NEWCASTLE'S GRIFFITHS WINS TOP A-LEAGUE AWARD
Newcastle Jets striker Joel Griffiths has topped an already memorable season by winning the coveted Johnny Warren Medal. Griffiths received an overwhelming 394 votes from his playing peers to finish well ahead of runner-up Alex Brosque of Sydney F.C. (254 votes) and Shane Smeltz from Wellington Phoenix (157). It was Griffiths’ second award of the day having earlier picked up the Golden Boot Award for the 12 goals he scored in season 2007/08.
The A-League champions dominated the awards with Newcastle boss Gary Van Egmond named Coach of the Year, while his team collected the Fair Play Award. Bruce Djite (Adelaide United) won the Rising Star Award, with Michael Theoklitos (Melbourne Victory) was named the inaugural Goalkeeper of the Year. Brendon Sanatalab’s (Sydney FC) memorable strike against Adelaide United in Round 18 won him the Goal of the Season. Mark Shield was named the Referee of the Year for the third successive time.
WEEKEND IN PREVIEW
Weekend three of the McInerney Ford sponsored Night Series commences this evening when E.C.U. Joondalup take on Swan I.C. at Dorrien Gardens (6.30pm). There were good wins for both teams last week and another three points will position the victor well for the semi-final phase. The late fixture is the derby meeting of Cockburn City and Fremantle Spirit (8.30pm). Midfield is where this game will be won and lost with Dom De Felice and Michael Mirco going head-to-head with Gold Medal winner Dale Wingell and Jason Barrera.
The double header at Litis Stadium on Saturday opens with Armadale against on Mandurah City (6.00pm). The two teams are locked together at the foot of the Group A table and will be eager to register their first point of the tournament. Floreat Athena are tipped to pick up their third straight win when they take on Sorrento (8.00pm) in the late game. Michael Roki's side have emerged as the red-hot favourite to top the Group A standing thanks to a watertight defence marshalled by former national league player Ante Kovacevic.
It'll be 'backs to the wall' stuff for Western Knights who meet Stirling Lions (6.00pm) on Sunday at Dorrien Gardens. Mike Lyons' team were disappointed not to earn at least a point last week against Perth S.C. but should have little problem accounting for a Knights line-up minus suspended pair Kevin Miller and Rory Grant. The action concludes with the inner-city derby between Perth and Inglewood United (8.00pm). Get out and support your team - admission is $7 adults, $4 concessions and under 16's are admitted free.
The First Division Night Series continues with this evenings meeting of Wanneroo City and Rockingham City (6.30pm) at Litis Stadium. Forrestfield United and Gosnells City (8.30pm) feature in the late game. On Saturday, an as yet unbeaten Morley Windmills take on South West Phoenix (6.00pm) followed by neighbours Ashfield and Bayswater City (8.00pm) at Dorrien Gardens. Litis Stadium hosts the Sunday fixtures between Group A leader Canning City and Queens Park (6.00pm), followed by the derby clash of Balcatta and Dianella White Eagles (8.00pm).
BULLOCH BACK WITH A BANG
Scott Bulloch’s stunning final minute winner against Inglewood United was the perfect way for the 23-year old to celebrate his E.C.U. Joondalup return. With the game seemingly destined to end in a scoreless draw, Bulloch sized up the target from 22-metres before rocketing the ball past goalkeeper Oliver Taseski to earn Joondalup their first win of the 2008 Night Series. “I had a couple of good shots in the game but Ollie was superb and kept getting his hand to them, but it was good to finally score one and most important we came away with three points,” said Bulloch.
Bulloch was pleased to get through a full ninety minutes last weekend and remains confident Joondalup can qualify for the semi-finals of the pre-season tournament. “It was my first game for the season and the boys have all worked really hard in pre-season,’ explained Bulloch, who returns to Joondalup after a couple of seasons with Perth S.C. “It was warm on Saturday but it was the same for both teams. We are getting better each game, and we hope to win the next couple and get into the semi-finals. We’ll look at gaining the points against Swan I.C. this week and then we meet Perth and hopefully we can get a win against them.”
DREAM DEBUT BY COCKING
Teenage striker Alex Cocking will long remember his first starting appearance for Swan I.C. The 17-year old was promoted to the first eleven for Friday’s clash with Western Knights and celebrated the occasion by scoring twice as the black and whites opened their Night Series account with a resounding victory. “It was a great 4-0 win to us, and it was good fun out there,” enthused Cocking. “I thought we deserved it and all the boys played really well.”
Study commitment have prevent the Trinity College student from playing football for the past two years but now he’s back on the park Cocking is determined to make the most of the experience. “It was great to play along side Damien Scali on Friday night - he’s an experienced player and I’m learning a great deal from him,” he said. “Tommy (Shepheard) also came on in the second half and he really encourages and tells me after the game things I can improve on which is fantastic.”
Paul Lincoln was impressed with the efforts of Cocking who the coach feels has a bright future with Swan. “It was a great debut for Alex - he’s worked really hard at training and showed on Friday he could be a part of the squad this season,” commented Lincoln. “He scored two good goals for us and is a great player to have in the squad. He is good to work with as he wants to learn, and if he keeps on learning he will become a good player for our club.”
GULLS AWARDED BONUS POINTS
Sorrento have moved to the top of the Night Series Group A table after picking up all three points from Sunday's game with Armadale. The match itself ended with honours even at 1-1, however, Football West overturned that result and awarded the game to Sorrento 3-0 on account of Armadale playing an unregistered player. The 'win' moves Sorrento into joint first place with Floreat Athena - the Gulls opponent on Sunday evening at Dorrien Gardens.
WARD STAYS WITH MELBOURNE
Attacking midfielder Nick Ward has agreed to remain with Melbourne Victory for the 2008/09 A-League season. Ward, 22, was recruited from English side Queens Park Rangers last December and made an immediate impact in his five games for Victory. “Nick’s been a fantastic addition to our squad and we’re delighted to sign him for a further twelve months,” said Gary Cole, Football Operations Manager with Victory. “He’s an exciting box to box midfielder that plays with great energy and enthusiasm and loves to score goals.”
With his immediate playing future resolved, Ward says he can now focus on his football heading into the Asian Champions League and the Olympic Games. “I like Melbourne, it’s a beautiful city and I feel at home here,” said Ward, who was omitted from the Olyroos upcoming friendly with Mexico due to injury. “It should be good for me to get games under my belt and to carry on from the AFC Champions League into the Hyundai A-League.” Victory host Korea Republic’s Chunnam in its opening Champions League match at Telstra Dome on 12th March.
VELAPHI OUT TO IMPRESS
Perth Glory goalkeeper Tando Velaphi is ready to seize an opportunity to impress Olympic team coach Graham Arnold as Danny Vukovic fights to save his Beijing dream. Vukovic has received a 15-month suspension for hitting referee Mark Shield on the arm in the closing moments of Sunday’s A-League Grand Final. Central Coast Mariners will appeal the severity of Vukovic’s suspension, although Football Federation Australia has already threatened to extend the suspension to include national team duties, which would rule him out of August’s Olympic Games tournament in China.
Vukovic had been scheduled to travel today with the Australian Under-23 side for a friendly against Mexico but has stayed behind to plea his case. The 22-year old’s misfortune has left the door ajar for Velaphi to remind Arnold of his capabilities, although Wollongong Wolves custodian Justin Pasfield is also in the squad. “It’s unfortunate what’s happened to Danny. He’s a great bloke and we’re all behind him and hopefully he can come back as quickly as possible,” said Velaphi. “But I guess it’s a chance for me to stake a claim for the Olympics.”
Velaphi will take nothing for granted in his own Olympic quest, with Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici also eligible for the Games. “It’s not going to be easy because there’s always competition for places but I look forward to it,” said Velaphi. “We all want to make the Olympics but there’s a lot of hard work to be done.” The 20-year old made eight appearances for Glory last season and says he’s ready to take on the main responsibilities for the national team. “There’s always pressure when you play but that’s football and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
HARNWELL FEATURES IN SWISS WIN
Jamie Harnwell made his debut for Swiss second tier club FC Vaduz as a late substitute in their 2-1 win over Lausanne. Harnwell, on loan to promotion chasing Vaduz from Perth Glory, came off the bench and played an unfamiliar midfield role to hold off Lausanne. The defender turned striker will remain with Vaduz until the end of the season in May. Vaduz are positioned second, one point behind Swiss Challenge League leader Bellinzona with fourteen games to play.
COYNE KEEN TO PLAY
Chris Coyne is determined to line-up for Colchester United this weekend despite being forced out of Saturday’s loss to Bristol City after “throwing up blood”. Coyne fell heavily under a challenge from City striker Dele Adebola late in the first half and was too groggy to appear for the second stanza. “I jumped early for a ball, and Adebola tunneled under me and caught my legs,” explained Coyne. “I must have fallen awkwardly and banged my head. Adebola is a big fellow, and you know about it when he challenges you, but I’m used to that.”
Coyne remained on the park until half-time and had planned to re-emerge after the break. “But I threw up some blood, and my head was all over the place when I sat down in the dressing room. I suppose that I was in no fit state to continue - Kit Symons (assistant manager) said that I was shaking all the time,” he said. “In hindsight, I’d love to have stayed on the pitch and helped us to the victory that I think we deserved, but it wasn’t to be. I’ve had a stiff neck and a headache over the weekend. I had been planning to drive home to spend some time with my wife and kids, but I decided against that, because I was still feeling nauseous.”
With a vital clash against Wolverhampton Wanderers on the horizon, Coyne says he’ll be ready for action on Saturday and help relegation-haunted Colchester inch their way up the English Championship standings. The 29-year old has started every game since his January move from Luton Town. “I’m going to take it easy for the first two or three days of this week. There’s no point in rushing back. I have no problem with my match-fitness, because I’ve already played 30-odd games this season. I want to make sure that I’m fit to play against Wolves.”
STATES’ YOUNGSTERS UNDER WATCHFUL EYE OF EDWARDS
Former Australian international Alistair Edwards has started consultancy work for Perth Glory as they build towards a new season that will herald the introduction of the National Youth League. Edwards will examine ways of improving the clubs football operations and prepare for the under-21 competition. Football Federation Australia last week announced that a youth league consisting of seven Australian based clubs would kick off next season.
Edwards worked on FFA’s national football development plan, which concluded that an under-21 competition was crucial, and he is acutely aware of the need for Australian football to bridge the gap between 16-year olds and the A-League. “The youth league is vital for long-term sustainability,” Edwards said. “We need the best youth development program so we can produce the best players.” With the A-League set to expand to ten teams next season, it is hoped the youth league will quickly produce players capable of stepping up to the elite level.
The youth league will require Glory to be a source for the State’s best players aged 16 to 21 to contest a competition that is expected to allow four over-age players in each team. Edwards has already started the player identification process, but he admitted the am was not to target players capable of immediate on-field success at youth level. “The players we will be looking for are not the players who will win the youth league,” he said. “We want players who are going to be ready to play for Perth Glory in the future.”
AUSTRALIA TO BID FOR WORLD CUP
Australia has announced an ambitious bid to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has given the government's backing for the bid, saying it's a natural follow-on from the popularity of the game in Australia and the success of the Socceroos in the 2006 tournament. Football Federation Australia chief executive Ben Buckley will head the bid team, made up of state and federal government representatives, and which will meet next week to begin planning the bid.
Rudd said Australia faces an uphill battle for hosting rights against rivals England, China, Mexico and Canada. "Winning the rights to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup is a herculean task, but overcoming tough odds is what Australian football does best," said the Prime Minister. "For an Australian World Cup bid to be successful, the FFA will need the full and united support of the commonwealth and state and territory governments."
NIGHT SERIES, WEEKEND TWO
Paul Lincoln tasted success for the first time as a first team coach when Swan I.C. brushed aside Western Knights 4-0 in Friday’s opening bout at Litis Stadium. A brace from each Alex Cocking and Damien Scali earned the black and whites all three points against an opponent that finished with just nine men on the park. The opening exchanges were largely devoid of excitement as the sides cautiously prodded and probed their way forward without either ‘keeper really being tested. The game was blown wide open on 32 minutes when Scali sent Miller the wrong way from the penalty spot after Stuart Ferguson was ruled to have impeded Dejan Djukanovic inside the 18-yard box. This sparked the Knights into a flurry of activity but the closest they came to levelling was through David Micevski whose shot unfortunately lacked direction. Swan tightened their hold on the game just four minutes after the interval when Djukanovic slid a pass through for Scali who rifled past an exposed ‘keeper while the Knights appealed for offside. Things quickly went from bad to worse for the Knights as Grant was issued his marching order for a crude challenge on Perich. Swan capitalised within a minute as 17-year old Cocking cut inside the area to drill a low shot past Miller after being played through by Perich. Tom Shepheard had been on only a matter of minutes when he was involved in an unsavoury incident with Miller that left referee Troy Miller with little option but to red card the Knights custodian. David Micevski went close to bringing the Knights back into the game with a fine long-range effort that had Daniel Agudelo scrambling. However, Swan were in control and Cocking put the icing on the cake with ten minutes to go by converting at close-range after replacement ‘keeper Beau Geerlings blocked Shepheard’s initial shot.
Fremantle Spirit claimed their first points of the Night Series with a commanding 3-0 win against Mandurah City in Friday's late game. First half goals to youngsters Callum Roberts and Jason Pottier got the ball rolling before experienced midfielder Dale Wingell sealed the win with a touch of class midway through the second stanza. It took Pottier only 12 minutes to prise open the Mandurah defence with a sublime pass to Roberts who expertly dinked the ball over an advancing Mike Green before running it into an empty net. From that point on Fremantle controlled the game through swift movement on and off the ball which Mandurah struggled to tame. Pottier went close to adding to the tally when he raced past a static defence to angle a low shot across Green which drifted just beyond the far post. Mandurah were dealt a blow ten minutes before the interval when Stephen Rhodes was sent off for a second yellow card offence. It took Fremantle only a minute to capitalise as Pottier got on the end of a neat cross to knock the ball past Green from close-range. Fremantle were determined to end the game as a contest and picked up after the break where they'd left off with Wingell and Jason Barrera pulling the strings in midfield. A fierce shot on the turn by substitute David Rodgers was tipped onto the post by a diving Green, who gratefully accepted the rebound. The points were made safe when Wingell waltzed through a non-existent defence before neatly rounding Green to slot into the net on 64 minutes. The remaining minutes were played out between the boxes with neither side forcing a meaningful save from the opposing 'keeper.
A last gasp goal by Scott Bulloch earned E.C.U. Joondalup a vital 1-0 win against Inglewood United in Saturday’s early fixture at Dorrien Gardens. Bulloch’s long-range strike came with less than a minute left on the clock and keeps alive Joondalup’s hope of progressing beyond the group stage of the tournament. The warm conditions did little to temper Inglewood’s attacking instincts with Mladen Kovacevic and Jason Colli calling Tommi Tomich into the action early. Joondalup eventually found their rhythm and a near post cross by Tom Amphlett deceived Oliver Taseski who recovered to paddle the ball over the crossbar. After that the game opened up with Mladen Kovacevic again testing Tomich with a rasping low strike, while Amphlett blazed high after Stuart Montgomery and Scott Bushby combined in the lead-up. Taseski made sure the teams remained level with a superb double save that thwarted Bulloch after he was sent clear by Montgomery. Joondalup were enjoying their best spell of the game so far when Ian McMurray glanced Bulloch’s cross narrowly wide of the upright. But Inglewood weren’t to be outdone and Alex Stamatiadis should have done better then head straight at Tomich when found unmarked by James Sammut’s corner. Likewise Martin Ashworth who opened up the defence by playing a neat one-two with Amphlett only to miss-hit his shot and the chance was lost. This same pattern flowed through into the second half as both sides showed plenty of enterprise but neither could capitalise when opportunities presented. Taseski was working overtime in the Inglewood goal, pushing away an Amphlett header and shortly after moving sharply to keep out low shots by substitute Phil O’Callaghan and Bushby. With time fast running out up stepped Bulloch who found space 22-metres out to unleash a sizzling half-volley to which Taseski got a glove but couldn’t prevent from crossing the line.
Perth S.C. came from behind to edge out Stirling Lions 4-3 in a thrilling and at times controversial contest at Dorrien Gardens. The ball had been in motion just a couple of minutes when Greg Sharland stepped up to curl a free-kick past Phil Straker from the edge of the 18-yard box. Stirling immediately set about finding a response but Ludovic Boi fired narrowly wide and an unfortunate deflection sent Dannie Richman’s goal bound strike off target. Against the run of play, and with a large slice of luck, Perth increased their lead as young defender Dean Evans had the misfortune of heading a Todd Howarth cross past his own ‘keeper. Phil Arnold brought Stirling back into the game by heading in at close-range after Riochman flicked on a Boi cross from the right after 25 minutes. Parity was restored twelve minutes later by Richman who finished clinically past Simon Madaschi after being played clear by Boi. And only three more minutes elapsed when Anthony curled a free-kick into the net from 16-metres to put Stirling in the box seat. There were few surprises after the break as Perth piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser, however, neither David Onoforo nor Andreas Oliviera could find a way past Straker. The hosts’ persistence paid off on 74 minutes when Antonio Naglieri floated a free-kick over an inattentive defence for Onoforo to strike low past an exposed ‘keeper. A minute later Oliviera converted a contentious penalty awarded when Sharland went down under the challenge of Darko Ilomanovski. Gianfranco Circati was lucky to remain on the park after felling Phil Arnold just outside the area but referee Hugh Best deemed the offence didn’t warrant a second yellow card for the Perth defender. The action continued right up to the final minute with Steve Hesketh hitting the woodwork, and Howarth denied by Straker at full-stretch.
Honours were shared as Sorrento and Armadale played out a tight 1-1 draw in Sunday's opening Night Series game at Litis Stadium. Both goals were the direct result of goalkeeping errors which benefited Remo McCann in the first half and Todd Harnwell after the break. Gary Faria could have given Armadale an early lead after being played through by John Dixon but a moments hesitation allowed the Gulls to recover and the midfielders weak effort was easily held by Neil Young. The opening goal arrived on 19 minutes when a collision between Dixon and Steve McDonald affected Young, causing the 'keeper to spill Remo McCann cross which then rolled into the net. Sorrento's best chance of the period came the way of Harnwell whose close-range header was brilliantly saved by Cyril Sharrock. The teams were brought level six minutes into the second half when Sharrock failed to take the ball cleanly and Harnwell was best positioned to tap in from a couple of metres. On the hour Dixon was sent through with only the 'keeper to beat but was forced wide before Young deflected his shot out for a corner. Genuine chances on goal then dried up until the closing stages as the two sides struggled for ascendency. In the 77th minute Oliver Hilton went within inches of giving Armadale back the lead with a cracking half-volley from 16-metres for which Young made a fine save. Jake Harman shot straight at Sharrock after receiving possession from Banks, then desperate defending thwarted both Harnwell and Harman in a goalmouth scramble. Sorrento almost pinched the game at the death when Banks' cross fell to the feet of Shaun Kilkelly only to have Sharrock move instinctively and block his effort.
