Belief the key for excelling Academy sides

It's been a truly ground-breaking season for the PGFC Academy having earned a two-star rating and backed that up with a series of superb results in the NPL WA.

The Under-18s and Under-20s remain well and truly in the hunt for the title, while the First Team, coached by John Gibson, remain four points clear at the top of the ladder with two games remaining following a well-deserved 3-1 triumph over Armadale last Saturday.

"It was certainly a tough game against tough opposition at a tough place to go and get a result," Gibson said. "We put on a really strong, consistent and mature performance."

The crucial result continued an outstanding run of form that Gibson labelled as "refreshing" and which has showcased the character and resilience of the squad, particularly with a number of key players missing the Round 24 clash as they travelled to Malaysia with the Hyundai A-League squad.

"It was fantastic to see that we can call upon anybody throughout our Academy structure," he said. "We know they're prepared because they've been involved with us for a long period of time, so it doesn't surprise us when they perform so well.

"In previous seasons, we've been fighting at the wrong end of the table to stay in the [NPL] competition, so it's very pleasing to find ourselves in this position right now."

Individual performances this season have not gone unnoticed, with Head Coach Tony Popovic including Academy players Walter Scott, Luke Bodnar, Zayd Farah, Henry Hore, Yagoub Mustafa and Chok Dau in his touring party.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to experience playing football overseas," said Gibson. "All the boys are well prepared for that kind of trip after tournaments with the Academy and a lot of them have been involved with the National Youth League and with the A-League side for a while now.

“It’s really about them becoming better players all the time and learning from every experience they are provided with. And obviously understanding the demands and standards needed in the A-League environment and replicating those within the NPL and NYL.”

The team's change in fortunes hasn’t simply occurred overnight according to Gibson, with a shift in mentality and belief playing a pivotal role in their fine form this year which has seen them score the most goals in the competition, [69] and concede the second-fewest [28]. 

“I think it’s been down to us evolving and improving as a side," he said, "but also the boys maturing and adapting to the league. They’ve been together as a group for quite a few years now and in the past,  they perhaps haven’t been rewarded for their performances, but now they’re getting their just rewards.

“There’s a real belief within the team and anybody that comes into the squad, that no matter what position we find ourselves in during a match, we know that if we continue to work hard we’ll be able to achieve a positive result, much like we showed recently against Inglewood.”

That Round 23 fixture with Inglewood perfectly illustrated this attitude, with Glory scoring a 93rd-minute equaliser after trailing 3-1 with only ten minutes remaining on a dramatic, rain-soaked afternoon at Perth Plasterboard Centre Stadium.

It’s not just the NPL First Team that have excelled this season either, with all three senior teams in the top three and numerous players rising through the ranks in the process.

“For us it’s about the players improving and bearing in mind that winning is important, they aren’t mutually exclusive," reflected Gibson. "They’ve embraced all the challenges, we’ve still got some ahead of us over the final two weeks of the regular season, but we’re confident and prepared for anything.

“At any time, any player is ready to fill in and take their opportunity. We’re all working hard, not just as a playing group, but also as a coaching staff, so we’re all in contact to help each other out and that’s been fantastic.

“It gets challenging at times with players moving up and down amongst the teams, but we started on Saturday with three boys who began the season with the 18s, which in turn presents a chance for the 15s and 16s to step up to the 18s as well, so it’s been great to see the young guys coming through and delivering.”

With just two games remaining in the NPL regular season and four points separating Glory and second-placed Perth SC, Gibson remains adamant that nothing has been won yet and insists that the outlook from his side will remain unchanged.

“We just need to focus on ourselves, which is something we’ve done really well this year," he declared.

“We focus on how we can get better and get the job done. We don’t get distracted by outside noise and there have been plenty of opportunities to do so in recent weeks, but we’ve just got our heads down and performed.

No matter what transpires from this point, it’s been a hugely successful season for the PGFC Academy and the results have been a testament to the entire Academy coaching staff.

Be sure to catch the lads in action on Saturday against Cockburn City at Ashfield Arena - the Under-18s get things underway at 11am, followed by the Under-20s at 1pm and the First Team at 3pm.

#OneGlory