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Perth 'pessimists' start to believe

by Ashley Morrison on Oct 26, 2011

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With Perth Glory having won their three opening games of the A-League season one would have thought that everyone in the West would be cock-a-hoop and confidence would be high, yet the mood is a decidedly strange one.

Maybe the fans are so used to false dawn’s that they are keeping their emotions in check, even on Sunday with their third victory in a row one the mood was cautious, and reserved. After so many seasons where the recruiting has looked good, but the results have not matched the expectations that is to be expected.

Even many of the media are also being extremely cautious in hailing the start Ian Ferguson’s men have had to the 2011 season. Many concerned that injuries and hot temperatures later in the campaign will take their toll on one of the older squads in the league.

One fact that is being overlooked is that this group has a strong spine, something that has been lacking in previous seasons, and for that reason this could be a very different season to previous ones.
Up front the Glory has a proven goal-scorer in Shane Smeltz, a striker who — if he continues his current form — will be up there with Bobby Despotovski and Damian Mori as a striking hero in the club’s history. Smeltz, like his two predecessors is one of the best in the business and is an extremely astute signing.

In the middle of the park Liam Miller is the spark, the creative midfielder the club has missed. He can probably afford to miss a few games but his presence will ultimately determine the Glory’s season. He has been and will be ably assisted in the middle of the park by a combination of Jacob Burns, Steve McGarry and Adam Hughes, and they will be able to cover for Miller’s absence in the short term, but he is the spark to ignite the team, and the club.

These players are all the perfect foil for Miller, just as Billy Mehmet is for Smeltz; their toil creating the time, space and opportunities for Smeltz and Miller to weave their magic.

Despite the three wins the thing that seems to have been overlooked is how solid the Perth Glory have been at the back. They have conceded just one goal in three games and that was a penalty.

Goalkeeper Danny Vukovic has hardly had a save to make, which is a credit to all of the players in front of him. In fact Glory’s defensive shape has undoubtedly looked its strongest since Alan Vest was involved in the club; a coach renowned for creating stubborn defensive sides.

Wellington Phoenix had plenty of possession in their recent game, but simply could not find a way through the organised and disciplined defence.

Vukovic’s presence at the back has certainly given the fans a belief, as whenever he comes for a ball you can sense the crowd believing he has the situation under control, and that confidence must seep through to the team, and especially the back four, who have been outstanding so far.

It is strange that with so many positives that the vibe is not more upbeat. It is almost as though no one except the playing group believe they can be competitive this year. It may only be week three, but the signs are very good. The team is not allowing other sides chances to score, and then taking those that come their way.

Maybe it is because the turnaround from last season has been so dramatic that no one can quite believe it, especially those who were baying for Ian Ferguson’s blood. Maybe it is because as one coach in another code said when he left Western Australia ‘the people of Perth are so pessimistic’. There is a long way to go; the initial signs are positive, so surely the glass is half full?