Floreat Athena took a giant step towards qualifying for the semi-finals with a convincing 2-1 win against Cockburn City in the final game of the weekend. A rock solid second half defensive performance by the host club proved as vital at the final whistle as Paul Vatistas’ goal which separated the teams. Much of the early pressure came from Cockburn whose speedy movement of the ball was causing the host club problems on a number of fronts. A free-flowing move in the 3rd minute involving Anthony Surjan and Aaron Dos Santos put the ball at the feet of Johnny Mirco who unleashed a stinging shot from 20-metres which gave goalkeeper Alex Dunn little chance. This stung Floreat into action and parity was restored only three minutes later by Branimir Mikulic who expertly glanced Miki Vujacic’s corner across goalkeeper Alan Dunlop and inside the far post. Rafael Insurralde and Mikulic blazed wide as Floreat went in search of the lead, while Garin Collins twice broke free of the defence only to be denied by the ‘keeper and later the upright. Cockburn’s high intensity approach saw them re-establish control late in the half and a long-range Johnny Mirco grass-cutter forced a stunning response from Dunn. Even at the break, Vatistas, John Migas and Adam Bachiller swung the pendulum in Floreat’s favour upon the resumption. The games all-important third goal arrived in the 61st minute when Vujacic swung in another corner which Mikulic flicked on to the back post where Vatistas reacted quickest by stabbing the ball into the net. There was still time for Cockburn to get back into the game but they managed to find very few holes in a defence under the command of veteran Ante Kovacevic.
FIRST DIVISION NIGHT SERIES, WEEKEND TWO (Canning City v Rockingham City courtesy Canning City)
Canning City moved into outright first place on the Group A table by defeating Rockingham City 2-1 in Friday's early fixture at Dorrien Gardens. New recruit Rory Mouttet gave Canning a dream start when he stole possession on the halfway line and charged forward before slipping the ball under the advancing goalkeeper. This set the stage for Canning to dominate the opening half with commanding performances in the middle of the park by Greg Newcombe and Paul Oliver. Rockingham came into the game more after the interval with Andrew Keary providing some particularly probing runs. With the game in the balance, a Mouttet long-range drive was turned wide by the 'keeper and from the resultant corner David Mahon bundled the ball in at teh far post. Rockingham were handed a glimmer of hope with nine minutes remaining when substitute E.Kent firing in from 10-metres. But try as they might to draw level Rockingham were unable to break down a resolute defence for a second time and Canning deservedly picked up all three points.
Ashfield registered their first win of the tournament by out-gunning South Phoenix 2-1 at Litis Stadium on Sunday. Strikes by Greg Hayes and Lee Stewart were within inches of putting Phoenix into an early lead before Ashfield snatched the initiative. With 17 minutes gone ace marksman Rydeen Botha made the most of some sloppy defending and delicately chipped goalkeeper Ryan Montgomery to put Ashfield ahead. Phoenix countered with a series of raids but were unable to find an avenue to goal. A terrific exchange in the 36th minute between Jake Watson and Botha saw the latter tear his way past the defence and round Montgomery to double Ashfield’s lead. Three minutes later Steve Suttie teed-up Stewart whose superb curling shot from just outside the 18-yard box came to rest in the back of the net. Suttie was denied the equaliser early in the second half by a brilliant save from Aaron Hollaway, while down the other end Botha and Martin Kelly slammed the ball into the upright within a few seconds of eachother. Connor Fisher went closest to earning Phoenix a point when his shot in a goalmouth scramble was cleared off the line.
Balcatta and Queens Park picked up a point each after drawing 1-1 in Friday’s early game at Dorrien Gardens. Both goals came after the break with S.Coubrough putting Queens Park ahead only to be cancelled out by Julian Piromalli’s strike 15 minutes later. The following evening at Litis Stadium, Wanneroo City downed Dianella White Eagles 2-0 through goals from Daniel Glasspool and Rowdy Yates. Morley Windmills played out a 2-2 draw with Gosnells City in the early match at Dorrien Gardens on Sunday. G.Lloyd and Jon Greenwood found the net for Morley with Gosnells goals coming from team captain Aaron Nadin and Darren Francis. Damien Todorovic scored twice and Tony Cumace as Bayswater City dumped Forrestfield United 3-0 in the late game.
JETS WIN STORMY GRAND FINAL
Newcastle Jets were crowned A-League champions after defeating Central Coast Mariners 1-0 in this afternoon’s Grand Final at the Sydney Football Stadium. Mark Bridge netted the winner as the Jets claimed their first championship title, leaving the Mariners to contemplate a second single-goal Grand Final loss in three years. In what is likely to be his final appearance for the Jets, Bridge capitalised on an error by retiring defender Tony Vidmar to race towards goal before firing home an unstoppable shot after 64 minutes. The match, though, ended in high controversy with Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic sent off for dissent after referee Mark Shield appeared to miss a handball from Jets substitute James Holland in the closing moments.
In a clash high on emotion but short on footballing highlights, the Jets controlled the early stages of a tight affair with Tarek Elrich, Matt Thompson and Bridge all going close before Adam Kwasnik hit the side netting for the Mariners. The second half followed a similar pattern until Bridge stole possession from Vidmar, who was attempting to pass back to Vukovic, and beat Alex Wilkinson before rifling the ball beyond the ‘keeper from the edge of the 18-yard box. The Mariners were denied a penalty in the 86th minute when Adam D’Apuzzo appeared to tug at John Aloisi’s shirt as he lunged at a cross. The game ended in chaos when the Mariners surrounded Shield and Vukovic, who had raced from his own penalty area, was dismissed.
MEMORABLE NIGHT FOR TOPOR-STANLEY
Olympic team hopeful Nikolai Topor-Stanley has capped off a memorable season by claiming the ‘Most Glorious Player’ award, along with a host of other accolades, at Perth Glory’s annual presentation evening. Topor-Stanley dominated the event, adding the Players’ Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year to his Most Glorious Player trophy. “It has been an amazing night, I’m really blown away to be honest,” Topor-Stanley said. “I have been away with the national team for a few weeks and just thought I’d come back and have good night with the boys, I definitely wasn’t expecting any of this. We have a great bunch of guys at the club and as a team we’re all committed to improving and stepping up our performances for the supporters next season.”
A sold out crowd of more than 400 at the Perth Convention Exhibition Centre were on the edge of their seats as the charismatic Topor-Stanley made a last gasp leap to overtake fellow defender Jamie Coyne with a best on ground performance in the final game of the season. Coyne topped the leaderboard from round one and looked like claiming the club’s top honour as he held a seven point buffer with only a few games to play. However, Topor-Stanley polled in each of the final three games to join club luminaries Gareth Naven, Scott Miller and Bobby Despotovski as a winner of the coveted trophy.
The top three places in the Most Glorious Player count went to defenders. Coyne was runner-up while Dino Djulbic attracted plenty of votes in his first A-League season. The strongly build stopper took home the Best Clubman trophy in recognition of his commitment both on and off the pitch. Jamie Harnwell again proved his popularity with the fans by backing up his 2006/07 Supporters Player of the Year win with another this season. His performances on the pitch also drawing plenty of praise with consecutive Golden Boot awards a worthy reward for his effort. Speedy forward Nikita Rukavytsya was the night’s final award recipient when he was named the Volunteers Player of the Year.
GARCIA WELCOMES RETURN TO HULL
Richard Garcia is relishing the "welcome distraction" of a return to the Hull City line-up at West Bromwich Albion today. The 26-year old winger has missed the last three games on compassionate grounds, mourning the death of his father in Australia. Having returned to the fold on Tuesday, Garcia is expected to reclaim his right-midfield slot as the Tigers look to upset the promotion-chasing Baggies.
Garcia intends to make the most of his football return and get some "normality" back in his life. "It's been fairly difficult, something like that can't not be difficult" commented Garcia. "It was hard coming back and leaving the family over there in the way the circumstances were, but it's good to get back to a bit of normality. To get back to playing takes your mind off things and that's what I'm keen to do now. It's a welcome distraction."
Hull's play-off hopes have been dented in Garcia's absence with three successive draws seeing the Tigers slip four points adrift of the top six. But Garcia remains confident their promotion push can soon be back on course with a quick return to winning ways. "We've got a tough month coming up but all you need is a couple of back-to-back wins and you're right back up there," he said. "Of course, we might have wanted to take a few more points from the last three games but we didn't and we'll move on to our next opportunity."
WEEKEND IN PREVIEW
The McInerney Ford sponsored Night Series continues with another full round of fixtures spread across the entire weekend. Swan I.C. and Western Knights commence the on-field activity at Litis Stadium this evening (6.30pm) with both teams needing maximum points to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals. David Perich and Tom Shepheard are the key figures for the black and whites while for the Knights its Luka Jukic and youngster Anthony Skorich who'll determine the outcome.
The late game pits newly promoted Mandurah City against a Fremantle Spirit line-up still smarting from a five-goal mauling last week. Fremantle boss Marc Wingell will be after a full 90-minute effort from his side after they second half capitulation to Floreat Athena last week. Stuart Currie would have seen plenty of reasons for optimism in the Dolphins performance against Sorrento and is confident of getting the result he wants this week.
The Saturday games take place at Dorrien Gardens where the early game pits Inglewood United's youngsters against E.C.U. Joondalup (6.00pm). The experience of Bobby Despotovski, Danny Kovacevic and Oliver Taseski will be vital as Inglewood seek their second win in seven days. But to achieve that they've have to get past a determined Joondalup line-up spearheaded by Stuart Montgomery, Scott Bushby and Tom Amphlett.
Night Series trophy holder Perth S.C. take on Stirling Lions in the late game at 8.00pm. An Andreas Oliveira hat-trick inspired Perth to victory last weekend and coach Graham Normanton will be hoping for a repeat performance from his star forward. Phil Straker was outstanding in his teams' opening round win and further heroics from the Goalkeeper of the Year on Saturday could well tip the scales in Stirling's sides favour.
The action switched back to Litis Stadium on Sunday with Sorrento meeting Armadale (6.00pm) in the early fixture. The Gulls commenced their campaign with a confidence building defeat of Mandurah City courtesy of strong performances by Todd Harnwell, Shaun Kilkelly and goalkeeper Neil Young. New Armadale coach Brad Hassell was without seven players last week and is looking forward to new recruits Oliver Hilton and Gary Faria donning club colours for the first time.
The weekend comes to a close with the blockbuster showdown between Cockburn City and Floreat Athena (8.00pm). Goals flowed freely for both last week - Cockburn winning 5-1 against Armadale, and Floreat 6-1 against Fremantle - so this promises to be an absolute cracker. With fine weather the forecast, there is no reason not to get out and support your team - admission is $7 adults, $4 concessions and under 16's are admitted free.
FFA CONFIRM EXPANSION PLANS
Football Federation Australia today gave the go-ahead for Gold Coast Galaxy and Northern Thunder to join the A-League next season. The national controlling body granted provisional licenses to both clubs on the provison they satisfy a set of criteria with the fortnight. If only one franchise satisfies the criteria then the A-League will be a nine-team competition in 2008/09. It will be the first major shake up for the fledgling competition which has enjoyed a dream run in its first three season after rising from the ashes of the old National Soccer League.
Frank Lowy, FFA chairman, indicated increasing the A-League to ten clubs is only the first stage of FFA's expansion plans for the national competition. "Expansion of the A-League is a critical issue to the continuing evolution and growth of football," Lowy said. "Ultimately, we believe the A-League has the capacity to be at least a twelve-team competition, but our approach needs to be prudent and planned. It has to be right for football, right for the existing A-League clubs, right for the new clubs and right for the local community."
GLORY TRIO SELECTED FOR OLYROOS CAMP
Nikita Rukavytsya, Tando Velaphi and Nikolai Topor-Stanley have been invited into camp with the Australian Olympic team. The Perth Glory trio are amongst 25-players who'll gather in Sydney next week in preparation for Australia's upcoming friendlies against Mexico and the United States of America. "This camp marks the commencement of our preparations for the Beijing Olympics," said national under-23 coach Graham Arnold. "The competition for places in the 18-man squad will be intense, with many overseas based players in contention, and this coming match will be a great opportunity for locally based players to impress."
The squad for the training camp in Sydney is Nathan Burns, Robert Cornthwaite, Bruce Djite (Adelaide United), David Williams (Brondby), Nigel Boogaard, Matt Simon, Danny Vukovic (Central Coast Mariners), Adrian Leijer (Fulham), Leigh Broxham, Billy Celeski, Sebastian Ryall (Melbourne Victory), Mark Bridge, Adam D’Apuzzo, Tarek Elrich, Troy Hearfield, James Holland, Stuart Musialik (Newcastle Jets), Nikita Rukavytsya, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Tando Velaphi (Perth Glory), Tahj Minniecon, Michael Zullo (Queensland Roar), Mark Milligan, Ruben Zadkovich (Sydney FC) and Justin Pasfield (Wollongong Wolves). Nick Ward was not considered for the camp due to injury
WE MUST WIN SAYS SWANS LINCOLN
New boss Paul Lincoln has labelled tomorrow evening’s game with Western Knights a ‘must win’ for Swan I.C. The black and whites went down to Inglewood United in their opening Night Series outing and another loss this weekend will severely dent their hopes of progressing beyond the group phase. “We will be looking for three points to give us confidence going into the game against Joondalup the following weekend,” said Lincoln, whose team play Perth S.C. and Stirling Lions in their remaining fixtures.
Although Sunday’s game didn’t go as well as Lincoln would have liked, the Swan coach saw plenty of positives in his sides’ performance. “We played the ball around really well at times and created quite a few chances,” he said. “There were some good individual performances, David Perich was outstanding and will be a very important player for the club this year. There were also positive debuts made by Seb Ruiz, John Mansaray and Alex Cocking which shows as a club we are on the right path in terms of youth development.”
After guiding the Swan’s reserves to second in the League in successive years Lincoln jumped at the opportunity to coach the first team late last year. He is confident Swan can move away from the foot of the Premier League table. “There needs to be a marked improvement on last season,” he explained. “We need to tighten up at the back and reduce the number of goal we concede. As a team we’ve set ourselves targets for the year with the main focus on winning more games at home. We’ve got some quality players at the club and I can see no reason why we can’t start moving up the table.”
COACH BACKS OLIVEIRA FOR NATIONAL LEAGUE
Graham Normanton is convinced Andreas Oliviera is back to the peak of his powers after witnessing the ace striker score a hat-trick in Friday’s opening game of the 2008 Night Series. Oliveira struck twice in the first half and added a third after the interval as Perth S.C. commenced their trophy defence with a 6-3 win against Western Knights. “He’s back to his best,” Normanton said. “It wasn’t so much the goals he scored but the way he played. You could see the attitude and intensity was there.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Oliveira was in Perth Glory’s sights and Normanton believes consistency could finally elevate the 26-year old into Australia’s elite competition. “I think he’s good enough to play in the A-League,” said the Perth coach. “If he plays like he did against Western Knights, he’s certainly capable. But he’s got to produce that every week.” Oliviera burst on to the local scene as a teenager with Perth and through spells at with Floreat Athena and Victorian club South Melbourne has become regarded the State League’s premier goalscorer.
INGLEWOOD NAME BAMBER AS NEW COACH
There’s been a changing of the guard at Inglewood United where Lee Bamber has replaced Bobby Despotovski as senior coach. Bamber, who played professionally for Preston North End and was later an academy coach with Manchester United, took over late last week following Despotovski’s decision to step aside for family and work reasons. Kevin Brophy has been promoted to assistant coach in recognition of his sterling work with Inglewood’s dual Cup winning reserve team. Despotovski, who was only last week linked to a coaching role with new A-League franchise Gold Coast Galaxy, plans to remain an Inglewood player until he departs for Europe mid-year.
AMATEURS JOIN IN CUP
The inclusion of Amateurs teams in State League Cup is sure to add extra a bit of extra colour to the news seasons’ knock-out competition. Eight Amateurs clubs accepted an invitation from Football West to join the twenty-four State League sides in the 2008 Cup which was drawn over the weekend. The pick of the First Round games, to be played on Saturday 5th April, pits Perth S.C. against Amateur powerhouse Murdoch University at Dorrien Gardens. Other opening round highlights include Western Knights home clash with Perth Azzurri, and Fremantle United’s showdown with E.C.U. Joondalup at Hilton Reserve.
Stirling Lions commence their Cup defence with home fixture against Gosnells City, while Premier League champion Floreat Athena welcome Canning City at Litis Stadium. Cockburn City are home to Sorrento, Armadale square off with Balcatta, and Mandurah City journey to South West Phoenix. Bayswater City has a troublesome home date with Amateur champions Shamrock Rovers, Fremantle Spirit travel to Rockingham City, and neighbours Morley Windmills and Ashfield meet at Wotton Reserve. Wanneroo City host Dianella White Eagles, Lynwood Colts take on Forrestfield United, and Queens Park meet Southern Spirit. The all-Amateur clash between Spearwood Dalmatinac and Hamersley Rovers will be played on Sunday 6th April at Dalmatinac Park.
TRIALISTS TO TOUR WITH GLORY
David Mitchell will get a first hand look at several prospective recruits during Perth Glory’s upcoming visit to China. “There is nothing better than seeing how players react under pressure in a match environment and this tour will give me a perfect opportunity to see if these lads will fit the system we’ll be employing next season,” Mitchell said. “Each one of the players we’ll be taking have something to prove as we look to build a successful combination that will deliver finals football to the club going forward.”
Josip Magdic (Floreat Athena), Mark Lee (E.C.U. Joondalup), Callum Roberts (Fremantle Spirit), Andrija Jukic (Perth S.C.) and Stirling Lions pair Marc Anthony and Steven Hesketh (Stirling Lions) are among a big contingent of locals in the mix to make the trip. “It’s an opportunity for me to have a look at some State League players against tough opposition and to see if they are going to be able to step up,” Mitchell said. “We’ll be giving some younger players international experience in difficult circumstances.”
Also joining the travelling party will be former Ivory Coast international Eugene Dadi. The 34-year old striker impressed in trials late last year but was denied the opportunity to join Glory when his former club failed to release him before the end of the November transfer window. “He will bring us something we haven’t got,” Mitchell said. “As they say in France, he has mystique. He can put the ball in the net and he brings other people into the game. I want to see him, fully fit, playing in China.”
