In late September Perth Glory owner Tony Sage was quoted in the West Australian newspaper as saying of coach Ian Ferguson, “We didn’t see the best of Fergie last year and you’ve got to give him a chance, I think he’s going to do well. If he doesn’t and things go pear-shaped I’ll have to have a look at it then but my thought right now is that he’s put the squad together; so give him 27 games.”
The big question is when does he starts to see things as going pear-shaped?
If you start taking notice of grumblings from the fans and listening to the local radio stations, that time has already come, despite the season being only eight games in.
Perth Glory are currently sitting sixth and with six teams in the 10 team league – which is embarrassing- making the finals, why would you panic at this point in the season?
The way the A-League is structured it doesn’t matter if you win the league, you are not champions unless you win the Grand Final. As Zoran Matic proved in the old NSL with Adelaide City, if you can get your team to peak at the end of the season, when it matters, you can end up Champions.
Sure Ferguson’s record may not look good on paper, just 5 wins, 7 draws and 17 losses in 29 games, but what is honestly to be gained by sacking a coach in such a short season? Especially one where the sixth placed team, who are more than halfway down the league standings, can be champions.
Ferguson has, as everyone agrees, assembled an experienced squad. Even if it is older than some would like, he has the players who should see Perth Glory make the finals for the second time in their A-League history.
Surely he deserves the time to make that a reality, and the club certainly needs the stability.
In a league with no relegation, is there really any need to sack a coach halfway through a season?
We need to see a coach whose team is slipping down the league adopt the attitude that, if they score one, we will score two. If he loses one or two games along the way by playing attacking positive football, most fans will likely forgive the manager.
In the A-League there should be nothing to lose as a coach, as there is no threat of relegation and no subsequent loss in TV coverage and revenue, as opposed to other leagues around the world. This should therefore be one of the most attacking leagues in the world, as coming sixth means that you can still be crowned Champions.
Sadly however a few bad results and comments from disgruntled fans sees coaches retreat into their shell for fear of losing their jobs and adopt a defensive attitude, because, as long as they don’t lose they will be safe for another week.
For Perth Glory’s sake, Ferguson deserves to be given the season to get the best out of his players, as Sage stated. The owner needs to be strong on this issue and stick to his word and let the fans and Ferguson know that he is there until the season’s end.
If at the end of the season Sage is not happy with Perth’s finish or the KPIs that he had with the coach at the start of the season, then he has every right to part company and allow someone else a chance.
But history has shown that little is to be gained by an early or mid season change, especially in the A-League.