Glory's chance

by Sebastian Hassett on Apr 22, 2012

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Here we are again, except with a twist nobody saw coming. Brisbane Roar? They've been everyone's choice since the start. Perth Glory? Anything but. They've been the surprise packet of the season. And while everyone is talking about the Roar going back to back, take a minute to think about how well the Glory have done.

In a sense, this is the collision of all that new football represents against the last stronghold of old soccer. Perth was the hotbed of football during the NSL that gave Australians the right to dream that the round-ball code could, in fact, achieve mainstream cut-through.

We all know that the Glory's stint in the new league has been far less successful than what they achieved under the reign of Nick Tana, when boisterous crowds packed into Perth Oval to cheer on Damian Mori, Bobby Despotvoski, Gareth Naven and co.

After effectively speeding up the decline of the old league with their unqualified success, the league their vision helped form has, to some extent, left them for dead.

Or it least it did. Not any more. It's not been an easy process but the Glory are ready to plant themselves as a league superpower once more.

Credit must go to Tony Sage for putting his money where his mouth is over the course of the journey. Yes I know what you're thinking - he's just as likely to pull out as Nathan Tinkler and has the potential to agitate as a west coast Clive Palmer.

Whilst all that might be true, don't discount the raw emotion evident on Sage's face as he streaked out onto the field after Jacob Burns's winning penalty last week. He was genuinely rapt; I saw it with my own eyes. It was the kind of passion only found in people who truly love the game.

I truly hope his ties with the team have bonded so much that now he can't let go. Like a fan, he needs to be welded to the fortunes of the team he not only owns, but follows.

The investment of Sage shouldn't be underestimated either, for it brought Robbie Fowler to the nib Stadium last year and an even deadlier poacher, Shane Smeltz, to the Indian Ocean this season. A proper squad has been built in addition. Danny Vukovic, Jacob Burns, Liam Miller and Andrezinho haven't been cheap, nor Mile Sterjovski and Chris Coyne.

It didn't bring success last year - it cost Dave Mitchell his job, in fact, and it nearly brought about the demise of Ian Ferguson this season. There's part two of this great story.

'Fergie' was odds-on to be the first coach sacked this year. He wasn't, but then the odds of him being sacked by New Year were Black Caviar-like. That he survived out the year is incredible. That he's coaching a team in the grand final is a miracle.

Can Perth win today? It's unlikely. But they're there, and they are a chance. They've got Smeltz after all and so long as he's fit and able, Perth can score goals. Brisbane didn't score in the first 105 minutes of last year's finale.

That match offers lessons to the Glory as much as it gives confidence to Brisbane. Remember how the Mariners altered their system, virtually sacrificing their strikers to defensive, high-pressing roles?

Smeltz shouldn't be forced to do that - he needs to maintain his attacking focus - but the rest of the Glory players should be snapping at heels and suffocating the Roar in their search for space.

Do that, and you never know what might happen. There's been bigger upsets. Think back to 1999 when the Glory led 3-0 at half-time against Wollongong.

It's a sour memory, but where there's life, there's hope. It's not over until the final whistle. Just ask the Brisbane.