NIGHT SERIES, WEEKEND ONE (E.C.U. Joondalup v Stirling Lions by Don Evans; Floreat Athena v Fremantle Spirit courtesy Floreat Athena)
Stirling Lions made a dream start to their Night Series campaign by downing northern rival E.C.U. Joondalup 1-0 in Friday’s opening fixture at Dorrien Gardens. The early exchanges were evenly shared with both teams displaying plenty of attacking nous but neither able to penetrate their opponents defences. On the quarter hour Joondalup channelled the ball through midfield to Stuart Montgomery whose rasping drive was superbly pushed around the post by a diving Phil Straker. A neat sequence involving Ludovic Boi, Jordan Rhodes and Phil Arnold led to Richman being sent through one-on-one with goalkeeper Tommi Tomich who comfortably held the young attacker weak shot. Stirling gained a free-kick just outside the 18-yard box in the 30th minute which Steven Hesketh crashed past Tomich only for the ball to crash against the crossbar. The same fate would befall Joondalup shortly before the interval when John Higgins was found in space but smashed his shot into the bar. Ten minutes after the re-start a terrific exchange orchestrated by Boi saw Arnold charge down the right to deliver an inch perfect cross who strike partner Richman headed precisely into the bottom corner. Lead by the midfield trio of Craig Young, Scott Bushby and Amphlett, Joondalup increased their work rate but luck was against Montgomery who rattled the frame of the goal with a stunning strike from 18-metres. Tempers flared with fifteen minutes to go leading to the dismissal of Higgins following an unsavoury incident with Arnold. With the player advantage, Stirling controlled the remaining minutes and were should have added another goal to their tally when substitute Tom Jones scuffed his shot with only Tomich to beat.
Andreas Oliveira opened his year with a hat-trick as Perth S.C. swept past Western Knights 6-3 in the late game at Dorrien Gardens. The bumper crowd was treated to a pulsating start in which the two long-time combatants made clear their intent to attack. Perth were first on the board via a Robbie Puca corner whipped to the far post where Oliveira tucked the ball in at close-range. The margin became two goals after 8 minutes after Greg Sharland worked his way in behind the defence and cut the ball back for Antonio Naglieri to drill into the bottom corner. Young striker Anthony Skorich was rewarded for his enterprise on the hour half when he out-jumped the defence to head in a cross from Michael De Sousa. However, the host club were in no mood for compromise and Oliveira made the most of another raid down the left orchestrated by Sharland. The final play of the half ended with Andrija Jukic was presented with the simple task of adding Perth’s fourth after the Knights were again caught short at the back. The second half was a seesawing affair which opened with Luka Jukic unleashing an unstoppable shot from 28-metreswhich slammed into the net before goalkeeper Simon Madaschi had time to react. Oliveira completed his hat-trick and in the process restored Perth’s three-goal buffer, much to the delight of the home fans. In the 81st minute Madaschi moved sharply to deny Rory Grant from the penalty spot but was helpless as the Knights striker lashed home the follow-up. Perth saved the best for last as Todd Howarth playing down the line to Sharland who sent in a cross which David Onoforo expertly tamed and took past his marker before blasting past an exposed ‘keeper.
Sorrento weathered a second half storm to defeat a luckless Mandurah City 2-0 in Saturday’s opening game at Litis Stadium. The Gulls enjoyed the better of early possession and went close to snatching the lead through Lewis Flatt whose angled shot drifted past the far post after driving through midfield. Scott Neville was next to threat by waltzing across the top of the 18-yard box and stretching goalkeeper Mike Green with a fine strike. The breakthrough they were after came on the half hour when Todd Harnwell made his way down the right to send an inch-perfect chip over Green from an acute angle. This shook the complacency out of Mandurah and in quick succession Andy Brown and Keith Brown rifled narrowly high of the crossbar. It was a far more composed Mandurah that emerged for the second half and immediately re-commenced their search to equalise. The Dolphins had little difficulty getting deep into their opponents 18-yard box, however, the Premier League newcomers lacked the decisive touch which would have brought them level. Jeff Bright forced an instinctive save from Neil Young after combining with Patrick Quinn to open up the defence, while Graeme Matthews blasted the ball high from close-range when he seemed destined to score. Neville made the points safe with ten minutes to go by swinging a free-kick around the defensive wall and beyond the out-stretched arms of Green. With only minutes left on the clock Mandurah were reduced to ten men with the dismissal of Ryan Townsend for an innocuous foul that hardly warranted a second yellow card. Mandurah’s quest for a late consolation would prove fruitless as Young was quick off his line to thwart Jake Loreto in the closing moments.
Floreat Athena turned on the style with an emphatic 6-1 humbling of Fremantle Spirit in their opening game of the pre-season tournament. All the early pressure came from the host club whose focus on getting the first goal had Fremantle holed up inside their defensive third. Floreat’s persistence was rewarded on 21 minutes when Rafael Insurralde unleashed a fierce low shot after an initial shot by Adam Bachiller was blocked. With Paul Vatistas, Insurralde and John Migas pulling the strings it seemed only a matter of time before Floreat would tighten their hold on the game. But against the run of play Ben Rogers brought the teams level in the 36th minute by tapping into an empty net after goalkeeper Alex Dunn failed to claim a long ball pumped into the 18-yard box by Dale Wingell. Within a minute Garin Collins twisted and turned his way through a crowded box to restore Floreat’s lead with a powerful low shot that was simply too hot for the goalkeeper to hold. The introduction of Callum Roberts gave Fremantle hope of a second half revival, however, it didn’t take long for Floreat to resume control. The inevitable happened on 72 minutes as Josip Magdic turned on a pass from midfield and raced past his marker to drill into the top corner from 16-metres. Not long after Magdic made way for summer signing David Foster who marked his home debut by converting at close-range after the ‘keeper spilled a shot from Collins. Goal number five came via John Migas who superbly curled a free-kick past the defensive wall and beyond the ‘keeper’s reach. The icing was put on the cake by Migas who capped a memorable performance for the regular season champions with another superb free-kick that gave the ‘keeper no chance close to the final whistle.
A new-look Inglewood United commenced their season with a solid 3-0 win over Swan I.C. in a drama-filled fixture at Dorrien Gardens on Sunday. David Perich, Tom Shepheard and John Monterosso figured prominently as Swan came out of the blocks full of running, however, strong defensive work by Danny Kovacevic and James Duncan along with the goalkeeping brilliance of Oliver Taseski made sure the boys from the Swan Valley would remain scoreless. Inglewood slowly got into gear and on 18 minutes took the lead via a dubious free-kick taken by Bobby Despotovski which clipped the defensive wall on its way into the top corner. There was a degree of controversy when Tom Shepheard was brought down inside the area by Danny Kovacevic, referee Michael Tolmie initially pointed to the spot but after consulting with his assistant ruled the offence took place outside the area and awarded Swan a free-kick. The margin became two goals after 32 minutes as Duncan got to an in-swinging James Mitsopolous corner ahead of goalkeeper Daniel Agudelo who could only parry the ball into his net. The remainder of the period was dominated by Inglewood who stroked the ball around the park as they grew in confidence. Dom Ando was unfortunate not to post Swan’s first of the season when his shot slammed into the upright, and in a goalmouth scramble only minutes later the ball was just out of reach for Shepheard to tap in after deflecting off an opponent. Aaron Cole squandered a golden opportunity to bring the black and whites back into the game by blasting high from the penalty spot following Duncan’s foul on debutant Alex Cocking. James Sammutt made the points safe by finishing neatly a cross from the left by Despotovski after a fine exchange of passes between Mitsopolous and Daniel Niederberger.
Cockburn City dumped Armadale 5-1 in Sunday’s late fixture at Dorrien Gardens. Mileta Miletic bagged a double with Dom De Felice, John Mirco and Joseph Brunetto also amongst the goals for the Cockerels. Armadale’s solitary goal came from S.Walters early in the second half. Further details of this game were not forthcoming from either of the participating clubs.
GLORY ROAD TO CHINA
Perth Glory will play three games in China next month in a move seen as further strengthening the club’s ties within Asia. Glory have continued to train despite missing the A-League finals series in preparation for the trip which will pit them against Super League sides Changsha Ginde, Guangzhou and reigning champions Changchun Yatai in the space of seven days. The club has strong corporate connections throughout the region with Chinese steel manufacturer Delong Holdings a joint major sponsor last season.
The upcoming trip has been organised by Golden Star International, an Australian wine exporter to China, and will expose Glory to a potential television audience of several hundred million viewers. “Football’s global reach and our strong economic ties with Asia, and China in particular, have enabled us to take up this terrific opportunity to promote the club to a huge audience,” said Scott Gooch, Glory’s chief executive. “There will be an immediate benefit from a player development and preparation point of view while the long term benefits are just as exciting as we look to broaden the reach of the Perth Glory brand in the lucrative Asian market.”
WEEKEND IN PREVIEW
The 2008 season officially kicks off this weekend with the opening round of McInerney Ford sponsored Night Series. The twelve Premier League clubs have been divided into two groups of six for the initial phase of the tournament. The top two-ranked sides from each group progress to the semi-final stage with the trophy decider taking place at Litis Stadium on Saturday 29th March.
Robbie Puca, captain of trophy holder Perth S.C., says everyone is champing at the bit to get out on the pitch after a big pre-season. “The Night Series gives you a fantastic chance to be adventurous, try a few things and play some really attractive football,” he said. “The round robin format allows you to make a few mistakes, take a few chances and entertain the crowds.”
The pre-season tournament commences this evening with a cracking double-header at Dorrien Gardens. Things may have been quiet at Macedonia Park but rest assured Mike Lyons side will be in no mood for compromise when they face E.C.U. Joondalup (6.30pm). The late game brings together two State League giants, Perth S.C. and Western Knights, for what will undoubtedly be one of the tournament highlights.
Mandurah City make their first ever appearance as a top flight club on Saturday when they tussle with Sorrento at Litis Stadium (6.00pm). The Gulls learnt a lot from a difficult winter of 2007 and early indications are they’ll be one of the teams to watch this year. Fremantle Spirit begin their season with a tough outing against Premier League champion and host club Floreat Athena (8.00pm).
Swan I.C. and Inglewood United (6.00pm) gets proceedings underway at Dorrien Gardens on Sunday. There’ll be no love lost when former Perth Glory team mates Scott Miller and Brad Hassell come face-to-face as coaches of Cockburn City and Armadale in the late game. With such an abundance of football on offer there’s no reason not to get out and support your team. Admission is $7 adults, $4 concessions and under 16's are admitted free.
KNIGHTS READY FOR ACTION : CAMPBELL
Ronnie Campbell is champing at the bit for the Night Series to start. Campbell, the State League’s longest serving coach, has been pleased with the attitude and application shown by his players as Western Knights prepare for his eleventh year at the helm. “The Night Series is a great way to start the year - everyone looks forward to it rolling around,” said the Western Knights coach. “We’ve been training steadily for a couple of months and the intensity has certainly picked up in the past few weeks so the players are clearly looking forward to getting things underway this weekend.”
The Knights commence the annual pre-season tournament on Friday evening with a blockbuster showdown with long-time rival and current trophy holder Perth S.C. “It should be a cracking game,” enthused Campbell. “Both Perth and the Knights are attacking teams and play football to win so this game has everything going for it. There’s no doubt that Perth are the benchmark, they’ve got top quality players and are the team everyone wants to beat. We’ll be out to unsettle them on Friday and to start our year on a high.”
For the new season Campbell has drawn heavily on the Knights successful youth team of 2007. “The group of young boys we’ve got it probably the best we’ve had since I’ve been at the club,” said Campbell. “We’ve promoted the six best players from our League and Cup winning Under-18 squad. Tonchi Skorich, Anthony Fearon, Michael De Souza, Matt Allen, Jack Rocchi and Josip Peran showed last year that they have the potential to play first team and will all get a chance in the Night Series.”
Campbell has also been busy on the transfer front with a few well-chosen imports and local recruits adding depth to his line-up. “Rory Grant is a proven goalscorer with a fantastic attitude and work ethic, he played for St Mirren and Berwick Rangers,” said Campbell. “Towering defender Stuart Ferguson was a youngster with Sunderland, David Micevski joins us from Perth Glory and adds to our options in midfield alongside his brother Daniel, who turned down an offer from Victoria to play for the Knights.”
Unfortunately, not all the news from Nash Field is good with midfield trio Andrija Jukic, David Price and Scott Bushby along with gun striker Stuart Montgomery all choosing to move on over the summer. “Scott, David and Andrija are all great young midfielders but our biggest loss will be Monty,” said Campbell. “He’s an intelligent, skilful player who leads by example and you can bank on him scoring at least fifteen goals a season. Monty is one of the best players I have coached and we’ll miss his presence.”
Campbell plans to tinker with the line-up and experiment a little with formations during the Night Series in preparation for the season proper. Once the pre-season competition is over, the Knights coaching team will sit down with the player group to discuss goals for the winter of 2008. “We’ll be open, honest and realistic about where we are and what we think we can achieve,” said Campbell. “Some people have already written us off and you’re always going to get that when you lose a number of players. It’s far too early to be making predictions but I think a few people will be surprised by the Knights this year.”
HARNWELL ON LOAN IN LIECHTENSTEIN
Perth Glory stalwart Jamie Harnwell is poised to join Swiss outfit FC Vaduz just nine months after the collapse of an earlier proposal to sign for the Liechtenstein-based club. Harnwell left Perth yesterday and is expected to finalise a four-month loan deal with Vaduz, who had eight games left in their bid for promotion to Switzerland’s top flight. “It’s just a chance to go over and prove myself there and then come back to Perth Glory,” said Harnwell, who does not see the loan deal as an opportunity to secure a permanent move. “If things went fantastically well, I wouldn’t rule it out but at this stage it’s just a loan.”
Harnwell said the latest chance to join Vaduz came out of the blue but he had little hesitation taking up the challenge, despite his previous trip proving fruitless. The 30-year old tried his luck with Vaduz last May, however, his chances of securing a contract were scuppered by a sudden change of coach and no opportunity to impress the new boss. “Vaduz want promotion so they’ve signed a few players to give it a go,” explained Harnwell. “It’s a great opportunity for me to experience something different.” The loan agreement will conclude at the end of June after which Harnwell will re-join Glory for the 2008/09 pre-season.
ONOFORO AT HOME WITH PERTH
David Onoforo is looking forward to donning Perth S.C. colours again. The 26-year old striker has been warmly welcomed back to the fold after a twelve month absence during which he played amateurs for Fremantle United and travelled abroad. "It feels like I never left," said Onoforo, winner of the 2005 Golden Boot. "Everyone at the club has been fantastic - from the board and coaches all the way down to the players. Perth is a great club to play for and I can't imagine playing Saturday football for anyone else."
An impending round the world trip meant Onoforo would miss half of last season and weighted heavily in his decision to spend last season with Fremantle. "I played juniors at Fremantle United so I went back to the club where I started out," he explained. "We went through the season undefeated only to lose the two most important games - the Cup final and the Champion of Champions final. Unfortunately, that's the way it happens sometimes. None-the-less it was a terrific season and I really enjoyed playing for Fremantle again."
Perth begins the new season on Friday evening when they face long-time Western Knights in the opening round of Night Series fixtures at Dorrien Gardens. Value for money entertainment is guaranteed every time the two giants of State League football meet and Onoforo is looking forward strapping on his boots for promises to be a highly competitive tussle. "Everyone is eager to play after a couple of months of pre-season training," said Onoforo. "It's been challenging at times but my fitness is getting better with each session and I'm looking forward to getting some game time under my belt."
BORO WELCOME BACK JONES
Middlesbrough has received a boost on the injury front with Brad Jones playing his first game in four months. Jones, who had been sidelined since tearing a thigh muscle in October, was between the posts for the full 90 minutes of last night’s goalless draw at Everton. The 25-year old will continue to step up his fitness battle in a bid to make it back into the first-team squad at the Riverside.
DESPOTOVSKI LINKED WITH NEW QUEENSLAND FRANCHISE
Perth Glory goalscoring great Bobby Despotovski could be lining up his former club when the fourth season of A-League football commences next later this year. Despotovski has put his hand up for a coaching role with new franchise Gold Coast Galaxy, who are expected to be included in an expanded 10-team competition along with Townsville-based Northern Thunder. Former Socceroos Damian Mori and Paul Okon along with Glory's dual championship winning coach Mich d'Avray are understood to also be amongst the candidates.
Despotovski confirmed he had made contact with former Queensland Roar coach Miron Bleiberg, who is expected to take the reins of Galaxy. "I've put my name forward and I've spoken to Miron but that's about it," said Despotovski, whose coaching career began last year at Inglewood United. Mori has won three League titles in as many seasons as a player-coach of South Australian club Adelaide City, while d'Avray is the most successful coach in Glory history having led the team to National Soccer League success in 2003 and 2004.
Although Football Federation Australia is not expected to make a decision on expanding the competition until later this month, Glory chief executive Scott Gooch acknowledged the likelihood. "There's talk of one or possibly two teams coming in and I know the future planning is to bring more teams in," Gooch said. "Whether that's this year, I don't know. I haven't been informed of that yet."
Despite an increase to an already heavy travel load, Gooch generally felt optimistic about expansion. "It's a difficult one because you have to understand the parameters of any new team coming in," Gooch said. "Being one of the most travelled teams, it means more travel, but from our supporters' point of view it means we'd be able to get an extra home game or two, which would be ideal. From the players' perspective, they are screaming out for more games."
TEN BOYS IN LINE FOR NATIONAL HONOURS
As many as ten West Australians could be called up for international duty when the Australian Under-17’s next step into the international arena. Last month Eli Babalj, Milljon Butshiire, Julius Davies, Cameron Edwards, goalkeeper Alex Pearson, Josh Ridson and Trent Sainsbury attended a four-day training camp in Canberra and were this week joined by Clayton Arnez, Sean Browne and Sam Mitchinson following their strong performances at the Institute Challenge in Brisbane. The Joeys campaign to qualify for the 2009 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Nigeria commences later in the year.
TINDALL GARNERS AUSTRALIA DAY HONOUR
Former Chelsea and Portsmouth great Ron Tindall was one of 473 individuals whose contributions to the nation were recognised in the Australia Day 2008 Honours List. Tindall, a resident of Perth’s northern suburbs, was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for the role he played in the development of football, and the education and development of sports coaches.
Tindall played close to 400 games for English clubs Chelsea, West Ham United, Reading and Portsmouth, and managed the latter for three seasons, before making his way to Western Australia in the mid-1970’s. He held the position of State Director of Coaching for a decade and for twenty-five years coached junior, youth and senior State teams. Tindall was inducted into the Western Australia Hall of Fame in 2002.
STATE YOUTH TEAM TAKES SECOND
The stars of the future have done themselves proud by reaching the final of the 2008 Institute Challenge played in Brisbane last week. The State Under-17 team, coached by Kenny Lowe, went all the way through to the decider of the four-team tournament where they were out-classed by a more experienced Victorian outfit. The Institute Challenge provides the nations elite young players an opportunity to showcase their wares in front of national selectors, and test themselves against the best players from around the country.
WA began the week-long event with a commanding 1-0 victory against the South Australian Sports Institute with Eli Babalj getting the games only goal. Babalj followed this a few days later with a sensation first half hat-trick to orchestrate a 3-1 win against the Queensland Academy of Sport. The final game of the round robin stage saw the Victorian Institute of Sport dump WA 4-0 to take top spot on the qualifying table. The boys from the west backed this up the following day with a much stronger performance against Victoria who won the final 2-0 at Suncorp Stadium.
The West Australian Under-17 squad which took part in the Institute Challenge featured Aleksic Dejan (Cockburn City), Tim Doyle (Perth S.C.), Clayton Arnez, Eli Babalj, Sean Browne, Milljon Butshiire, Jack Clisby, Juius Davis, Lewis Hall, Liam Harvey, Emmanuel Linga, Adam Luca, Sam Mitchinson, Josh Risdon, Trent Sainsbury, John Tancredi, Reece Vittiglia and Stephen Walmsley (National Training Centre).
