Scott Miller and Bobby Despotovski

True Glory Days: the Perth Glory Story 2001-2004

It is 25 years since Perth Glory took the national football league by storm. Here’s part four of our tribute to the club that changed football in Western Australia and the Australia.

It might have seemed a hard act to follow when the youthful Jean-Michel ‘Mich’ d’Avray succeeded the ultra-experienced Bernd Stange, who had led Perth Glory to their first trophy and three years of dramatic impact on the National Soccer League. But the new coach re-wrote the record books in what turned out to be the final three seasons of the NSL.

For those 36 months Glory totally dominated the competition, being crowned Minor Premiers twice – and establishing a record winning margin along the way – and triumphing in two Grand Finals before the old national competition was wrapped up to make way for the new-look A-League.

After a stint as assistant to Stange, South Africa-born d’Avray was announced as the German’s replacement in July 2001 and said he would be happy to gain a top six finish in his first season in charge. The reality was his re-structured group of players – five had left during the off-season – would totally blow the opposition away.

Glory opened the 2001/02 campaign by winning their first eight games (they’d lose just once in 24 encounters) and eventually tied up the Minor crown with four rounds to play. They finished the home and away series with a stunning total of 55 points, 13 more than second-placed Newcastle United.

D’Avray might have seemed relatively raw in coaching terms (having had mixed success with teams in South Africa), but his playing record was exemplary. He had made over 250 appearances for Ipswich Town, where he collected a UEFA Cup winners medal in 1981. An England Under-21 international he also played for Leicester City and Dutch side NEC Nijmegen.

And a big coaching plus was that he had recruited West Australian super-coach Alan Vest to be his assistant. Vest had led the State team to unprecedented success in Asia in the seventies, had led Rochdale (England), Newcastle KB and West Adelaide in the NSL in the eighties and won multiple titles with clubs in Malaysia and Singapore. It seemed the perfect match – and so it proved to be.

Glory’s new signings for 2001/02 included classy defender Matt Horsley, talented youngster David Tarka, the experienced Brad Hassell plus Michael Garcia and Vince Matassa, two former Perth boys back for a second stint at the club following overseas adventures.

D’Avray’s men made a sensational start to the season with a 3-1 away victory over South Melbourne, with old favourites Bobby Despotovski and Damian Mori on target. “They are the most feared strike force in the NSL,” said the 39-year old coach.

Glory’s first competitive line-up under d’Avray was: Jason Petkovic, Matt Horsley, Craig Deans, Shane Pryce, Dion Valle (Michael Garcia 83), Scott Miller, Edgar Junior, Brad Maloney, Gary Faria (Alistair Edwards 89), Bobby Despotovski (Todd Harnwell 90), Damian Mori

A crowd of 14,365 was on hand to cheer on Glory in the first home game, a 2-0 win over Marconi. With Mori and Despotovski continuing their dazzling form, Glory won its next six games to set a record of eight successive wins by which stage the club was top of the table, five points clear of nearest rivals Newcastle.

By mid-February 2002, Glory were 11 points clear of the pack following a 2-1 away win over Sydney United, with goals from Mori and Nik Mrdja. Better was to come as Glory downed Northern Spirit 3-0 with two goals from Mori (his first after 19 seconds the fastest goal of the season) and one from Despotovski, which turned out to be the 15,000th goal to be scored in the NSL.

On March 9, Glory beat Parramatta Power 4-2 to clinch the Minor Premiership; the tally of 49 points from 20 games meant they had an unassaible lead. At the end of the regular season Mori emerged as the NSL’s top scorer for the third successive season with 17 goals. Despotovski bagged 12 for the home and away season.

And so to the finals! A crowd of 31,963 saw Glory whip Newcastle 4-1 in the first leg of the Major Semi-final at Subiaco Oval with goals from Despotovski (2), Mori and Maloney. There was a scare in the return game which Newcastle won 2-0, but the Perth side had done enough to advance to the Grand Final on aggregate.

An attendance of 42,735 turned up for the decider with Olympic Sharks on May 12 at Subiaco Oval. But the day would end in disappointment for the home fans with the Sharks triumphing 1-0 through a sensational strike from Ante Milicic. Iconic captain Gareth Naven retired following the game after 143 outings and six goals for the club.

Glory’s line-up for their second Grand Final was: Jason Petkovic, Matt Horsley, David Tarka, Shane Pryce, Jamie Harnwell, Scott Miller, Edgar Junior, Brad Hassell (Alistair Edwards 69), Gary Faria (Nik Mrdja 69), Bobby Despotovski, Damian Mori.

D’Avray had maintained that Glory could take consolation from a season that was a massive success. He was looking forward to the 2002/03 campaign – and there was a more satisfactory outcome in the offing with the Perth side breaking its duck in the Grand Final.

