It is almost 25 years since two icons in the making came together under lights on a wet winters night at the WACA Ground. The occasion was an international challenge match which pitted a fledgling Perth Glory against the might of Italian giants Sampdoria on the evening of 31 May 1996.
Wearing the captains’ armband for Sampdoria was Roberto Mancini, while Gareth Naven was set to lead Glory in their last big contest before the National Soccer Leagues’ new boys dipped their toes in the domestic competition for the first time.
“This is Sampdoria’s first visit to Australia, and we want to make it a memorable one,” said Mancini, who lived up to his promise by scoring twice as the European superstars overwhelmed Glory 3-0 in front of 10,000 fans. The prize was the Centenary Cup, which was being offered as part of the celebrations of Western Australia football’s 100th birthday.
The Italians, however, were in no mood to take it easy on the birthday boys. The gulf in class was strikingly obvious, but Glory were unlucky not to put at least one goal past ‘keeper Matteo Sereni, who denied Alan Mackenzie and Vas Kalogeracos. Glory also twice hit the crossbar.
Naven, who had a shot deflected just wide and tested Sereni with a long-range strike in the second half, was a stand-out in midfield for the home team. Others who caught the eye were his twin brother Craig, Mackenzie and goalkeeper Tommy Maras. Glory’s performance on the night indicated they would not be out of place when they lined up in the national league just a few months later.
Glory, who at that stage had not settled on the squad that would eventually take its place in the NSL, had two guest players in Socceroos stars Kimon Taliadoros and Ante Milicic. They tried out local players Alan Armstrong, Carlos Rodriguez, Gavin Tait, Steve Bourne and Mike Harkness, who did not make the final NSL cut.
Glory coach Gary Marocchi and Sampdoria boss Sven Goran Eriksson both agreed it was the quality of finishing by the visitors that made the difference. “I was very impressed with the Glory and thought they did well,” said Eriksson, who later went on to manage the England national team.
Mancini made a grand total of 566 appearances for Sampdoria, scoring 168 goals, between 1982 and 1997, before playing 136 times for Lazio. He turned out for Italy on 36 occasions and was a member of the 1988 European Championship and 1990 World Cup squads.
On hanging up his playing boots Mancini moved into coaching with Fiorentina in 2001 followed by spells at Lazio, Inter Milan – who he guided to three Serie A titles – Manchester City and Galatasaray. He has been coach of the Italian national team since mid-2018.
Naven captained Glory from 1996 until 2002, making 143 appearances and scoring six goals. He was the leader when the club won their first NSL Minor Premiership in 2000. His no-holds-barred style of midfield determination made him an instant hero at the club and, in 2004 he became Glory’s first Life Member.
Naven coached the Glory’s youth team between 2008 and 2013 and was then assistant to first team coach Alistair Edwards. He joined Melbourne Victory as youth team coach in 2016, but has since returned to Perth and is now coach of National Premier Leagues side Bayswater City.
COMING SOON… the Football Hall of Fame WA looks back on 25 years of Perth Glory.