GRIFFITHS SURE HE'S ON TO A WINNER AT GRETNA
Rostyn Griffiths thought Gretna was just a place where runaways wed before his recent loan move to the Scottish Premier League club. But the West Australian midfielder has fallen in love with the Borders town and is hopeful his stint with in Scotland can win him a regular start back at Blackburn Rovers. "All I knew about Gretna before I came here was that it's where people get married - I now know they have an SPL side too," said 19-year old Griffiths. Gretna, located on the Anglo-Scottish border, has traditionally been associated with weddings because of Scotland's liberal marriage laws.
While his number one priority is to help Gretna remain in Scotland's top flight, Griffiths is also looking to use his time north of the border to launch his senior career. "While I'm here I want to prove I can play at this level," said Griffiths, who played junior football with E.C.U. Joondalup. "Loan moves can kick-start a player's career and hopefully that will happen for me. My chances at Blackburn were limited but I'm sure they'll send someone to watch me while I'm here and it's up to me to impress. But first and foremost I want to keep Gretna up."
Griffiths is one of the five loan signings brought in to help Gretna close the nine-point gap on nearest rivals Kilmarnock. With players such as Everton midfielder John Paul Kissock now in the side Griffiths is confident Gretna can climb away from the foot of the table. "We can definitely stay in the SPL - the new boys all look great and the training has been quite lively," he said. "I played against JP at Everton and he is a good player. He has a big pedigree and if we can all gel and play as well as we are capable of we can make an impact. The manager has the right mix of experience and youth. We just want to get going."
FOOTBALL WEST WELCOME PLANS FOR NEW STADIUM
Football West has welcomed yesterday's announcement by the State Government to build a new major stadium at Kitchener Park in Subiaco. Premier Alan Carpenter revealed details of the $1.1 billion multi-purpose outdoor stadium to replace Subiaco Oval and cater for AFL, rugby, football, cricket and major events such as concerts. Construction of the stadium is expected to commence in 2011 and will host sporting events for the first time in 2014 with an initial capacity of 40,000 seats. When the stadium is fully completed two years later it will have a total capacity of 60,000 seats with the potential to expand that to 70,000 seats.
Garry Chandler, Football West's chief executive, said the proposed stadium's ability to be swung into a rectangular pitch area was a massive bonus for football, enabling Western Australia to throw their hat into the ring to host major international and domestic games. "A stadium such as this will become a state-of-the-art landmark for Perth, as well as providing football with a home for our biggest matches," Chandler said. "If Australia is to host major international tournaments such as the Asian Cup, or even the World Cup, stadia like this are needed to bring the world game's international stars to the people of Perth."
Chandler also expressed his hope that the Government would soon be able to implement the remaining findings of the Major Stadia Task Force, and commit funding to upgrade Member's Equity Stadium as an important rectangular venue. He also urged authorities not to forget the needs of facilities for amateur and junior football, as well as other sports. "Football is now the fastest growing sport in Australia, from the backyard to the playground, from the under-12s to the A-League," Chandler commented. "With over $1 billion being committed to a new showpiece stadium, we must not forget where our sports stars are discovered, trained and developed – the grounds and pitches of amateur clubs and reserves all over the State."
ARMADALE WILL SURPRISE : DEVINE
A competitive game hasn’t yet been played but Armadale are already being touted as relegation material. But veteran midfielder Scott Devine is having none of it, saying the Reds have a few surprises up their sleeves for the new season. “We are still a young club at this level so our name is always going to be thrown into the relegation mix,” said Devine. “Everyone is buzzing at the moment, we’ve been working with the ball and playing a lot of small-sided games. I think we are going to surprise a few people with our style of play this year and relegation will be the furthest thing from our minds.”
The Reds recent emphasis on youth development has re-energised the club with the likes of Steve Skilandis and Marlon Ramirez making their mark at senior level last year. Devine has been heartened by the coming of age of the Reds’ youngsters and is looking forward to that continuing in the new season. “The younger boys have got another season of Premier League football under their belts and the way they performed last year showed they now have the belief in themselves that they should be playing at this level,” the 32-year old commented.
New coach Brad Hassell brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Armadale which Devine believes will flow right through the club. “Brad’s appointment is terrific as he’s a face that the younger players can identify with,” explained Devine. “No disrespect to Peter Murphy, Billy Russell or Tom Kilkelly, but the young boys have no idea of how good a player these guys were and what they achieved in the game. But with Brad they know he played over 250 games for Perth Glory and Adelaide City as well as representing Australia at youth level, so hopefully he will attract new players of all ages to the club.”
Devine admits to entertaining thoughts of retirement after the rigours of a demanding 2007 campaign. “I badly damaged my ankle again in the final game against Floreat Athena and admit I thought it was curtains at the time,” he said. “But after receiving treatment and advice over the off-season from my physio, Sania, we feel with the right management it should be ready to stand up to another year at least. I think having the decision taken away from you would be a horrible way to bow out of the game so I’ll be doing all the right things to make sure I can play my part at Armadale.”
CACERES CHOOSES MARINERS
Central Coast Mariners have signed Adrian Caceres on a two-year deal from A-League rivals Melbourne Victory. Caceres, 26, will remain with Victory for the first stage of their Asian Champions League campaign before moving to the Mariners ahead of the 2008/09 season. “We’re delighted to have secured the services of one of the Hyundai A-League’s most effective players in the final third in Adrian Caceres,” said Mariners deputy chairman Peter Turnbull. “We see Adrian as a player that will complement our already very strong attacking stocks and importantly, one whose experience in the A-League is as good as any player to have played in the league over its three seasons.”
Born in Argentina, Caceres has come a long a long way since bursting onto the State League scene as a teenager with Perth S.C. The versatile attacker was a key figure in Perth Glory’s National Soccer League championship successes of 2002/03 and 2003/04, as well as the Victory side that claimed the A-League championship and premiership double of 2006/07. His time in Australia has been punctuated by three seasons in England where Caceres turned out for Southampton, Brentford, Hull City, Yeovil Town, Wycombe Wanderers and Aldershot Town.
WE BELONG IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE SAYS MANDURAH’S BRIGHT
Mandurah City will be gunning for the top when they step out for the first time as a Premier League team. Since turning semi-professional six years ago Mandurah have been champing at the bit to line up in the top flight, and now they've made it star player Jeff Bright says they're here to stay. "We know the Premier League is where we belong and everyone at the clubs is excited about the season ahead," said Bright. "Mandurah are going to surprise a lot of teams. We go into every game to win it and aren't afraid of anyone or any club - that's the Mandurah spirit."
There's a wealth of experience within Mandurah's ranks for their inaugural Premier League campaign. Besides Bright, who played over 100 games for Cockburn City, Fremantle City and Perth S.C. prior to joining Mandurah, the Peel club can call upon Graeme Matthews, Christian Pascherwitz, Keith Brown and former Perth Glory defender Ryan Townsend amongst others. "I think the experience of these players and others are going to be the major factor in our season," Bright said. "We all know what it takes to play Premier League and it's a credit to the coach, Stu Currie, that players of this calibre want to play for Mandurah."
It was close to twelve months ago that Bright made the difficult decision to leave perennial title favourite Perth to join Mandurah, a decision motivated chiefly by work commitments. "Joining Mandurah was one of the best decisions I've made," said Bright, who was finding it difficult to commute to the metropolitan area three times a week. "I'd been playing in the Premier League for a long time and it got to the stage where I wasn't enjoying it to the extent that I once had. So moving to Mandurah gave me a fresh start and a chance to re-kindle my passion for playing."
The lively left-back enjoyed his debut season for the Dolphins under coach Stuart Currie who, by his own admission, Bright knew little about when he joined the club. "To be honest I'd never heard of Stu before I called him last year, " Bright confessed. "Stu is a terrific coach and all the players have the utmost recpect for him. I think that showed last season when we beat E.C.U. Joondalup in the Cup. He really amped us up for that game and we responded by running ourselves into the ground for him. Some players could hardly walk off the pitch, but Stu couldn't have been happier with the fighting spirit we showed that day."
Mandurah make their first appearances as a top flight outfit in little over a week when they take on Sorrento in the opening round of Night Series fixtures. Having achieved their long-held aim it’s hardly surprising that Mandurah’s players can hardly wait for the big day to finally arrive. "Mandurah have been preparing for the Premier League since the start of last year so everyone is really excited about this season," said Bright. "We have everything going for us and we know we have the players and the supporters who are prepared to do whatever it takes to help the team move forward."
SOCCEROOS OPEN CAMPAIGN IN STYLE
Australia commenced their qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup in emphatic fashion with a 3-0 thrashing of Qatar at Melbourne's Docklands Stadium this evening. Josh Kennedy, Tim Cahill and Mark Bresciano put their names on the scoresheet in a commanding first half, but the intensity dropped noticeably after the break with the Socceroos content to defend their lead. Long-serving Socceroo Craig Moore announced his retirement from international football following the win.
The Socceroos opener came in the 10th minute when Brett Emerton delivered an excellent cross for Kennedy to rise above two defenders and head in his second goal for his country. The margin was doubled on 17 minutes when an unmarked Cahill glanced Luke Wilkshire's near post corner past Mohammed Saqr. Chances continued to flow and in the 33rd minute Scott McDonald threaded a pass to Marco Bresciano who made no mistake when one-on-one with the Qatari 'keeper.
It was more of the same after the break as Cahill headed just wide and Bresciano shot straight at the 'keeper. Qatar sparked into life and should have pulled one back through substitute Mesaad Alhamad who disappointingly placed wide at close-range. Then Ali Afifi forced a rare save from Mark Schwarzer with an angled strike. John Aloisi should have scored late in the match when he latched on to a terrific long ball from captain Lucas Neill but scuffed his shot to Saqr.
Perth Glory have agreed by mutual consent to part company with midfielder Billy Celeski. Following lengthy discussions with the 22-year old, coach David Mitchell agreed to let the Olyroo hopeful pursue playing options elsewhere. “While I’m disappointed to see a young player with potential move on I’m also mindful that to achieve success at the club going forward we must have a squad that will give everything to our cause,” Mitchell said. “It’s not a decision we’ve taken lightly however we feel it is the best outcome for both the player and for Perth Glory’s future aspirations.”
Mitchell is happy with progress made on the recruitment front for next season that has resulted in discussions with a number of new and existing players. “I’m a little bit fussy with bringing players in and it will take some time to get everything completed, which is okay because we don’t need them next week, however I am mindful of getting them here for a full pre-season program,” Mitchell said. “I want to do thorough checks and make sure the players that come to the Glory have all the attributes we’re looking for and will fit with the culture of the club,” he added.
VALE WANT TO HOLD ON TO HERD
Port Vale are hopeful of renewing Chris Herd's loan from Aston Villa after it runs out this weekend. The 18-year old has impressed in his five games with the Valiants leading manager Lee Sinnott to seek a loan extension. "This was due to be his last game, but we will look to extend that," said Sinnott. "Chris has things to learn, but has done well with us. Villa are happy with his position and I believe Bryan Jones (Villa academy director) and Kevin MacDonald (coach) watched our game against Yeovil and are pleased with the way we are handling their two boys." Herd is one of five players on loan at Vale Park along with Villa teammate Tobias Mikalesson, Birmingham City pair Dave Howland and Krystian Pearce and Keith Lowe from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
DESPOTOVSKI BACK FOR INGLEWOOD
Bobby Despotovski has returned to the training track and is aiming to make his mark with Inglewood United after recovering from a back problem. It’s been over a year since Despotovski brought the curtain down on a stellar national league career in which he scored 113 goals in 241 appearances for Perth Glory. Last year the veteran striker made a handful of State League appearances before succumbing to a back injury that has twice required surgery.
Despotovski, 36, found repeated visits to the chiropractor have put him in the mood to again couple playing with coaching at Inglewood. “It’s always been that if my back is okay I’m going to play this season,” said the Glory legend. “I don’t wake up with that much pain like previously. I still can’t do full jumping and squats with weights and things like that - I don’t push it. But if I can last the full season I’ll play the full season. I feel pretty good for someone who’s done just about nothing for twelve months.”
The ace striker is no less passionate about the sport than he was when he spearheaded the Glory attack, confirming his desire to mould a young Inglewood squad into a competitive unit despite the loss of several key players. Dean Apelgren (Floreat Athena), Shaun Kilkelly (Sorrento) and Greg Sharland (Perth S.C.) have all moved on over the summer leaving Despotovski to work with a poll of potential. “We’ve got a very young squad but I’m confident they’ll be okay,” he said.
Despotovski has backed Glory coach David Mitchell’s pursuit of West Australian talent, claiming local stars could step up to the mark with the aid of a full-time training environment. Mitchell has expressed an interest in E.C.U. Joondalup’s Mark Lee and Floreat midfielder Josip Magdic along with Stirling Lions Marc Anthony and Perth youngster Andrija Jukic. “I would like to see Josip Magdic in the A-League again,” he said. “I think he was coming up to the level and then (former coach) Ron Smith got rid of him. I think he can do it - he’s one who comes to mind.”
GRETNA TAKE ON GRIFFITHS
Blackburn Rovers youngster Rostyn Griffiths has been loaned to Scottish Premier League club Gretna until the end of the season. The midfielder, who has representated Australia at under-17 level, could make his Scottish league debut against Hearts next weekend. Griffiths is rated highly at Blackburn where boss Mark Hughes recently handed the 19-year a new contract which will keep him at Ewood Park until mid-2009. Griffiths started his career with E.C.U. Joondalup before accepting a spot in the Blackburn academy in 2004. He overcame injury at the start of the season to become a regular fixture on the right side of the park for the reserves.
GLORY STAND TO LOSE TARKA
Perth Glory’s decision to offer David Tarka a performance-based contract will test the defender’s loyalty to his hometown club. It’s understood Glory are confident of re-signing Tarka on a relatively small base wage with cash incentives rewarding the one-time Socceroo for the more games he plays. It’s a move in line with the club owners’ desire to tighten the purse strings in contractual negotiations after suffering an expected $2million loss for last season. However, the injury-prone defender may be tempted to head across the Tasman where Wellington Phoenix has tabled a deal believed to be in excess of $150,000 per season.
On his day Tarka is one of the nations most accomplished defenders, however, his recent past is blighted by injury. Tarka stepped up to national league ranks with Glory in 2001 and was a star performer in the clubs championship winning side of 2002/03. A nightmare run of injuries prevented him from making a single appearance for Nottingham Forest during a two-year stay in England. Tarka was at his best on returning to Glory and at the end of the 2006/07 campaign collected the clubs Most Glorious Player and Players’ Player of the Year awards. But last season he lasted only 18 minutes before a ruptured hamstring tendon forced him on to the sidelines.
FUTURE MATILDAS CLAIM THIRD PLACE IN NEW ZEALAND
Marianna Tabain has secured Australia third place at the ‘Future Stars’ tournament in Auckland. A penalty converted by Perth-based Tabain was all that separated the national Under-17 team from their New Zealand counterparts in a tightly contested final match of the event on Saturday. The win ensured the next generation of Matildas ended the four-nation tournament on a high after going down to the United States of America and Germany in earlier games. West Australian trio Samantha Kerr, Ella Mastrantino and Tabain took part in all three of Australia’s games.
Australia was no match for a powerful United States outfit who triumphed 6-0 in their opening game last Tuesday. Captain Casey Dumont performed admirably between the posts for Australia in keeping the scoreline down against a far more experienced opponent. Samantha Mewis bagged a hat-trick for the United States whose other goals came via Victoria Di Martino, Kristen Mewis and Courtney Verloo. Germany dumped New Zealand 4-0 in the days other action.
The national Under-17 went down 5-1 to Germany in the second round of fixtures. Despite the scoreline, the young Australian side gave a good account of themselves against one of the powerhouse nations of women’s football. Germany opened up a three-goal buffer courtesy of Svenja Huth, Turid Knaak and Kristine Zumbült before being pegged back to 3-1 with Emily van Egmond heading in a Tabain cross on the stroke of halftime. Annika Doppler and Alexandra Popp scored on the counterattack to make the game safe for the Germans. The United States trounced New Zealand 5-0 in the late game.
A final day win over New Zealand lifted Australia above the host nation and into third place on the final standings. Encouraged by their performance against Germany, Australia started brightly with good chances coming the way of Tameka Butt and Teigan Allen. The games only goal arrived on 44 minutes when Tabain converted from the spot following a foul on Butt. A spirited second half produced openings for both teams with Australia’s best falling to Kerr who shaved the upright from close range. The United States won the tournament by defeating Germany 1-0.
The Australian Under-17 squad for the ‘Future Stars’ tournament featured Teigan Allen, Tara Andrews, Nicola Bolger, Alesha Clifford, Rachel Cooper, Jenna Kingsley, Linda O’Neill, Kyah Simon, Emily van Egmond, Rachel Wynne (New South Wales), Tameka Butt, Casey Dumont, Sophie Hogben, Vedrana Popovic (Queensland), Ruth Wallace (South Australia) Samantha Kerr, Ella Mastrantonio and Marianna Tabain (Western Australia).
PETKOVIC WANTS TO PLAY ON
Jason Petkovic has told Perth Glory coach David Mitchell he is ready for the rigours of another season after feeling no ill effects on his return from a 15-month absence through injury. Mitchell is yet to decide whether to offer a contract to the 35-year old and Petkovic, whose contract expires in April, revealed yesterday he would consider moving interstate to continue his career. After earlier misgivings about playing on, Petkovic met Mitchell this week to inform the coach of his intentions. “My biggest concern was how the body would pull up but it was fine,” he said. “Three games is not a season but it’s enough to indicate that I’m still up for the rigours of professional football.”
Petkovic suffered a career threatening leg break in October 2006 but returned to action for Glory’s final three games of the recent season after a painstaking rehabilitation program. In those three appearances, Petkovic might not have moved with the speed and purposed that epitomised his game during his heyday, but he is adamant he will continue to improve as he plays more games. “To be expected to get back to full fitness in three games after being out for 15 months was a big ask,” he said. “But if I had a proper pre-season and a few more games, I’d be close to where I was (before the injury).” Australian youth international Tando Velaphi, 20, os the only goalkeeper contracted to Glory for next season.
Although he doesn’t have youth on his side, Petkovic has a wealth of experience that he believes can help Glory sail out of the doldrums next season following three successive failures to reach the A-League finals. “I’ve played in six grand finals and I managed to win a few of them,” said Petkovic, who collected one National Soccer League Grand Final winners medals with Adelaide City and another two during his time at Glory. “I’ve won minor premierships as well. I know what it takes to be in a championship team. I’m not lacking in experience.” The veteran shot-shopper has 327 national league games to his credit, spent a season in Turkey with Konyaspor and has represented Australia on 16 occasions.