2003-04 Perth Glory trading cards
Perth Glory trading cards from the 2002/03 season

The new faces for the season included former Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Andre Gumprecht, Dutchman Mohammed Mouhouti, exciting home-grown starlets in Adrian Caceres, Jamie Coyne, Shaun Kilkelly and Anthony Danze, and former Socceroo Simon Colosimo, who joined mid-way through the season.

A crowd of 10,573 attended Glory’s first home game, which turned out to be a disappointing 4-3 loss to Brisbane Strikers. But there was better luck two weeks later at Perth Oval with Damian Mori scoring in the 1-0 win over Newcastle United.

After a run of indifferent results, Glory turned on the style to celebrate Edgar Junior’s 100th appearance for the club with a 4-1 away win over Melbourne Knights. Mori got two that day – and then went one better with a hat-trick in the 3-0 triumph over Marconi a week later. It was his 12th career hat-trick.

Goalkeeper Jason Petkovic made his 100th Glory appearance in Round 16 when Gumprecht scored twice in the 5-0 home victory over Kings FC. By Round 22 Glory looked an awesome force with a 6-1 away win over Wollongong Wolves, with Despotovski scoring twice. Mori got one to become the first NSL player to notch 200 career goals.

Going into the final round of home-and-away games Glory needed just one point to be Minor Premiers, but lost 2-0 away to Marconi. Sydney Olympic Sharks were crowned minor champs, one point ahead of the Perth side. A round-robin format was used to decide the Grand Finalists. Glory got off to a flyer with a 5-0 win over Northern Spirit, with Despotovski getting four, the most by any player in a finals series.

Glory and adversary Olympic Sharks were the top two after a gruelling finals series. Glory, who had lost the Grand Final to the Sharks the year before, gained splendid revenge with a 2-0 triumph in front of 38,111 at Subiaco Oval. Local hero Jamie Harnwell got the opening goal on 30 minutes and Mori made sure in 86 minutes.

Glory’s line-up for their second Grand Final under D’Avray was: Jason Petkovic, Matt Horsley, David Tarka, Shane Pryce, Jamie Harnwell, Scott Miller, Simon Colosimo, Andre Gumprecht, Brad Hassell (Mark Byrnes 61), Bobby Despotovski (Edgar Junior 88), Damian Mori (Nik Mrdja 90)

Former Socceroo Shaun Murphy was the big-name signing for the 2003/04 season, which was the last of the NSL before the national competition went into hibernation for 18 months to await the launch of the new-look A-League. Other notable newcomers were Matthew Bingley, Jade North and Tom Pondeljak.

Pondeljak wasted no time in underlining his class by scoring on debut in a 3-0 home win over Melbourne Knights played at Joondalup Arena as Perth Oval was undergoing renovations. And the midfielder scored again two weeks later as Glory triumphed 3-1 away at Football Kingz.

The defending champions were beginning to dominate the league again, but they got a huge wake-up call in Round 7 by copping a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Parramatta Power. D’Avray’s men responded two weeks later with a 4-1 away win over Adelaide United, with Pondeljak scoring twice.

The biggest win of the season came in Round 16, a 6-1 home triumph over Brisbane Strikers, followed by a 4-0 victory over Football Kingz with Murphy getting his first goal for the club. He scored again the following week and then got two in a 2-0 win over Sydney Olympic.

Glory got their revenge over Parramatta, winning 4-1 in Perth. Nik Mrdja got two goals that day and then hit a golden spell with a hat-trick against Sydney United in Round 25. Mrdja scored again in the last home and away game, a 2-2 draw with Marconi, which sealed the Minor Premiership for Glory with 57 points, six more than second-placed Parramatta.

In the final series, Glory lost home and away to Parramatta in the semi-finals but came good in the preliminary final, whipping Adelaide United 5-0 with two goals apiece from Despotovski and Mori plus another by Mrdja.

Perth Glory celebrate winning the 2003/04 Grand Final
Perth Glory, 2003/04 Grand Final winners

Parramatta had won the right to stage the 2003/04 Grand Final at their ground. A crowd of 9,630 braved driving rain and watched in amazement as Glory upset the odds with a stunning 1-0 triumph courtesy of a 98th minute golden goal from Mrdja, who had come on as a late substitute for Despotovski.

Glory’s line-up for their second Grand Final win was: Jason Petkovic, Matt Bingley, Shaun Murphy, Jamie Harnwell, Jade North, Jamie Coyne (Bradley Hassell 95), Mark Byrnes, Tom Pondeljak, Adrian Caceres, Bobby Despotovski (Nick Mrdja 82), Damian Mori

Mori finished the home and away season with 14 goals, taking him to 77 overall for Glory in 112 appearances. Mrdja helped himself to himself 12 goals with Despotovski finding the back of the net on 9 occasions. Petkovic was named the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year and D’Avray its’ Coach of the Year.

D’Avray’s record of three Grand Final appearances in three years made him one of the NSL’s most successful coaches. His record is the best of any Glory coach so far, winning 61 of 89 games. He would become Glory’s Technical Director when the A-League commenced in 2005 but resigned after a year and returned to South Africa.

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