EDWARDS RELISHES REPUBLIC RETURN

Perth Glory's preparations for the 2013-2014 Hyundai A-League season will be ramped up considerably over the next two weeks as it heads to South Africa for a tour that has become something of a pre-season tradition.

Perth Glory's preparations for the 2013-2014 Hyundai A-League season will be ramped up considerably over the next two weeks as it heads to South Africa for a tour that has become something of a pre-season tradition. And Head Coach Alistair Edwards believes that the three-game trip will prove invaluable at a number of different levels.

"First and foremost, it's fantastic to have the opportunity to do this," he said, "and that's all through the efforts of Tony Sage. "He's used his contacts to make this trip happen in previous years, now he's done it again and that's brilliant. "Secondly, it's a crucial stage of our pre-season. "We've been back in training for three weeks and it's been a fairly easy introduction so far. "Now we've got a chance to play three top-quality games over in South Africa and with some of the senior players unavailable as they return from surgery, it's a great opportunity for the young boys to gain more first-team experience before the A-League starts."

Shane Smeltz won't be heading to the Republic as he continues his recovery from a hip injury, Michael Thwaite will also be unavailable due to his EAFF East Asian Cup commitments with the Socceroos and long-term absentees Travis Dodd and Isaka Cernak are both set to remain in Perth.

Josh Risdon, however, will join the touring party direct from Sydney after representing the A-League All Stars against Manchester United on Saturday, while Danny Vukovic (knee) and Steve Pantelidis (Achilles) both hope to be fit for the final game of the trip.

"These kind of tours are brilliant", said Edwards, "because they really solidify the group and everyone gets to know each other. "We've got a lot of new, young players and it's a great chance for the group to come together. "We'll be spending the first six days in Nelspruit and we'll do a lot of planning there, especially individual planning for each player in terms of embedding our expectations and goals for the year. "That will be an invaluable time for us and we play our first game there against MP Black Aces. "Then we head to Johannesburg for the last six days during which we have two more games against Tuks FC and SuperSport United. "SuperSport just beat Manchester City 2-0, so that's the kind of quality opposition that we'll be up against. "The South African teams are going to be well ahead of us in terms of match fitness as the start of their season is that much closer, but it's going to be invaluable for us to rotate the squad around."

Edwards has travelled to the Republic on several previous occasions, both in his playing days with the Socceroos and more recently through his role within the FFA Technical Committee, but for expert local knowledge, he has turned to one of his predecessors in the Glory hot-seat.

"Mich D'Avray is the Technical Director at Bloemfontein Celtic and Gareth (Naven), Scott (Miller) and myself had a meeting with him about a month or so ago. "We've sent him through our itinerary and he's given us some suggestions and some insider opinions about things. "He's been a great help, he's a top bloke and he'll definitely catch up with us when we're over there."

Get the exclusive inside story of Perth Glory's 2013 South Africa Tour here at footballaustralia.com.au/perthglory

Gareth Morgan