Petkovic is unlikely to travel with Glory to China in March because he will be forced to rest for about six weeks after having a pin removed from his leg. Mitchell expects to make a decision on the goalkeeper after that. “Jason looked like he was getting better with each game he played but I want to bide my time,” said the coach. “He now has to go back in and have the pin removed and go through the healing process again. I’d like to see how he recovers and then make a decision.” Petkovic, who has a 21-month old daughter and whose wife Tania is expecting the couple’s second child in June, said having a young family would not deter him from seeking an interstate move, although his preference is to take in Perth. “I would consider everything,” he said.
NUNES POSITIVE ABOUT SOUTH MELBOURNE MOVE
The defence at South Melbourne will take on a distinctly West Australian flavour this season with Shane Nunes and Steve MacDonald agreeing terms with the club. Nunes, a central figure at Cockburn City in recent years, has matured into one of the states most accomplished and respected defenders since earning his senior debut at Fremantle Spirit in 2003. He’ll be partnered at the back by Sorrento stalwart MacDonald, whose ability to fill defensive and attacking roles made him a popular figure at the Gulls.
For Nunes it’s an opportunity to test himself in a new setting and stake his claim to playing at the next level. “I’m feeling very positive about joining South Melbourne and hope there are bigger things to come,” he said. “South Melbourne are a big club with a very proud history and I want to be part of that and win a few trophies with the club. I’m looking forward to gaining some experience in the Victorian league and if that goes well to put myself in the picture for an A-League contract.”
Word of Nunes’ defensive abilities and calming demeanour preceded his arrival in Melbourne last month for what he thought was trials. “It’s terrific to know that all my efforts with Cockburn have been recognised,” he explained. “When I got to Melbourne they told me I didn’t need to trial - they’d heard a lot of positive things about me already and were comfortable and positive that I’d be good enough to play for South Melbourne.”
Nunes leaves Cockburn in a strong position and feels confident the club is on the cusp on achieving trophy success. “There are big things to come for Cockburn as there’s heaps of talent down there,” he enthused. “There are so many things I’m going to miss about playing for Cockburn as I’ve made a lot of friends at the club. I’d like to thank all the players as without them I wouldn’t be in this position in my career, and also to coaches Scott Miller and Peter Petkovich who backed me all the way last season.”
Away from football, Nunes says it’s family and friends that he’ll miss the most as he chases his football dream with one of Australia’s most successful clubs. “I’m going to miss my family, they’ve supported me throughout my career and without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” he said about moving interstate. “My friends are in Perth, I’ve lived here all my life, and it’s going to be strange not having them around all the time.”
VALIANTS GIVEN HOPE BY HERD’S ARRIVAL
Teenage star Chris Herd is positive Port Vale can still rescue their season. Herd’s performances for the Valiants since joining on a month’s loan from Aston Villa have been one of few positives for the League One club which is starring relegation in the face. Lee Sinnott’s decision to pack his side with youngsters such as Herd and fellow loan signings Tobias Mikaelsson and Dave Howland has certainly paid off with Port Vale collecting four points from their past four outings.
Herd has enjoyed his first few weeks at Vale Park and is confident the club can claw their way clear of the drop zone. “It is a lot more physical compared to reserve team football, but I have found it all right,” said the 18-year old of his transition to senior ranks. “I think there’s a good mix between young and experienced players here. Both are capable of producing the good results and performances.” Herd starred on debut against Millwall just over a fortnight ago, was comfortably his side’s best player in Saturday’s loss to Bournemouth and played an important role in last nights fighting 2-2 draw with Yeovil Town.
NEW DEAL KEEPS COYNE AT HOME
Jamie Coyne has turned down lucrative offers from interstate to be part of his hometown club’s long-awaited revival. The locally produced defender was hotly pursued by Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory, who will feature in this year’s Asian Champions League tournament, but decided to stay in Perth after negotiating an improved two-year deal. Despite Glory finishing second bottom in the past two seasons, Coyne firmly believed that coach David Mitchell would build a squad capable of featuring in the A-League finals for the first time.
The 27-year old still has fond memories of Glory’s 2002/03 and 2003/4 National Soccer League triumphs, having played an important role in both, and he is desperate to help the club rekindle the glory days. “As a Perth boy and being part of that success, you don’t want to jump ship now,” Coyne said. “I want to be a big part of turning it around. I think Mitch will attract some good players here to complement the players he wants to keep and the others we’ve already got. I’m very confident about next season.”
Coyne’s versatility caught the eye of a number of clubs around the country last season, however, his determination to see Glory succeed ensued he’ll add to the 89 games already played for the club. “Jamie has had an outstanding season and it was important that we retained him for a variety of reasons,” said Mitchell. “He is obviously a quality player and will be a key ingredient for us moving forward however his signature also sends a clear message that Perth is a great place to play football and the Glory is on the way up.”
ROBINSON EXTENDS GLORY STAY
English import James Robinson has committed himself to another season with Perth Glory. The Liverpool born attacker will also be hoping to build on a strong debut season with the club in which his tenacity and work rate impressed the Glory coaching staff and supporters alike. “He works his socks off and probably doesn’t always get the plaudits he deserves because he isn’t always doing the flashy stuff, but we know the amount of work he is putting in and I was keen to have him back on board this season,” said coach David Mitchell.
Robinson scored twice in 18 appearances last season for Glory. His determination and positive attitude have proved infectious at the club where the 25-year old has quickly become a much admired member of the squad. “Robbo has a lot of character and is a great player to have in and around the dressing rooms,” commented Mitchell. “If you couple that with his football ability then you have an excellent package and it’ll be great to have him around the club going forward.”
Glory now has eleven players under contract for the summer of 2008/09 and is working to add to that number in coming weeks. “The players we have ready to go for next season are focused on getting the club back into the top four and, I believe, will provide the driving force to help ensure the club is once again a feared opponent across the league,” said Mitchell. “We still have plenty of work to do but things are progressing well and I think the calibre of players we have retained proves that there is a very positive feeling about what we’re setting out to achieve.”
ANTHONY STEPS INTO THE LIONS DEN
Stirling Lions have sharpened their attack with the recruitment of Marc Anthony. Widely considered one of the best imports of recent years, Scottish-born Anthony impressed all-comers with his creativity, vision and tireless work ethic while at E.C.U. Joondalup last season. A free agent come seasons end, the 29-year old fielded offers from several clubs before opting to call Macedonia Park home in 2008. “I’m really looking forward to playing for Stirling, they have a good set up and have been great to deal with,” said Anthony.
An opportunity to be coached by Everton legend Mick Lyons and play a role in the development of the Lions youngsters was simply an offer too good to refuse according to Anthony. “Mickey’s a good coach, he’s great with the young kids and that’s one thing I noticed last year - he’s not afraid to play the young lads,” he said. “One thing I spoke to Mickey about before I signed was that he wanted me to improve the side and also to bring on the young players, and that’s what I’m hoping to do next season.”
Born in Edinburgh, Anthony started his senior career at the age of 17 with Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic. He was limited to just a single appearance in four years at Celtic Park but picked up valuable first team experience through loan spells at Tranmere Rovers and Clydebank. Three seasons with Berwick Rangers and another couple at Forfar Athletic took his Scottish League tally to over 150 games. Anthony ended his time in Scotland with two seasons at Linlithgow Rose whom he helped to League and Cup glory.
Anthony linked up with Joondalup on the eve of last season and very quickly had to acclimatise to the West Australian conditions. “It was a little bit strange when I first arrived from Scotland especially with the weather. My first couple of games the temperature was 26 degrees, which obviously we don’t get that back home,” he said of his introduction to playing in Australia. “The league here is of a good standard, games are played in the right spirit and most the teams try to play football.”
Playing for Joondalup was a terrific experience for Anthony who felt at home the moment he arrived at the club. “I loved it at Joondalup. When I first arrived from Scotland I went straight up the club and right away I got a good feeling about the place,” said Anthony, who came in third on Gold Medal night. “I met Willie McNally, Gerry McEwan, Syd Amphlett and John Higgins when I first went there and they all made me feel welcome, so when they asked me to sign I had no hesitation.”
Playing A-League football is the next logical move for Anthony, who is being monitoring by Perth Glory. “Obviously it would be great to play for the Glory, to go back to full-time training and play in the best league in Australia,” he said. “I’ve not spoken to David Mitchell in great lengths, but he has said he’ll be keeping an eye on me. He said it’s up to me to get my head down at the Lions, and get fit and he will have a look at me in the Night Series … so if I can make an impact there may be an opportunity.”
RIZZO PROMISES AN IMPROVED SECOND SEASON
Nick Rizzo believes will be of more benefit to Perth Glory next season after his recent campaign was blighted by a lack of match fitness. Rizzo, who was limited to just a dozen appearances, had his disappointment compounded when sent off in Glory’s 2-1 defeat of Newcastle Jets in the final round of the regular season. The send-off was a harsh way to end a tough season for Rizzo, whose infrequent appearances have prompted suggestions he could be tempted to find a way out of the remaining years of his contract.
But Rizzo, who represented Australian in 1998, is having none of it. “If I do move on it will be because I’m not in the club’s plans,” said the 28-year old. “But I’m happy living in Perth, my wife’s settled in and she’s got a job in the city. The only thing is, I’d like to play more games. I think the club expected more from me as well and I know I can give a hell of a lot more than I’ve given. I’ve been motivated and I’ve wanted to do well but it’s been my fitness that’s let me know.”
Rizzo felt missing the pre-season program was largely responsible for his erratic season and vowed to use the long break to be in peak condition for his second summer with Glory. “I didn’t really have a pre-season. I went straight into playing fames,” he said. “I’m going to make sure I’m absolutely flying before we even start pre-season.” Born in Sydney, Rizzo spent eleven years overseas with stints at Liverpool, Crystal Palace, Milton Keynes Dons in England as well as time in Italy at Ternana and AC Prato.
LOCALS TO GET A FAIR GO UNDER MITCHELL
David Mitchell is sticking with his pledge to examine the West Australian Premier League ranks as Perth Glory build towards next season. Floreat Athena midfielder Josip Magdic, who was on Glory’s books the season before last, and E.C.U. Joondalup’s Mark Lee, winner of the 2005 Gold Medal, are both in Mitchell’s sights. Others who are expected to come under scrutiny from the Glory boss include Stirling Lions teammates Marc Anthony and Steve Hesketh (Stirling Lions), Andrjia Jukic (Perth S.C.) and Callum Roberts (Fremantle Spirit).
HARNWELL SIGNS ON FOR GLORY
Jamie Harnwell will remain a Perth Glory player after agreeing to a new two-year contract with his hometown club. After topping Glory’s scoring for the second consecutive season, Harnwell turned down a tempting offer from Queensland Roar to remain in Perth. “I’m very pleased to be staying with Glory,” said Harnwell, who began the campaign out of favour with then coach Ron Smith. “It was obviously something that seemed pretty unlikely at the start of the season so I’m very pleased with how everything worked out.” The new deal takes Harnwell through to the end of the 2009/2010 season and puts him in the frame to eclipse Bobby Despotovski as the clubs record appearance maker.
There were a number of factors which swaying Harnwell into remaining with Glory, none more so that the desire to return to the club to the top of the national league pile. “I felt there was a lot of unfinished business here and I didn’t want to leave the club in the situation we’re in,” he explained. “If and when I leave Glory I want it to be when the club is successful so I can look back and think of the part I played in that. Also, Perth is my home and with a young family I had to look at how it would affect them. The lifestyle here is second to none and we have great family support and fantastic friends that I would’ve been sad to leave behind.”
Even so, Harnwell admits he seriously considered moving on from the club he’s played for since 1998. “I was close to going a couple of times. You’re are always mulling things over in your head and I would decide one thing only to change my mind an hour later,” he said. “The offer to go was very tempting. They obviously have a fantastic set up and I have a great deal of respect for their coach and how they play the game. There was always the thought that I have nothing left to prove in Perth and the thought of a new challenge appealed to me.”
Glory coach Dave Mitchell is delighted to have the 30-year old commit to the club. “Jamie Harnwell epitomises Perth Glory - he is passionate about this club and displays great character amongst the group. He will play a very important role for us over the next couple of seasons,” said Mitchell. “Jamie is versatile enough to play a role at the back if needed and is more than willing to put his body on the line at either end of the pitch. That is exactly what I’ll be asking of each and every person wearing the Perth Glory strip next season and Jamie will be a leader in that cause,” Mitchell said.
Harnwell starred on the local scene with Sorrento and Kingsway Olympic before signing moving into national league ranks with Glory in 1998. The highlights of a long and successful career have been many and include two championships and three premierships in the National Soccer League. Harnwell has twice taken out Glory’s Best Clubman award and for each of the past two seasons was their leading scorer. Along the way he’s made 207 appearances for the club, a tally bettered only by retired greats Despotovski (241) and Scott Miller (211).
RHODES THRILLED TO BE AMONGST LIONS
‘Pleased as punch’ pretty much sums up how Jordan Rhodes is feeling about returning to Stirling Lions. Fresh from playing his part in Mandurah City’s triumphant First Division campaign, Rhodes says he’s looking forward to resuming his Premier League career at Stirling. “It’s a terrific club to be at and I’m excited about being back,” said Rhodes, who was a key member of the Lions Cup winning squad of 2006. “I can’t speak highly enough of the atmosphere at the club - from the president down through the coaches and players, everybody is friendly, wants to work for each other and wants to bring success to Stirling.”
Rhodes spent last winter at Mandurah where he was a vital ingredient in Stuart Curries’ side that swept their way to the First Division title, and into the top flight. “It’s difficult to leave the lads at Mandurah after the season we had. I would liked to have stayed on for their first year in the Premier League but I’m living in Perth and my work commitments don’t allow me time to commute to and from Mandurah,” said the livewire 20-year old. “I’ve never played against Mandurah before so it will be an unusual experience for me when that fixture comes around this season.”
Other than a couple of changes to the playing roster, Rhodes says the squad is much the same as when he was there two years ago. “The squad hasn’t changed considerably since 2006, which is a credit to the club as the players are staying for long periods and not wanting moving on,” he commented. “Keith Brown and Dave Dugdale are our two key losses from last season, but Marc Anthony and Albert Osei-Tutu have been down for the pre-season and looked sharp. Marc adds a bit more creative drive in the midfield as well as plenty of experience, whilst Albert gives us a different type of option up front.”
Pre-season training commenced a couple of weeks ago for those at Stirling and will slowly build to their opening Night Series game against ECU Joondalup in mid-February. “We started in early January and are currently training three times a week. There’s a lot of fitness work involved at this time of the year but the majority of it has been with the football. We’ve got a few friendlies lined up for early next month and after those we go into the pre-season competition. It’s a pleasure to work under Mike Lyons, his honesty and enthusiasm commands respect and as a result you don’t want to let him down.”
Lyons, former captain of Everton, has assembled a balanced squad for the new season which Rhodes feels is capable of ending the season with silverware. “Mike has got the right mix of experience and youth at the club this season,” said Rhodes. “There are too many to name individually, but the younger players now all have a years more experience under their belts and I believe we will see great things from them this season. Mike hasn’t spoken to the lads about goals for the season but knowing him he’ll expect 100% from all the players and if he gets that we should be able to bring a trophy or two Macedonia Park.”
PRESTON TEMPT MICEVSKI TO MELBOURNE
Following a year battling injury Daniel Micevski has decided to wipe the slate clean by moving to Melbourne. The skilful 22-year old midfielder heads east shortly to commence a one-year contract with Victoria Premier League champion Preston Lions. "I'm really looking forward developing further as a footballer in Melbourne," Micevski said. "My priority will be to cement my spot in the first eleven, if I can be playing well and playing consistently then I'll be happy."
It's been twelve months since Preston first tried to lure Micevski east. "I was invited to join Preston last season after one of their officials saw me in the Night Series. But I wanted to play out the season with Stirling Lions and complete my studies," said Micevski, who gratefully accepted the clubs offer of a trial last month. "I went to Melbourne a couple of weeks before Christmas. The coach, Goran Lozanovski, was very welcoming and made it clear that he wanted me at the club for the coming season."
Micevski came up through the ranks at Perth S.C. but it was only after joining Bayswater City in 2006 that he emerged as a player of great distinction. His upward rise was expected to continue last season with Stirling but that was brought to a shuddering halt by injury. "Things started on a high but very quickly fell away," he explained. "We were unbeaten and in the last four of the Night Series when I tore ligaments in my knee. I was out for half the season and to be completely honest never got back to being 100%."
To make sure he was in peak form for trials at Preston Micevski turned to Ronnie Campbell and Willie Kelly at Western Knights. "I played for Ronnie and Willie in the Australian-Croatian Tournament at the end of last year and stayed on for the pre-season this year," he said. "Initially I did a lot of strengthening work to make sure my knee was 100% and then slowly built up my fitness. Ronnie and Willie were fantastic and it was a tough decision not to stay with them this year - I wish the boys at the club all the best for this season."
QUEENSLAND COURTS HARNWELL
Queensland Roar has made a play for Perth Glory stalwart Jamie Harnwell. Ritchie Hinton, Harnwell’s agent, confirmed the versatile 30-year old is considering Roar’s offer as well as that tabled by Glory. Harnwell’s ability to play both attacking and defensive roles makes him a valuable commodity, particularly for the Roar who stand to lose Brazilian import Reinaldo along with Sasa Ognenovski. The news comes only days after Glory parted ways with midfielders Simon Colosimo and Leo Bertos.
TIME FOR CHANGE SAYS FOSTER
David Foster is hoping an off-season move to Floreat Athena can breathe new life into his career. A series of unfortunate setbacks have hampered the now 24-year old since spearheading Swan I.C. to Cup final glory in 2004. The latest of these was a career-threatening bout of glandular fever which forced him on to the sidelines for much of last year, however, with the new season fast approaching Foster says he’s on back on track and ready to make his mark at Floreat. “I’ve overcome the illness and I feel really good and I can’t wait to get back into shape,” commented Foster.
While admitting it was difficult to leave Swan, Foster says the time is ripe for a new challenge in his career. “It was huge decision to leave Francis Street, it’s such a great atmosphere down at Swan and I’ll definitely miss that,” said Foster, who was lured to Francis Street in 2004 by then coach Gary Marocchi. “I’ve had four good years at the club but I believe its time to move on. The move to Floreat is a new start for me, and is what I need hopefully to find my goal scoring touch again and bang a few goals in.”
Floreat coach Michael Roki is pleased to have finally lured Foster to Litis Stadium. “I’ve been trying to sign David for a few years but he’s remained loyal to Swan, a quality I very much admire,” said Roki. “The timing was right this year for him to make a break and he’s looked sharp and enthusiastic in the first few sessions. I believe he’ll be an influential player this season. David has shown in the past that he’s an efficient striker who makes the most of his opportunities with little wastage, and we’re all hoping he’ll continue that with Floreat.”
Foster enjoyed his time with the black and whites and considers the 2004 Cup final win against Fremantle City as the pinnacle of his four years with the club. “Winning the Cup in 2004 was the highlight as it topped off one of my best seasons in football,” he said. “The 2006 Cup final against Stirling Lions was also an amazing game, yes we lost but it was a battle to the last second and a game I will not forget in a hurry. And the end of season trips with the Swans boys were always memorable, but what happens on tour stays on tour.”
