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The Power at Glory

by Ashley Morrison on Apr 19, 2011

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In season one Steve McMahon was appointed coach as then owner Nick Tana looked to keep good on a promise to hire a foreign coach. What surprised him was the amount it was going to cost to bring in one with a pedigree.

By the time the first pre-season cup came around McMahon was putting the squad down and telling the media and others who wanted to listen that with the squad he had they were never going to win anything. The players were well aware of his lack of faith in their ability, being reminded regularly at training, and ultimately they flexed their collective muscle which resulted in the coach resigning. Credit must be given though to McMahon, as at the time of his departure Glory was placed perfectly to make the finals, despite his views on the players. By Round 20 replacement coach Alan Vest talked of “Cliques” that had appeared amongst the players and warned they would hold the club back, how prophetic were those words.

Season Two and Nick Tana who along with Paul Afkos had created Perth Glory, finally walked away selling the club to the FFA rather than Tony Sage. Ron Smith was installed as coach and Michelle Phillips as CEO. There was no doubt this year who held control. The FFA did not use the salary cap, which restricted the coach’s ability to sign the players he wanted. Smith was forced to assist in other areas with minimal staff employed and was pivotal in pulling in major sponsor Western QBE, but was unable to perform miracles on the park, the team finished second from bottom.

Season three and in came the triumvirate of Tony Sage, Brett McKeon and John Spence, as owners of the club. None of them with any football experience or with a passion for the game, and in time it showed. Three into one won’t go, and with a CEO in Scott Gooch who was new to such a role, and again had no football experience trying to answer three masters, it was never going to come together on the park.

Everything looked good to start with as Smith guided the team to the final of the Pre-season cup, which they lost to Adelaide 2-1. This was impressive in that the Glory played four games away out of the five played. Smith brought in young talent and hoped to nurture them into a team over the next few years alongside experienced players such as Hayden Foxe and Stan Lazarides, but it was not to be.

Without a win in eleven games, losing five and drawing six, the owners bowed to pressure from the fans and Smith left the club to be replaced by assistant Dave Mitchell. Without football knowledge the new owners listened to certain players and fans and made a decision that they felt would be the popular one. After finishing 7th out of eight John Spence realized that three successful business men trying to pull in one direction was never going to happen and walked away.

Season four and Mitchell brought in some exciting signings in Amaral, Adrian Trinidad and Eugene Dadi. A poor start and an injury to Amaral saw the team chasing the rest and they finished second last again, but the end of season form was enough for Mitchell to earn a new one year contract. Again the power was evident with the team having to endure owners with their children in the dressing room at half time.

Two became one as at the end of the season Brett McKeon handed sole ownership to Tony Sage, a move that many thought meant the club would finally have some direction. The CEO left as well, and Sage invited board member Lui Giuliani to fill the role on a part time basis.

By the start of season five Mitchell and acting CEO Giuliani had become inseparable, flying to Europe together to scout and sign players, and tempt Wolverhampton Wanderers to Perth for a pre-season game. They were undoubtedly the power behind the club. Mitchell told Giuliani who he wanted to sign, and left him to sort out the details. The team had their best season to date making the finals –albeit and extended qualification – and giving the fans mood for hope.

January the first of this season saw former ME Bank sponsorship manager Paul Kelly appointed CEO in his place. The balance of power began to shift as Giuliani stepped back and the administration and football became two separate power bases within the club.

Season six and the struggle for power started to come to a head. Before the season started Mitchell was offered the role of Director of Football, but was to have no say in who his replacement would be. Mitchell opted to turn down a two year deal to remain as coach and continue to try and set up the football department in line with other clubs around the world and in Australia.

The team started well, although injury to Andy Todd was a major blow. Following four consecutive defeats – two against the top two teams, - and with the side playing well, the owner started to listen to voices from fans and other quarters. Mitchell was facing the sack if he lost two more games. The move upstairs was tabled again, and it was announced that Mitchell would be Director of Football until the end of 2011/12. Ian Ferguson would take over as coach. Kenny Lowe who was not even considered for the role, decided to leave the club. The Mitchell/Giuliani alliance looked to be on shaky ground as now it was a straight head to head between the administration department and the Football Department.

The sharks were circling. The owner started to claim Mitchell had lost the dressing room – something the players deny vehemently. Then a report into the structure if the club was instigated, to be compiled by David Hatt, the writing was on the wall one person was on the way out, possibly with their supporters.

What has been published is nothing that any fan could not have told Tony Sage in 30 minutes, but the arm wrestle for power was won by the CEO, Paul Kelly who assumes almost total control over the club. He will now oversee all football matters and the coach, ten-time Scottish League winner, including nine in a row, and a man capped nine times for Scotland Ian Ferguson must report to him in relation to the monitoring and outcomes of player performance goals.

With power comes responsibility, and so far since the birth of the Hyundai A league with the exception of possibly one season those who have seized the power have rarely used it to good effect and given the fans what they yearn for, a successful team and one playing finals football. The pressure is on more so this year to deliver than ever before and Ian Ferguson and Paul Kelly will be fully aware of the fact.