Perth Glory are no strangers to success throughout their illustrious history, but it is yet to be experienced in the A-League era.
Kenny Lowe’s West Australian-centric assembled squad has the supporters expectant of a highly promising campaign – one that could lead to a first piece of A-League silverware. Much of the hype is, perhaps rightly, focused on returning Socceroos striker Tim Cahill’s Melbourne City, along with Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC as title contenders.
Underestimate Perth Glory at your peril.
Truly a season of two halves out west, as Perth spent the first half looking like wooden spoon candidates. However, a superb turnaround come January saw them win 12 of their final 14 games to storm into the top six. While they were beaten 2-0 by Melbourne City in the first week of the finals, Glory’s feats in the second half of the season restored some much-needed pride in Perth.
Class and depth all over the park. Josh Risdon has been the best fullback in the league for the past two years, while the experienced Shane Lowry and Dino Djulbic will battle young gun Alex Grant for a starting spot at centre back. On paper, Rhys Williams and Rostyn Griffiths are one of the league’s best midfield pairings and they’ll form a formidable shield in front of the back four.
🔶 | Not long now til we see Rizzo marauding down the wings! pic.twitter.com/uRwBpoguXL
— Perth Glory FC (@PerthGloryFC) September 30, 2016
Serbian pair Nebojsa Marinkovic and Milan Smiljanic are capable of match-winning performances and will provide creativity from midfield.
However, it’s up front where the Glory’s most pertinent threat lies. Reigning Johnny Warren medallist Diego Castro brings flare and playmaking; the prospect of him teeing up the free-scoring Andy Keogh and former Golden Boot winner Adam Taggart is mouth-watering. The experienced Richie Garcia and livewire Chris Harold supply strength and depth off the bench.
Following the departure of Ante Covic, the goalkeeping position is up for grabs. Journeyman Liam Reddy (his seventh A-League club) is the favourite, but youngsters Nick Feely and Jordan Thurtell will likely push him for the starting spot.
At left back, new signing Joseph Mills is somewhat of an unknown quantity after time in England, and while backup Marc Warren is coming off his best season yet, he can be error-prone. If Williams’ injury woes re-surface, the task of replacing him will fall to the inexperienced Mitch Oxborrow and Brandon Wilson.
For all their quality in the final third, beyond Harold, Perth’s first choice attackers lack pace and Marinkovic, for all his talent, has a tendency to drift in and out of games. Teams showed last season if you manage to stifle Castro, the side’s most creative outlet, it goes a long way to stopping the team’s rhythm and flow.
Best XI (4-3-3): Reddy; Risdon, Grant, Lowry, Mills; Griffiths, Williams, Marinkovic; Taggart, Keogh, Castro.
Prediction – Title challenge
For the first time in a long time, Perth fans can feel confident they have a squad capable of pushing for the title. While there have been false dawns and empty promises in previous years, Lowe has taken a good team from last season and strengthened considerably.
The FFA Cup exit means they can focus solely on the league and there is no doubt Lowe will have his charges fully focused on the prospect of silverware. With competition for places, he’ll have a few egos to keep in check, but his man-management skills have always been a strength. With increased quality on the park, added emphasis on depth, a strong defence, lethal attackers, some fringe Socceroos and a certain Spaniard, one thing is clear; it’s win or bust in Western Australia.