TOPOR-STANLEY NAMED IN SOCCEROOS SQUAD
Nikolai Topor-Stanley has been rewarded for an outstanding season with Perth Glory by being included in the Australian squad to tackle Qatar. The 22-year old left back has been a regular in the national under-23 team, which earned their place in the Beijing Olympics, and now has an opportunity to secure his first senior cap. "It certainly came as a surprise when I was told I was in the squad," Topor-Stanley said. "I think most footballers dream about playing for their country and it has always been a goal of mine to become a Socceroo. I know I have a lot of hard work ahead and just to be part of the squad is a real thrill for me." Topor-Stanley is one of eight Olyroos named in Pim Verbeek's preliminary Australian squad which opens their World Cup qualifying campaign against Qatar on Wednesday 6th February in Melbourne.
COLOSIMO AND BERTOS SPLIT WITH GLORY
Perth Glory has confirmed the departure of captain Simon Colosimo and New Zealand international Leo Bertos. The club decided to break off contract talks to allow both players to seek further playing opportunities elsewhere next season. Colosimo is understood to be close to signing for Sydney F.C. while Bertos has confirmed he’ll return to New Zealand to wear the colours of Wellington Phoenix.
While disappointed to lose the midfield pair, David Mitchell is confident of finding more than adequate replacements. “It is certainly their prerogative to look around, as they were out of contract, and both leave the club on good terms,” said the coach. “It simply means that we will be able to bring in new and passionate players that want to be at the club and we’re well down the path of securing the services of quality personnel.”
Over the past few days Mitchell has met with a number of players’ agents in Australia along with talent scouts from around the globe. “I have been in contact with a lot of people that I know in the game and there are things in motion already but it’ll be a bit of a waiting game now to finalise things contractually,” he said. “We have to make sure that people who come to Perth are winners and have the right mental attitude and strength who’ll fight hard to take this club to the top again.”
RETAIN, RECRUIT AND REJUVENATE IS MITCHELL’S MISSION
With the new now over Perth Glory coach Dave Mitchell has switched focus to rebuilding his squad. Mitchell has already flagged a least a half dozen players from the current crop as having the necessary qualities to fulfil his master plan while the eyes and ears of a world wide scouting network are in full swing to bring new players to Perth. “This is a very important part of the season where we have to make sure we recruit properly to get players in that can win games for us and get the Glory back into the top four,” said the Glory boss.
Following his teams’ final game of the season in Newcastle on Friday, Mitchell opted to remain on the east coast to take a closer look at potential recruits. “There are certain players I want to go and have a look at and a number of agents that I’ll be talking to as well,” he said. “I also have my own network that I’m very confident will bring the club quality performers. The ball has been rolling for a number of weeks already and is now definitely picking up pace.”
The search for new talent will also take on a local flavour with several local players identified by assistant coaches Robbie Dunn and Kenny Lowe. “Robbie and Kenny have put several names forward and I’ll be having a closer look at the lads in the next few weeks,” said Mitchell. “Some of them I already know like Josip Magdic who, I believe, has learned a lot by going back to the State League after being released by Glory last season. He would fit in quite nicely and with the proper guidance he could do very well at this level.”
A tough season on the pitch has had its silver linings, particularly the rapid development of Glory’s young talent. “As we’ve gone on the younger guys have had invaluable experience that will put them in good shape for next season,” Mitchell said. “We have seen some excellent performances from many of out younger players. Jimmy (Downey) has had a fantastic season, Nikita (Rukavytsya) has really stepped up and Nikolai Topor-Stanley has been outstanding in defence, just to name a few.”
Mitchell, who took charge mid-season following the departure of Ron Smith, is confident he can assemble a squad that will return excitement and a winning brand of football back to Members Equity Stadium. “We have a lot of work ahead but I’m genuinely excited about the prospect of reshaping the squad,” he said. ““I want to make sure that all Glory members and supporters know that everyone is working their backsides off to bring the best players possible to the club.”
VRTESKI REAPS THE REWARDS
Former Perth Glory goalkeeper Aleks Vrteski is preparing to return to the freezing temperatures of a harsh European winter and into what is likely to be the most defining few months of his career so far. The FK Pobeda custodian, who terminated his Glory contract six months ago for a place in Macedonia’s top league, is now ready to reap the rewards of his bold move.
After getting a brief taste of the competition in four starts for Pobeda, 19-year old Vrteski is now poised to take on the main goalkeeping role at the club in the wake of the incumbents’ move to Belguim. “I’ve spoken to the club and they’ve backed me by saying they aren’t going to sign another goalkeeper in the break,” said Vrteski, who returned to Perth during Macedonia’s winter recess. “This is a massive opportunity for me to get game time and have some sort of platform.”
Vrteski wondered whether his career might be staggering to a premature conclusion during the last days of his Glory career, which amounted to just nine appearances. “There was a period of about a month before I left Glory where I thought ‘this is it’,” said Vrteski of his lack of motivation. “I turned 19 and things weren’t going well and I knew it was make or break. It was a massive, massive risk but it paid off. It really opened my eyes in Macedonia and I grew up as a person.”
Although it has taken him away from his father Kris, mother Senzana and younger brother Zoran, the teenager has settled quickly into his new lifestyle aided by extended family who live in a nearby village. But football, more than anything, has injected him with renewed spirit. “Everyone talks about football in Macedaonia, everyone loves the game so much. It’s more a lifestyle than a job,” said Vrteski, who has impressed national team selectors in four games to such a degree that he’s in the frame for the national under-21 team.
Pobeda coach Nikola Zdraveski was the first to point Vrteski in the right direction, telling him he had to lose weight if he wanted to be considered. “I was doing double sessions every day and sometimes triple session,” said Vrteski who shed 15 kilograms to meet his coach’s guidelines. A trimmed down Vrteski then capitalised on a shoulder injury to Darko Tofiloski to play his first games for the club. Vrteski returns to Macedonia today relishing his new-found responsibilities. “I’ve got the desire back again … I can’t wait to get back,” he enthused.
TEN-MAN GLORY SHOT DOWN BY JETS
A ten man Perth Glory have stuttered to a 2-1 loss to Newcastle Jets in their final game of the 2007/08 season. Mark Bridges’ 64th minute strike secured victory and elevated Newcastle to top of the table, three points ahead of Queensland Roar, Sydney F.C. and Central Coast Mariners. Joel Griffiths twelfth goal of the season had given the home side the lead after 22 minutes but the sides went into the break on level terms courtesy of a Jamie Harnwell header. Glory, who remains above last-placed Wellington Phoenix on goal difference, had to do with only ten men for close to an hour after the dismissal of Nick Rizzo. “I thought Newcastle played very good football, especially in the first half,” said coach David Mitchell. “I said to the lads we had to put in a much improved performance in the second half and we did, but it was always going to be very difficult with ten men.”
A frantic opening period had Newcastle on top as Dino Djulbic deflected wide James Holland’s shot afte 4 minutes. Griffiths should have given the hosts club the lead from the resulting corner but somehow side-footed wide from point-blank range. Nikita Rukavytsya forced a sharp save from Ante Covic down the other end but it was Newcastle who were doing all the attacking as Noel Spencer and Troy Hearfield went close. The pressure paid off on 22 minutes when a looping Matt Thompson cross was headed past Jason Petkovic by an unmarked Griffiths. Glory should have equaliser through Rukavytsya who pounced on a defensive error but shot too close to Covic. Things went from bad to worse for the visitors in the 37th minute when Rizzo was red carded for a late challenge on Tarek Elrich. However, Harnwell brought Glory level on the stroke of half time by converting at close-range after Billy Celeski’s deep corner was nodded down by Nikolai Topor-Stanley.
Newcastle began the second period full of running and Hoffman’s low strike forced a good save from Petkovic. The Glory custodian was in the thick of action a few minutes later by denying Bridge, while on 52 minutes he was stretched by an Elrich thunderbolt from distance. Next to threaten was Hearfield but he too could find no way past Petkovic, in what may have been his final national league appearance. However, Newcastle eventually broke through as crisp passing between Hearfield and Adam D’Apuzzo resulted in a the latter delivering a superb pass to Bridge who raced clear before slotting past an exposed ‘keeper. Elrich was unlucky not to add a fourth to the tally with a curling shot from the edge of the 18-yard box that cannoned back of the upright. Glory’s only real chance of the half came courtesy of James Downey who skipped down the right before crossing for Jamie Coyne who was thwarted by desperate defending.
STOITIS AT THE CROSSROADS
Daniel Stoitis may have marshalled the Inglewood United defence for the last time. A recent job promotion combined with increased commitments on the home front has the robust defender pondering his future. “I’m uncertain as to what involvement I will have this year with Inglewood,” said Stoitis, who turns 24 today. “Bobby Despotovski and the coaching staff have allowed me time to sort out a new work routine so I’ll begin my preparation for the season ahead in February sometime. I hope to continue on but I’ve just finished building a new house so football is taking a back seat at the moment.”
The off-season hasn’t been kind to Inglewood who has already lost Dean Apelgren, Shaun Kilkelly and Greg Sharland. Even so, it’s business as usual at Clipsal Stadium where youth development will be the focus in 2008. “The club will be placing a huge emphasis on youth and will be looking at all the young players through the pre-season period,” said Stoitis. “Our Reserves have won the title two years in a row and the departure of a few key players provides them a massive opportunity to step up and become regular first team players. James Duncan was outstanding at centre-back towards the end of last season and is set for a big year along with Alex Stamatiadis and James Sammut.
Stoitis says Inglewood are prepared to make short-term sacrifices in order to secure a brighter long-term outlook for the club. “When you’re in a re-building phase and an emphasis on youth is in place you have to sometimes sacrifice your position on the ladder. The key thing is the development of the young boys,” said Stoitis, an Inglewood regular since 2004. “If we can finish in the top five - as we did last year - it would be a fantastic achievement. But staying in the Premier League and consolidating with the new young players should by the most realistic aim for the 'Wood.”
BUSHBY GLAD TO BE HOME
The familiar face of Scott Bushby has re-surfaced at E.C.U. Joondalup. The creative young midfielder is glad to be back at the club where he grew up following a season-long stay at Western Knights. "It's nice to come back to the club were it all started for me," said 20-year old Bushby. "My mates are playing here - Jon Higgins, Martyn Ashworth, Scott Blackmore and Tommy Amphlett - and I get along well with the president, Steve Amphlett, and John Higgins senior. We hope we can challenge for the League and Cup this season, with a good squad of players and two good coaches in Willie McNally and Kenny Lowe."
With the new season fast approaching, Bushby is quietly confident Joondalup can be in the mix for silverware this year. "We hope we can challenge for the League and Cup this season, with a good squad of players and two good coaches in Willie McNally and Kenny Lowe." he said. "Willie's training sessions are competitive and intense, which keeps everyone interested. The players respect him a lot and always listen to what he has to say ... I think he can help me improve my game and help me push on to the next level."
Although not everything went according to plan last year at the Knights, Bushby enjoyed the experience which he feels has made him a better player. "My one-year move to the Knights was a good experience in my opinion. It didn't go quite as well as I would have liked but at the time I think I needed a change and don't regret it," he said. "We had a lot of injuries to key players throughout the season which didn't help, and meant I played all over the midfield and on a few occasions up front so I struggled a bit for consistency."
One of the highlights of his time at Nash Field was benefitting fro the knowledge of coaches Ronnie Campbell and Willie Kelly. "I really enjoyed playing and training for Ronnie and Willie. They're both very professional in what they do and what they want to achieve," he said. "I personally think they will do well this year with a lot of good youngsters stepping up to the first team. They will both get the best out of them and with a few experienced lads still at the club will challenge at the top."
Eighteen months ago Bushby's life-long dream of a professional life in football almost became reality when New Zealand Knights coach John Adshead came knocking. Even though an A-League contract didn't materialise on that occasion - Adshead resigned shortly after approaching Bushby - the midfielder hasn't given up on achieving his long-held ambition. "I would love to play in the A-League if the opportunity came up," he said. "But first I need to be playing well for Joondalup consistently, and staying fit ... if I can do that then anything could happen."
COLOSIMO SETS CONTRACT DEADLINE
Simon Colosimo has handed Perth Glory an ultimatum - offer the midfielder a new contract by Sunday or he's leaving the club. After weeks of speculation that Colosimo had already signed for Sydney F.C. next season, the 29-year old said yesterday he would instruct his agent to pursue an interstate move if an offer had not been received from Glory this weekend. "It's a little bit disappointing I haven't been offered anything," said Colosimo, a surprise omission from the squad which plays Newcastle Jets this evening. "I think they're assuming I've already signed." Coach David Mitchell lauded Colosimo's ability and contribution, but believes the player might be better off in Sydney where he would be under the nose of new Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek.
VALE RUSSELL WHITSON
The football family is in mourning following the passing of former player and respected journalist Russell Whitson this morning. Born in Scotland, Whitson played in Sydney, New Guinea and New Zealand before moving to Perth in 1965. He initially played for North Perth but found success with Cracovia with whom he won the 1967 D’Orsogna Cup. He turned to journalism after sustaining a serious leg injury early the following year, writing for the Weekend news, the Sunday Times and the Sunday Independent. For the past eight years he served on the Football Hall of Fame Western Australia committee.
COLCHESTER WILL BEAT THE DROP SAYS COYNE
Chris Coyne is confident his new club, Colchester United, can beat relegation from the English Championship this season. The 29-year old was inspirational in the heart of defence on his U’s debut that earned a 1-1 draw with high-flying Bristol City on the weekend. And although the point was not enough to stop Colchester returning to the foot of the table, the Coyne sees plenty of grounds for optimism. “On whatever terms, it was a great performance from the team. I know that we’ve gone bottom, but I was very impressed out there,” insisted Coyne.
Having played the first half of the season at cash-strapped Luton Town, Coyne is no stranger to scrapping for every precious point. “If all mine and the team’s performances are like this one, then we’ll be all right this season,” he said of the game with Bristol. “I thought that we weathered the storm well. That’s a good sign, especially as they had only lost a couple of league matches at home .. To me, there wasn’t much difference between what I’ve been facing at Luton, though perhaps teams in League One are a bit more direct. I’m just glad to be at Colchester, and I honestly think that we will stay up.”
INJURY FORCES WOOD INTO RETIREMENT
Barry Wood is slowly coming to grips with the unfortunate reality that he’ll never play competitive football again. The Perth S.C. marksman was forced to hang up his playing boots last month by a serious hip injury that flared up mid-last season. "In all honesty I'm still coming to terms with it, I'm only 30 and feel like I could go on for another ten years," said Wood, who played through the second half of last season with persistent pain in his right hip. "I feel pretty low at the moment. A lot of the training this time of the year is physical but I'm gutted not to be part of it. It's going to be torture when the games start."
Initial scans indicated torn cartilage and it was only once Wood went under the knife that the true extend of the injury was revealed. "The surgeon felt confident I'd be running around by the second week of January, however, when they opened me up they discovered that the damage to my hip joint was far worse than expected," he said. "My hip is so badly damaged that there is no protection in the joint at all and its basically bone rubbing against bone. Arthritis has already set in and I've been advised to quit now or risk needing a replacement hip within the next few years. The nurse summed it up nicely for me when she said I had the hip of a 60-year old!"
Born in Edinburgh, Wood has plenty of fond memories from his playing days in Scotland, England and the Republic of Ireland. "Playing for Scotland at Schoolboys level and playing in European competition whilst in Ireland where undoubtedly the highlights," said Wood, who turned out for Livingstone, Darlington, Waterford United, Glenavon and Kilkenny. "I've been fortunate to play in a few different countries and see different styles and approaches to the game. Nothing beats being a full-time professional though and I'd love to get the chance to go back and do all over again. It would have been great to also play in the A-League, but I've been privileged in what I achieved so I have no regrets."
Wood migrated to Australia in 2004 and spent his first season at Western Knights before playing the past two years with Perth. "My time in WA has been very good, and not playing in terrible weather has been a bonus," he said. "The playing standard here is very good and with better links between juniors, seniors, Football West, Perth Glory and the FFA I see no reason why it can't grow and grow. The things that are holding the game back on a local level are the very poor facilities at some clubs, and woeful media coverage - but then if Perth Glory can't get it in the A-League then what hope is there for the State League?"
Wood is honoured to have played under Graham Normanton and Ronnie Campbell, the State League's two longest serving coaches. "Graham and Ronnie want their teams to play good football, both are very committed to the game and know how to get the best out of their players," he said. "Graham's application to the game is second to none, he comes in for a lot of stick at times but he is only too willing to put his neck on the line for the betterment of the game. And it's unfair to talk about Ronnie without mentioning Willie Kelly as they are just as influential as eachother at the Knights. It's a good thing Ronnie is a coach as his refereeing at training leaves a lot to be desired - it always amazed me the amount of injury time he played!"
With his playing days over, Wood is now planning the next phase in his football career. "I'm in discussions with Perth to take on a coaching role at the club," he said. "It's early days but I already have preliminary coaching qualifications from the UK and Ireland, and I am hoping to get more qualifications this year. I feel I still have a lot to offer the game, so for me it's the end of one chapter and the start of another. Right now I am happy with my life away from football - and getting to spend some good time with my new wife is great! The next step will be to nail down a coaching role and build a new career."
LAZARIDIS REFUSES TO BOW TO INJURY
Stan Lazaridis has refused to be downcast after the latest setback which has brought his brief A-League campaign to a screeching halt. The 35-year old Perth Glory winger limped from the field with a hamstring injury moments after setting up Jamie Harnwell’s winning goal against Adelaide United on Sunday. However, Lazaridis dismissed suggestions the injury might prompt him call time on a playing career that hit the heights of English Premier League action with West Ham United and Birmingham City. “It depends on what the club decides,” said Lazaridis, who returned home to play for Glory in 2004. “They’ve got to tie down the other boys first and then I’ll talk to the club and we’ll make a decision.” Lazaridis has received tentative support to continue next season from coach David Mitchell and is due to meet co-owner Tony Sage this week.
GLORY BOYS IN DEMAND
Perth Glory’s hometown heroes Jamie Harnwell, Jamie Coyne and David Tarka could be tempted to play their football elsewhere next season. The trio are free agents at seasons’ end and although each has been offered new terms by Glory they could just as likely be on the move across the Nullabor. Newcastle Jets have expressed their interest in luring Harnwell and Tarka east while Coyne is being touted as a likely recruit by Adelaide United. Harnwell and Coyne have figured prominently for Glory this season with the latter recently rewarded with a place in the Socceroo train-on squad. Tarka, widely considered one of the best defenders in Australia, has missed the majority of the campaign through injury.
MITCHELL TOYS WITH NEW-LOOK
Perth Glory fans have been given a sneak preview of what to expect new season with coach David Mitchell revealing a new-look side against Adelaide United yesterday. Delighted with the win, the Glory coach heaped praise on the performances of midfield partners Jamie Coyne and James Robinson as well as local products Dino Djulbic and Nikita Rukavytsya. “Today was important day for the club, fans have been coming here week in and week out and it was important that we got the win,” said Mitchell of the 3-2 victory. “There was a lot of commitment and desire from the players and I think that was evident on the park.”
