoring twice.
It was all systems go after that with only two losses in the next 15 games allowing the Glory to surge to third on the table, only one point behind leaders Sydney Olympic. But there were two stunning setbacks along the way. Stange was told on February 16 that his contract would not be renewed at the end of the season – and key playmaker Boutsianis, who had a rocky relationship with coaches and officials, left to play on loan for English club Bolton Wanderers.
The Stange decision – in which club chairman Nick Tana had the casting vote – caused a major backlash by fans, who staged a colourful (language-wise) demonstration prior to the home game against Canberra Cosmos on February 27. Tana later announced he had made a mistake and that the coach would be offered a one-year contract extension. Stange had the last laugh with a 3-2 victory. Glory then moved to the top of the table with a 3-1 home win over Auckland Kingz through goals by captain Gareth Naven, Jamie Harnwell and Brazilian attacker Aurelio.
Harnwell was the hero on May 7 when, in front of 13,554 at Perth Oval, he scored in the 1-0 win over Northern Spirit to secure the Glory’s first Minor Premiership. The team from the west finished the home-and-away season with 64 points, four more than second-placed Wollongong Wolves. They had won 19, drawn seven and lost eight. Boutsianis and Edwards were joint top scorers with 13 goals apiece, while Stange was voted the National Soccer League’s Coach of the Year.
Confidence was high going into the play-offs. A 1-0 loss away to Wolves in the first leg of the Major Semi-final didn’t appear too damaging, and Glory showed determination and creativity galore to overcome the deficit with a 2-0 win in the second leg in front of an NSL record crowd of 42,764 at Subiaco Oval with golden boy Ergic winning a penalty (which Rob Trajkovski converted) and then grabbing the deciding Golden Goal after 93 minutes.
Wolves re-bounded and beat Carlton to earn a spot in the Grand Final back at Subiaco Oval. A new record turn-out of 43,242 turned out on June 11 to roar Glory to what was thought to be a commanding 3-0 half-time lead with goals from Despotovski, Ljubo Milicevic and Harnwell. But Scott Chipperfield had the Wolves on the front foot with a goal in 56 minutes and Matt Horsley further reduced the deficit in 69 minutes before Paul Reid grabbed a stunning equaliser in the 89th minute.
Extra time saw no further goals and it meant a penalty shoot-out. The sides traded goal for goal and, at five each, it was sudden death. After Horsley missed and Edgar Junior had his effort saved by goalkeeper Les Pogliacomi. Jason Petkovic kept out Dino Mennillo’s spot kick only for Edwards to miss. Reid put away the next effort and when the unfortunate James Afkos failed to convert, it was the Wolves who had prevailed 7-6 in the greatest comeback in NSL finals history.
Stange brought in the heavy artillery for what was to be his final season in charge. Enhancing Glory’s chances for the 2000/2001 campaign were Damian Mori, one of the NSL’s great ever goalscorers, and midfield whiz Brad Maloney in what was believed to be a record transfer fee between NSL clubs. Stange achieved finals football again but Glory were disappointingly knocked out of the play-offs by Melbourne Knights in the Elimination Final. Chairman Nick Tana said that “the club underachieved.”
Among the highlights in the early part of the season was the 5-1 home win over Football Kingz with Mori getting a hat-trick and Maloney scoring twice, and a 7-2 triumph over Brisbane Strikers which included four goals from Mori. The Socceroo got another hat-trick in the 4-1 away win over Brisbane Strikers, which enabled Glory to move to second on the table. But they evenutally slipped to third when overtaken for second spot on goal difference by Wollongong Wolves.
A crowd of 31,710 turned out at Subiaco Oval on May 10 2001 to witness what was Stange’s last game in charge – a 2-2 draw with the Knights, who advanced on the away goals rule. The visitors had led 2-0 at half-time before the Glory came with a late charge with goals from Craig Deans and Maloney. Mori finished as top scorer for the season with 19 goals which gave him the NSL’s Top Scorer award for the fourth time.
Stange, who had steered Glory to finals football three times in three years, departed Perth to continue his globe-trotting, moving on to take charge of the Oman national team and later Iraq’s national side. He was replaced at Glory by his assistant d’Avray, who was to achieve much success as the Perth side dominated the National Soccer League in the competition’s final years.