With Simon Colosimo omitted from the side, Coyne and Robinson coped well with the added pressure of running the show from midfield. “The way Robbo and Coyney played in midfield in Sydney made me want to see more of them there,” Mitchell commented. “I’m not sure if Simon will be here or not (next season), but he’s done everything exceptionally well since I’ve taken over. I wanted to have a look at certain players in different roles if Simon is not here next year.”
After a fortnight out with an adductor strain, Djulbic slotted straight back into the heart of Glory’s defence. “Dino had an outstanding game and has stepped up to another level from when he joined the club,” Mitchell said of the 24-year old. Djulbic has enjoyed an outstanding debut season of national league football, playing 17 of Glory’s 20 games. He is expected to feature prominently in the club’s best and fairest award, the Most Glorious Player.
Rukavytsya got another opportunity to showcase his potential by finding the net against an Adelaide defence which was kept on high alert right up to the final whistle. “I was very impressed with Nikita and he’s learning to work off the ball rather than just on it,” said Mitchell. “Strikers now have to work very hard when they haven’t got the ball and the combination of him and Jamie up front worked well.” The 20-year old has scored six goals in his first full season in the national competition.
Looking ahead to next season, Mitchell has offered new contracts to six players and will cast a wide net to find some quality players for his first full season as an A-League coach. “I’ve got great contacts in Ghana, Argentina, Brazil and Chile. I have the whole world looking and I need to make sure I find a player that fits within my budget,” said Mitchell. The Glory boss has also made it clear he will scour the State League during the off-season for players with national league potential.
WARD TEMPTED TO REMAIN IN AUSTRALIA
Nick Ward is considering scrapping a planned return to Europe in favour of remaining in the A-League. The Olyroo midfielder played a starring role, and scored his first goal since returning to Australia, as Melbourne Victory defeated Wellington Phoenix 3-0 on Friday evening. “It’s a really good feeling. It’s been a while,” Ward said of his goal which put Victory two-up late in the first half. “I think the last goal I scored was for the Olyroos, maybe three or four months ago … it is just really nice to be playing again.”
Ward has been impressed with the set-up in Melbourne since accepting a six-month deal little over a month ago. “It’s definitely different playing with Melbourne. It is a lot more professional than when I was at Perth. We didn’t have the facilities, the backing or the crowds and the players as well,” said Ward, who played 25 games for Perth Glory. “It’s easy when you’ve got good players, like Carlos (Hernandez) and Archie (Thompson) … with those sorts of players, it’s easy to adapt.”
After a disappointing 18-month stint with London club Queens Park Rangers, Ward planned to use his time back in Australia as a springboard to another European deal. But he admits he’s now re-considering where he plays his football. “I haven’t written that off at all,” Ward said of staying with Melbourne. “The biggest thing for me is to get back to my full fitness and I’m playing regularly now. I’m enjoying my football again. I had a tough time overseas and I just want to get back to loving football.”
HERD SHINES ON PORT VALE DEBUT
Teenager Chris Herd has made a positive start to his English League career. Port Vale manager Lee Sinnott was impressed by the efforts of 18-year old defender who, along with fellow debutant Dave Mulligan, helped down Millwall 3-1 yesterday. Keith Lowe scored twice in the final quarter hour to secure the home side maximum points but it was the impact of right-back Mulligan and right-midfielder Herd that pleased Sinnott the most. "I thought they did extremely well. They started to tire a little bit, but it is not an easy pitch to play on, especially when it is wet," he said. "Dave played intelligently and I think you can see what I mean about Chris Herd when I said he is a high-energy player, and there will be more to come from him. But as a new combination on the right-hand side, I thought it was effective." The win moves Port Vale off the bottom of the League One table.
GLORY HOME AT LAST
Perth Glory finally moved off the bottom of the A-League table by coming from behind to defeat Adelaide United 3-2 this evening at Members Equity Stadium. With both sides out of contention for the play-offs, pride was at stake with Glory desperately looking to avoid the wooden spoon. An early goal from Bruce Djite was cancelled out minutes later by James Robinson, and Nikita Rukavytsya put the hosts ahead moments before half time. A long-range Travis Dodd strike brought the sides level after the break only for Jamie Harnwell to restore Glory’s advantage within two minutes. “I think we thoroughly deserved the win,” said Harnwell. “The first ten-fifteen minutes Adelaide took us back but we fought our way back into it and we thoroughly deserved the three points. It just shows the character we’re starting to build now in this side. We wanted to reward the fans that keep coming out and supporting us and we’ve done that.”
It took only seven minutes for the game to spark into action with visiting goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic moving sharply to keep out Rukavytsya’s half-volley. Adelaide’s first attack, less than a minute later, resulted in the lead as Nathan Burns’ twisted and turned inside the 18-yard box before rattling off a shot that deflected into the path of Bruce Djite who steered the loose ball past Jason Petkovic. The teams were level within four minutes when James Robinson converted at close-range following a fine lead-up orchestrated by Billy Celeski wide on the right. Both sides then traded chances without really testing either ‘keepers with Glory looking the more adventurous with Hayden Foxe and Rukavytsya firing high while Stan Lazaridis had a shot palmed wide by Galekovic. Their reward arrived in stoppage time when Nikolai Topor-Stanley’s long ball was flicked on by Jamie Harnwell to Rukavytsya whop exploded past the defence to calmly slot in his sixth goal of the campaign.
The second period started at much the same pace and ten minutes in Harnwell had a header tipped over the crossbar by an alert Galekovic. But against the run of play Adelaide stole an equaliser with Cassio sprayed the ball out to Travis Dodd who, given time and space to assess his options, hammered his shot from 19-metres into the top corner. Although stunned, Glory responded in kind as Lazaridis darted down the left before playing a low centring ball which Harnwell sent into the net, much to the delight of the 8,025 crowd. Glory went in search of a fourth as substitute James Downey crossed for Rukavytsya whose shot was deflected wide. And on 72 minutes Harnwell wriggled clear of Angelo Costanzo and slotted past Galekovic only to have Richie Alagich clear off the line. A long ball from Topor-Stanley gave Rukavytsya another opportunity to test the Adelaide defence but Robert Cornthwaite managed to deflected the striker’s shot out for a corner. Petkovic found himself in the thick of the late action by denying Burns and Djite as Adelaide attempted to salvage a point from the game.
SEVEN INVITED INTO JOEYS CAMP
Seven West Australian's will stake their claim to representing Australia after being invited into camp with the national Under-17 side. Eli Bablj, Milljon Butshiire, Julius Davies, Cameron Edwards, Alex Pearson, Josh Risdon and Trent Sainsbury have been selected for the four-day training camp at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. The camp, which starts on Monday, will be used by Joeys coach Martyn Crook as further preparation for Australia's campaign to qualify for the 2009 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Beijing.
COYNE SIGNS FOR COLCHESTER
Colchester United has finally secured the services of Chris Coyne. After at least one failed attempt to lure Coyne away from financially troubled Luton Town, the U’s created a new club transfer record of £350,000 in making the 29-year old centre back their first signing of the January transfer window. Coyne, the fifth player to leave Luton since they were placed in administration last month, is expected to make his U’s debut at promotion-chasing Bristol City tomorrow afternoon.
A veteran of close to 300 senior games for West ham United, Brentford, Dundee and Luton, Coyne is looking forward to guiding Colchester away from the relegation trap door. “I believe that the Colchester squad is strong enough to stay in the Championship, otherwise I wouldn’t be here,” he told the ‘East Anglian Daily Times’. “I’m looking to the future. The team is good enough to start climbing the table, and there’s also a move to a new stadium to look forward to next season. I’ve spent a day training with the lads, and the squad looks to be a very good one. You don’t get to be a Championship club without having a strong squad.”
Coyne spoke at length with Colchester manager Geraint Williams and former assistant Mick Harford before deciding to relocate Layer Road. “I sat down with the manager and had a good chat (and) I’ve also taken advice from Mick Harford, who was responsible for taking me to Luton (in 2001),” he said. “Mick sold the club well, and now it’s time for me to move on. There have been some very difficult times at Luton this year. It’s not been a nice situation to be in. But that’s come to an end for me now. I’m just looking to help out Colchester, and start helping to keep a few clean-sheets, because it’s clean-sheets that win matches.”
Williams could not be happier about shoring up his defence with the addition of Coyne. “It’s great news for the club that we have managed to sign Chris. He is a defender with bags of experience and leadership qualities,” said the U’s boss. “Chris offers us more options at the back. Other clubs were interested in signing him, so we had to be quiet in going about our business. We wanted to do things properly with regards Luton Town. It’s great news that Chris has chosen to sign for Colchester. The chairman (Robbie Cowling) has worked hard to complete this deal.” Coyne played locally for Sorrento, Kingsway Olympic and Perth S.C. before taking up an apprenticeship with West Ham in 1996.
MITCHELL DETERMINED TO BRING GLORY INTO FINALS
Perth Glory coach David Mitchell is preparing to launch an overseas raid to sharpen his side’s attacking edge next season. As last-placed Glory stares at the prospect of a wooden-spoon finish to the current campaign, the club’s owners - Tony Sage, Brett McKeon and John Spence - confirmed their “100 per cent” commitment to leading the outfit into a brighter future. And McKeon reaffirmed the owners’ pledge to allow Mitchell to make use of the entire $1.8 million salary cap, although he also revealed Glory would carefully assess the merits of signing marque or guest players.
The scouting mission to attract top-line players, including an overseas striker, for next season had already begun. “The situation is we have to be a top-four team next year,” said Mitchell. “I have found it more difficult than I thought bringing players over to Perth ... because the team has been down the bottom in the last couple of years. It makes it a little bit harder and people have a bit of a question mark. So that’s been a bit of a hurdle that I didn’t think would be there but, in saying that, I think people have seen the performances since I’ve taken over ... and it’s been good in that sense.”
Mitchell revealed six players had been offered new contracts for next season, while several others will be playing for their futures. It’s understood the club has already tabled offers to Jamie Harnwell, Jamie Coyne, David Tarka, James Robinson, Leo Bertos and Mitchell Prentice, some of whom are being targeted by rival clubs. “There’s a couple of players I’ve offered contracts to and they haven’t accepted as yet,” said the coach. “They’ve got a couple of weeks to come back. We’ll just wait and see what the outcome is. There’s a couple of players in our squad that have been attracted by other clubs, so it’s a decision that they have to make. We’ll see what happens really.”
Veteran pair Stan Lazaridis and Jason Petkovic will be assessed during the final weeks of the season before Mitchell decides whether they are to be retained. “Stan and Jason we are still looking at,” Mitchell said. “They did very well last week, they got a big tick last week, but they’ve got to be consistent enough to do it week in, week out, and not be a detriment to the club going forward. They are both experienced players so it’s great having them around.” Tyler Simpson, David Micevski, Naum Sekulovski and Jerry Karpeh will also come under the close scrutiny of coaching staff, however, it appears the club are resigned to losing team captain Simon Colosimo to Sydney F.C.
‘THE FAME GAME’ GOLDEN OLDIES : BOB WATSON
‘The Fame Game’ is the official newsletter of the Football Hall of Fame Western Australia. Each issue profiles an identity from the State’s glorious past and in ‘The Fame Game’ Issue Five (pdf, 444kb) that spotlight is turned on former Fremantle City player and administrator Bob Watson who, in retirement, would referee in excess of a thousand games between 1965 and 1995. Watson’s contribution to the game was recognised with life membership of the refereeing body in 1981, induction into the Hall of Recognition in 2002.
Watson may have set something of a record in Western Australian football. The former referee has been actively involved with the game in this State for 52 years - and is still going strong at the age of 67. In his time Watson has been a player, a club administrator, a treasurer and bookkeeper of various junior and senior organisations, a referee for 30 years and a referee’s inspector. Apart from football, Watson is a keen follower of cricket - and still umpires WACA competitions. He has umpired 372 games but this total paled in comparison to the huge number of football games he refereed - well over 12,000.
Perth-born Watson started playing football at a competitive level when he joined Fremantle City at the age of 15 in 1954. He turned out regularly at Gibson Park, mainly as a goalkeeper, and played on First Division game against Perth City on the Perth Esplanade in the 1950’s. He retired from playing in 1964 but had discovered a keen interest in administration during his spell at the club. He was a teenaged chairman of the Fremantle club from 1956 to 1958, was treasurer from 1959 to 1962 and secretary/treasurer for 1963 and 1964.
With his playing days behind him, Watson turned his attention to becoming a whistler and joined the Australian Soccer Referees Federation in 1965. He refereed continuously, mainly in the lower leagues but also running the line for major competitions, until his retirement in 1995. He also officiated at national junior tournaments. He was treasurer of the WA branch of the referee’s body for three spells between 1966 and 2006 and was secretary for 14 years. These days Watson can still be regularly spotted at local games as a match day referee’s inspector. He also serves on the Referees Technical Committee.
OWNERS COMMITTED TO GLORY'S FUTURE
Perth Glory's ownership team has hosed down speculation that they are about to jump ship by committing to the future success of the club. A tough introduction into the sport has only served to strengthen the resolve of Tony Sage, Brett McKeon and John Spence who are determined to see Glory back amongst football's elite. "We always knew that turning the club around wasn't going to happen overnight and that there would be plenty of ups and downs which we have definitely experienced this season," said Sage. "All of us are as committed now as when we first took over the club, no one thought it was going to be an easy ride. The only way to see this club return to where it rightfully should be, at the top of the league, is through a long term commitment and that is what we're all prepared to do."
Since taking over in April 2007 the owners have spent considerable time and money to mould the club into a successful entity which has resulted in off-field growth in the areas of sponsorship and corporate hospitality. The 2007/08 season also saw the club notch a record membership since the inception of the A-League. "While we're pleased with our membership and corporate support this season we are certainly a long way from where we believe this club should be and will be working even harder during the off-season to lift that support to new levels," said Sage. "Seeing a full stadium at every home match is what we're aiming for and we are confident that Perth Glory supporters share our passion and will join with us in even greater numbers into the future to help bring back the glory days."
David Mitchell, who was confirmed as coach for next season, has been given the green light to retain and recruit players and will have a significant arsenal at his disposal as the club looks to qualify for the A-League finals. "We're all very excited about the on-field prospects next season," added Sage. "We have a wonderful crop of youngsters coming through coupled with experienced players who are all passionate about having success here. There are also a number of players on the horizon who will be fantastic additions to the club. This season has been a learning experience and with still a couple of matches remaining we're looking forward to climbing up the ladder."
GLORY COACH KEEPS MRDJA IN MIND
Perth Glory will consider luring Nik Mrdja back home to be part of a revamped attacking line-up next season. Mrdja concedes he has one last chance to resurrect his A-League career after two operations to mend a debilitating knee problem. The scorer of Glory's dramatic winning goal in the 2004/04 National Soccer League grand final, Mrdja went under the knife for a second time in November and only time will tell if the operation has been a success.
David Mitchell said he would be prepared to make a bid for the 29-year old if he proved he had recovered from his injury troubles. "Even though I'm not a Perth guy, I think it's important that the club identifies with Perth talent," commented the Glory boss. "If Nik Mrdja is fit and healthy and available, then I'd certainly be interested." Mrdja played 73 times and scored 25 goals during a three and a half season stint with Glory in the N.S.L.
Mrdja, who is coming to the end of his three-year deal with Central Coast Mariners, admitted he faced the scrapheap if his right knee failed to hold up after the latest bout of surgery. But he said the signs were good and his Sydney surgeon had indicated he would be ready to tackle the next A-League season. "It feels good. I've just got to give it a good four months before I start pushing it," said the striker. "I can't take any risks because if it goes again there's a good chance I won't be able to play any more."
Mrdja's switch to the Mariners paid instant dividends when he scored six goals in four appearances before injuring the knee in the 2005 pre-season Cup final. However, he missed the entire inaugural A-League season and featured in just six of the Mariners' games during 2006/07. Mrdja played three times at the start of the current campaign only to succumb again to injury after making his Australian debut in September's friendly against Argentina.
Although he would not rule out a return to Perth, Mrdja is keen to stay on with the Mariners. "I want to stay and show the people there what I can do," Mrdja said. "That's what I've been gutted about. If my knee doesn't hold up and I can't play again, I'll be devastated." Spells with Bayswater City and Kingsway Olympic preceded Mrdja's first foray into the national league with Canberra Cosmos where injury limited him to just three appearances in the 1998/99 season. After recovering he helped Perth S.C. collect a swag of trophies before joining Glory in early 2001.
FREMANTLE PLAN TO CONSOLIDATE
Marc Wingell’s successful transition into the coaching arena has given Fremantle Spirit’s loyal supporters good reason to be optimistic about the future. Appointed midway through the ill-fated winter of 2005, Wingell’s faith in youth proved well-founded as within twelve months Fremantle had stormed their way to the First Division title and in the process reclaimed their spot amongst the state’s elite. Last season only served to further enhance Wingell’s growing reputation as Fremantle impressed all by claiming eighth place on their return to top flight football.
Fremantle entered into last season without the added pressure of expectation, something Wingell feels played right into his teams’ hands. “Going into last season pretty much everyone had tipped us to finish near the relegation zone,” commented the Fremantle coach. “We may have a young team but there’s a great character and determination to succeed amongst the players which allowed us to surprise everyone who was so quick to dismiss us. This year we will again be competitive, continue to improve as a team and work on developing those youngsters within our ranks.”
There’s no doubt Fremantle have it in them to finish higher than the eighth gained last year and if they can strengthen their home record Wingell says a move up the table isn’t out of the question. “We need to gain better results at home, which is something I’ll be drilling into the boys throughout the year,” he said. “We’ve shown we can hold our own in the Premier League and I think the players are now starting to believe in themselves and their abilities. I have great faith and confidence in all the players, and after a few seasons together I think Fremantle is closing in on reaping some greater rewards.”
Midfield partners Dale Wingell and Jason Barerra lead the way for Fremantle last year along with veteran defender Alex Christie, Mark Darby, Simon Elton-Bott and exciting teenager Callum Roberts. And an influx of attacking options should make Fremantle a much stronger proposition this season. “David Rodgers, whose goals helped us win the First Division and gain promotion in 2006, will be back after missing last season for work reasons. And we’ve got other avenues to goal in Ben Kelly and Jason Pottier, who will be key players for us this year, along with Adrian McBride and Dave Araya.”
The off-season appointment of former State representative Allan Pottier as reserve team coach will be of enormous benefit to Fremantle. “Allan has been around the game for a very long time and his knowledge and experience will be invaluable to the young players in our squad,” said Wingell. Pottier is no stranger to local football having only recently ended a magnificent 25-year playing career. Through time at West Perth Macedonia (nee Stirling Lions) and Perth Azzurri (nee Perth S.C.) he collected five championship and three Cups winner’s medals and wore State colours on 21 occasions.
PORT VALE MOVE ON HERD
Aston Villa teenager Chris Herd has joined Port Vale on a one-month loan. The 18-year old is hoping to gain some first team experience as his three-year scholarship at Villa Park comes to an end. "I came over here by myself as a 15-year old and had a two-week trial at Villa. I then signed a three-year contract, but I now need to get a few games under my belt," said Herd, who can play in midfield or at right back. "I first heard about Vale's interest yesterday and jumped at the chance of coming to Port Vale. I feel I can offer something and I am sure I can help the lads climb off the foot of the table." The Vale face the very real danger of being cut adrift at the bottom of the League One table having won just four of 25 games this season.
SEASON CAN’T START SOON ENOUGH FOR JOONDALUP’S LEE
E.C.U. Joondalup’s Mark Lee can’t wait for the start of the new season. With his batteries recharged by the summers break, the 2006 Gold Medal winner says he feels refreshed and raring to play his part in Joondalup’s climb up the ladder. “It’s good to catch up with all the lads and be back in training,” said Lee. “Our pre-season started last week and has so far involved a lot of technical work and some football specific conditioning sessions. Although it’s still early days, we’ve got high expectations for 2008/09. The club have made some excellent signings who will provide us more flexibility and enable us to improve on the sixth placing we gained last season.”
Joondalup have gone from strength to strength under the tutelage of Willie McNally, who’s been in the coaching hot seat for just over twelve months. The summer departure of Gerry McEwan opened the door for Kenny Lowe to come on board as assistant coach, an appointment Lee feels is a step in the right direction for the club. “Willie and Kenny are excited about the season ahead and that’s rubbed off on the players,” Lee said. “Willie has a great desire to win, he expects nothing less than 100% from his players and gets the best out of everyone. Kenny is an excellent technical coach and his tactical knowledge is second to none.”
An appearance in the Night Series final against Perth S.C. stands out amongst the highlights of 2007 for Lee, who also remembers fondly the clubs’ dramatic draw with League champions Floreat Athena. “We had a great run in the Night Series, played some excellent football and it seemed that we would be real contenders for the League, but it wasn’t to be,” explained Lee. “Our draw with Floreat Athena was also memorable. We showed great character in coming from 2-0 down at half-time and Steven Baines’ wonder goal in the last minute was something very special.”
Another of the high points of last season for Lee was the emergence of some exciting young footballers at Joondalup. “The young lads have shown they can play at this level,” he said. “Tom Amphlett did really well and if he can add consistency to his game he will be a real force next season. Howard Fondyke has a superb attitude and I am so pleased that he will be going to the Australian Institute of Sport as his commitment and passion for the game is a fine example to young players. And there are a few more players coming up through the system who will make their mark in the not too distant future.”
Lee has come up against some difficult opponents in the Premier League and rates former Glory midfielder Antonio Naglieri as the toughest. “He is the best player I’ve played against in the State League. He was superb the last time Perth S.C. won the League and I believe after playing with him in the State team this year he could play in the A-League again if he wished to do so,” said Lee, who believes Joondalup teammate Marc Anthony is another ready to step up to the national league. “Marc is an outstanding player - the best I have played with - and I definitely think he could play in the A-League.”
All Lee’s hard work on and off the field was rewarded in November when invited by David Mitchell to join Perth Glory on a short-term loan arrangement. “I really enjoyed my short spell and felt very comfortable in the two games,” said Lee, whose appearances against Central Coast Mariners and Adelaide United took his national league tally to eight games. “It’s an honour to play for Glory as the fans really get behind the team and playing in front of them at Members Equity is amazing. I hope next season they can improve and be a major force in the A-League.”
Having played and watched a lot of football since settling in Perth six years ago, Lee feels the standard of the State League is definitely on the rise. So the midfielder is at pains to understand why certain sectors of the football family continually run down the local competition. “I think the league has gradually improved since I arrived,” said Lee, who played for Swan I.C., Western Knights and Bayswater City before moving to Joondalup. “As for the critics, there seems to be too many of them here in WA. If they supported the game more and were positive about the sport then we will continue to see improvements.”
END OF THE ROAD FOR SPORTFM
The local football community will be worse off following the federal government's decision not to renew the licence of radio station SportFM. For the past couple of seasons 90.5fm has provided live broadcasts Perth Glory home and away games, while on Sunday evenings the focus has been local with 'Let's Talk Football'. But all that will end after the Australian Communications and Media Authority allocated the 90.5fm licence to Capital Community Radio. Although previous licence holder Western Sports Media has 28 days to appeal the decision, it's likely SportFM will broadcast for the final time on Sunday 20th January.
Eamon Duffy, the driving force behind 'Let's Talk Football', admits he's disappointed at the federation governments' decision but is adamant the show will continue. "We've had a great deal of support from the listeners on the show and we had great support from the football community, we're going to fight on for the sake of football and we will be doing a show in one format or another," he said. "We are looking at alternatives, and we will more than likely until we find a home be producing a podcast that we will be running through our website."
The highlights of 2007 for 'Let's Talk Football' were many and included live broadcasts of both the Cup and Night Series finals as well as several Premier League games throughout the year. Duffy says the show would not have been possible without a dedicated, hard-working team. "This is a major blow for local grass roots football but we will be back in one form or another," he said. "I would like to thank all the guys who worked on the show. Mario, Tom, Scari, Peter and Normo for their work in the studio, our match reporters Beau, Ben and Jacob, and also Penny, Stuart, Bob, David, Mo, Gary and Don - everyone has been fantastic."
COYNE PRAISES LUTON TEAMMATES
One-time Olyroo Chris Coyne captained League One club Luton Town to an unlikely 1-1 draw with Liverpool in the third round of the FA Cup yesterday. It was a massive boost for the Hatters who have been struggling to pay players’ wages and are currently up for sale. Coyne was proud of the way his team pulled together despite the club being in the hands of financial administrators. “It’s given us that togetherness to push on and everyone has done it for each other,” he said. “It’s a weird time. It’s not nice but it helps when all your mates pull together.” Liverpool took a 72nd minute lead through Peter Crouch but an own goal by John Arne Riise three minutes later earned the Hatters a valuable replay at Anfield.
LAZARIDIS WANTS ONE FINAL SHOT AT GLORY
A refreshed Stan Lazaridis admits he has just one more year of football left in his aging legs - and would like to spend it repaying Perth Glory’s patience. After a years’ absence from the game, Lazaridis finally pulled on his boots again on Sunday and surprisingly saw out the full 90 minutes of Glory’s home draw with Central Coast Mariners. “I felt better as the game went on and I think as a team we got better. I was just pleased to get through the game and to put the last 13 months behind me,” Lazaridis said. “I just wanted to get through the game and not look like I took a year out. This is preparation for next season if you want to put it that way. A lot of players are under the microscope, myself included, and we will just have to see what happens.”
With his existing contract due to run out in June, Lazaridis is planning to play the final season of an illustrious career with his hometown club. “From my point of view I was always looking to play a couple more years in Australia, and having missed this year I think it will be fitting for me to play another year,” said the 35-year old. “But I don’t see myself playing any more than one more year, that is for sure. Having missed this year, I think there are a lot of people that want me to stay on, so we will have to toss it up with the board. It depends on Dave Mitchell and the Glory board, and seeing what is right for the club and if I am part of it we will see. If I am not I will come down and watch them train.”
TOMICH EYES NEW START
Talk of expanding the A-League next season has given goalkeeper Tommi Tomich added reason for optimism about his future. Tomich made ten appearances for Perth Glory this season, but the moment veteran Jason Petkovic declared himself available to play again a couple of weeks ago Tomich’s campaign came to a screaming halt. The turn of events left the 27-year old with little choice but to wait and see what opportunities present themselves as A-League clubs start to build towards the summer of 2008/09. “It’s not ideal to be out of contract at this time of the season but I always knew my time would end when Jason came back. I was prepared for not finishing the season,” he said. “I’m not going to lie - it is a little disappointing but on the other hand its really good to see Jason plying again after a bad injury.”
Although it is not certain that he will be forced elsewhere next season, since youngster Tando Velaphi is Glory’s only ‘keeper contracted beyond the current term, Tomich is prepared to head east in the hope of finding career security. “I’ll continue training with Glory until the end of the season before hearing if I figure in their plans,” he said. “If I have a future with Glory then I’ll stay in WA and play State League until the pre-season starts, but if I don’t then I’ll look to play on the east coast to give myself the best chance of being picked up by another A-League club. My main goal is to be playing A-League football and I’d love to stay in Perth, but if an offer came in from another club then I would have to take it.”
Tomich, 27, has been heartened by talk of the A-League being expanded to ten teams, and not only because it would open up at least four goalkeeping positions. The inclusion of franchises on the Gold Coast and Townsville next season would add extra spice to a competition that, at times, has played out like Groundhog Day. “It’s not a long enough season,” said Tomich. “It feels like the season only started yesterday and it’s already nearly over. And when it’s only eight teams it gets a little bit repetitive playing against the same teams.” Football Federation Australia has already met with representatives of both franchises and a delegation is expected to travel to the Gold Coast and Townsville early next month to run a final rule over both bids.
Adversity seems to have been Tomich’s companion since he first threatened to establish himself as a national league goalkeeper with Melbourne Knights four years ago. The former Glory apprentice, who first signed with Glory in 1999, played ten games for the Knights before the National Soccer League was wound up in 2004. He returned to Glory last season and made a further eleven appearances after Petkovic suffered a double break to his leg, and was re-signed for the current campaign. But despite keeping clean sheets in the first three games and continuing between the posts for seven more, Tomich was dropped after “one bad game against Wellington.”
RUKAVYTSYA TO THE RESCUE
A predatory strike from substitute Nikita Rukavytsya earned Perth Glory a 1-1 draw from an entertaining encounter with Central Coast Mariners at Members Equity Stadium this evening. The fleet-footed youngster slid home his fifth goal of the campaign midway through the second half to cancel out John Huctinson's strike shortly before the interval. "There is a lot of passion at this club and we showed, in the second half particularly, that we have what it takes to match it with anyone in the league," Mitchell said. "We might be out of the finals race but I get a bit offended when people say there is nothing to play for as I always think there is something to play for. We saw tonight that there is pride in wearing the Perth Glory shirt and we're looking forward to playing at home again next week and taking our performance up another notch."
Jamie Harnwell made his presence felt by forcing a fine save from goalkeeper Danny Vukovic after the visiting defence failed to clear a 1st minute Billy Celeski cross. The Mariners soon established control but John Aloisi was foiled by the ever-alert Jason Petkovic after Glory were caught square at the back. Paul O'Grady headed narrowly wide from a Hutchinson free-kick, and on the half hour Mile Jedinak's shot was deflected away by Hayden Foxe. The visitors continued to dominate and on 33 minutes Tom Pondejlak turned the ball over in midfield and released Sasho Petrovski who fired disappointingly high. The breakthrough came six minutes later when Vukovic's booming clearance was flicked on by Aloisi to Hutchinson whose powerful finish gave Petkovic no chance.
The Mariners picked up where they left off after the break with Aloisi calling Petkovic into action with a fine strike from 16-metres. The introduction of Rukavytsya had a galvanising effect on Glory and only minutes after coming off the bench the young striker out-paced Alvin Ceccoli only for his fierce drive to clip the crossbar. Glory's call for an equaliser was answered on 69 minutes when Leo Bertos surged down the right to deliver a cross which Rukavytsya slid the ball in from close-range. The closing stages were essentially one-way traffic as Glory stepped up a gear to pile on the pressure. Harnwell twice nodded beyond the target from Lazaridis' crosses, Bertos found the side netting with a superb long-range strike, Rukavytsya was denied by Vukovic and in stoppage time Simon Colosimo curled a free-kick narrowly high.
HATTERS REJECT OFFER FOR COYNE
Luton Town has rejected a bid from Colchester United for long-serving defender Chris Coyne. The U's tabled a club record offer of £300,000 for Coyne - a figure below the Hatters valuation of their 29-year old captain. Coyne has privately expressed his desire to remain at Kenilworth Road, where he's been a stalwart of the Hatters defence since 2001, and help the club through a turbulent period in their history.
In late November Luton were charged by the Football Association for making irregular payments, placed into administration, docked 10-points and put up for sale. Players were not paid in November and received only 50% of their wages in December. Hatters manager Kevin Blackwell faces the departure of several star players for cut-price fees in the January transfer window, and is unable to add to his squad under the terms of a transfer embargo.
GLORY RECALL STAR DUO
Two of the biggest names in West Australian football return to Perth Glory’s starting line-up this weekend. Stan Lazaridis and Jason Petkovic will both be making their first appearance of the season when Glory tackle premiership contenders Central Coast Mariners at Members Equity Stadium on Sunday. Club legend Jamie Harnwell bolsters comes in the side having served a two-game suspension. The trio are a handy inclusion in what shapes to be Glory’s most experienced and talented match day squad this season.
Petkovic watched from the bench last week while Lazaridis is yet to pull on the purple shirt this season, but coach David Mitchell is confident both players can make a significant contribution against the Mariners. “Stan is full of enthusiasm, he’s a great character to have around the dressing rooms and we’re looking forward to him playing this weekend,” Mitchell said. “I could have played Jason last weekend but I wanted him to come back in and get a feel of what it was like to be in the dressing room again, to do a warm-up with the crowd there and just generally get a feeling for it again. No matter what happened last week Jason was going to play this week, that’s the same for Stan.”
Mitchell says his team are determined to make amends for last week’s humbling loss to Queensland Roar on home soil. “There were some silly mistakes that happened and the players put their hands up, but it was just an off day,” said the coach. “The last time we played Central Coast at home they beat us 1-0, although we played tremendously well and I feel we were a bit unfortunate to lose the game. They’re coming off the back of some disappointing results and have had their problems with injuries and suspensions so it’ll make for a really interesting game this weekend. They want to stay in the top two and we want to have a good performance towards the end of the season so I’m expecting it’ll be a great game to watch.”
BADGE OF HONOUR (courtesy Football Hall of Fame)
Former State goalkeeper Peter Mitchell has donated a significant piece of memorabilia to the Football Hall of Fame Western Australia. One of the history-makers at the Merdeka Cup anniversary get-together in late October, Mitchell took time out from being lauded to present his fathers prized State Team Badge from WA’s meeting with England in 1937 to the Hall of Fame. Committee member Peter Dimopoulous, who was honoured at the function as coach of the State women’s team that toured Asia in 1977, accepted the badge on behalf of the Hall of Fame.
Charlie Mitchell was born in Forfar, Scotland, and came to WA in the early 1930’s. A plumber by trade, Mitchell enjoyed nothing better than following his passion for football by playing for Caledonians and North Perth. His only appearance for the State team came on 2nd August 1937 when Bill Brackenbridge scored the solitary goal in WA’s 6-1 loss to England at Subiaco Oval. It had been WA’s first representative outing for ten years and, after a few games in 1938, the State team didn’t assemble again until after the Second World War in 1947.
Goalkeeping has been a great tradition in the Mitchell family. Peter’s uncle David was also a custodian, as was his brother Ian - but Peter himself started his career as a centre forward before he jumped on the family bandwagon and went between the posts. Peter Mitchell played over 30 times for the State, including appearances at two Medeka Cups.
The Hall of Fame committee has had Charlie Mitchell’s State Team Badge restored and hope to eventually have it displayed in a football museum that the committee is pushing to be established. Football West chairman Kevin Campbell and chief executive Garry Chandler are both supportive of the project and are continuing to lobby the State Government in the quest to find a suitable venue. If you have any memorabilia you would like to donate to the Hall of Fame please contact Bob Brown on 9446 3338.
SOCCEROO CALL-UP A BIRTHDAY TREAT FOR COYNE
An invitation to attend the Socceroos training camp in Sydney next week was the perfect way for Perth Glory defender Jamie Coyne to celebrate his birthday. Coyne, who turned 27 today, has been rewarded for a consistent season at club level and join Glory captain Simon Colosimo in the 22-player squad. If successful in gaining section to the national team Coyne will emulate the feats of his father John who represented Australia on eight occasions against Czechoslovakia, Mexico and Taiwan in the late 1970’s.
It’s the first time Coyne has participated in a senior national team camp and he’ll use the opportunity to make a favourable early impression on Australian coach Pim Verbeek. “With a new coach on board everyone goes in with a clean slate and he will make his own mind up about the future make-up of the Australian squad,” Coyne said. Verbeek obviously liked what he saw when amongst the crowd at Sydney Football Stadium where Coyne played a key role in the Glory’s impressive win against Sydney F.C. last month.
The 22-players invited to attend the two-day camp are drawn entirely from the A-League and provides Verbeek an opportunity to work with locally-based players ahead of the Socceroos 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign. “It’s a great chance for players in the A-League to show what they can contribute to the team which they might not normally get,” Coyne said. “If you perform in the camp who knows what might happen from there?” The Socceroos long road to South Africa commences on Wednesday 6th February against Qatar in Melbourne.
It’s not been an easy road for the talented defender who admits he contemplated ending his career after a frustrating run of injuries. “The last two seasons were a big challenge for me physically and at times I thought about giving the game away because I wasn’t able to perform at the level I knew I was capable of,” he said. “I’m really glad I stuck with it and this season has been great because the injuries have cleared up and I’ve been able to perform at a higher level more consistently.”
SELF-APPRAISAL TO DETERMINE LAZARIDIS’ FUTURE
Stan Lazaridis’ performances over the next three weeks will determine whether the 35-year old seeks to continue his Perth Glory career beyond this season. Lazaridis is a confirmed starter for Sunday’s home clash with Central Coast Mariners after weeks of conjecture following his twelve-month drug ban. The former Socceroos’ career was on the ropes when he tested positive to masking agent finasteride, a drug contained in medicine he was taking for a scalp condition. Although he continues to battle a groin problem, Lazaridis said he was feeling fresh just five weeks after re-joining his teammates in training.
Lazaridis says he will polish his boots for another season only if he is up to scratch in the closing stages of the season. “Everyone’s saying ‘are you playing on another year?’ It’s not a question about playing on another year, it’s a question of am I good another to play another year,” he explained after training today. “It doesn’t matter what league you are playing in the world, you have to hold your own and I’ve got a standard I like to keep to. If I don’t feel I’m up to that standard, I would know that myself. These next couple of games, whether it be one or two or three, whatever games I play, will certainly be a testing ground for me.”
David Mitchell confirmed he would monitor Lazaridis’ next three performances closely before he would consider offering the veteran midfielder a contract for next season. “He has a big influence on the team and the club but obviously it depends on the performances. We’ve got three more games until the end of the season and we’ll see how Stan goes in these last three games and we’ll manage it from there,” said Mitchell, who defended his decision not to utilise Lazaridis earlier. “He’s now fit and ready to go. It was just important that it was well managed and we didn’t throw him in the deep end by playing him three or four weeks ago when he’d only had one week training.”
COLCHESTER EYE LUTON'S COYNE
Luton Town captain Chris Coyne is being linked with a move to Colchester United. The 29-year old is one of several players targeted by U’s manager Geraint Williams as he attempts to steer the club away from the foot of the English Championship table. Coyne, currently serving a two-match suspension for being sent off against Bristol Rovers on Boxing Day, could be tempted to leave the cash-strapped Hatters who were last month placed in administration. A Luton regular since 2001, Coyne has made over 250 appearances for the Hatters who are themselves low on the League One table.
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This page was last updated on the 29th February, 2008