Perth chasing Glory days
Eight years since they last lifted silverware, Perth Glory appear ready to make another serious challenge, Mich d'Avray backing them to win it all.
So with the first week of the finals done and dusted - just four teams remain, each with their own special reason for wanting to get their hands on that trophy.
Brisbane want to go back to back, Central Coast just want to win it. Wellington have visions of spiriting the trophy out of the country altogether, while Perth would love to see the glory of winning the national competition return to the west.
It-s been eight years since Glory have celebrated such a feat. Perth was the last team to lift the trophy in the National Soccer League. Twice, in fact - after taking out the 2002-2003 title, they went back to back in the competition-s final match (final in every way) in 2004.
Now in 2012, they are poised to once again make their mark on the national stage.
The last coach to take a football trophy back to Western Australia as coach of Perth Glory, was Mich d-Avray, now development coach at Bloemfontein Celtic in his native South Africa.
Despite the distance, Mich has not lost his affection for the club. Speaking after the Glory-s 3-0 win over Melbourne Heart, d-Avray was full of confidence that this could be Perth-s time once more.
A visit back to these shores over the Christmas break gave him the chance to see Glory play live again.
As he sat in the stands at NIB Stadium watching the Glory do battle with Brisbane Roar, he observed that his former team was matching the defending champion in every way.
“And that was without Shane Smeltz. The club was under the pump, there was pressure on the coach, but they took the game to the Roar in what ended in a 3-3 draw. I thought then, that with all their key players available, there-s no reason this Glory side can-t go all the way”.
With fans in the west still celebrating a Shane Smeltz hat-trick, d-Avray who had prolific scorers such as Damien Mori and Bobby Despotovski in his side, acknowledged the New Zealand striker was peaking at the ideal time and was full of praise for the marquee man.
In fact, he would like to have had Smeltz in his current set-up, if they had had the funds to lure him to South Africa.
“In 2010, we spoke to Shane-s manager about the possibility of him coming to our club - I would have taken him without blinking an eye. Unfortunately we couldn-t afford him,” d-Avray said.
“Football is always crying out for goal scorers, and Perth must be delighted that they paid the money to the right man. He is certainly delivering for them at key moments."
A lifelong fan of English Premier League side Liverpool, he muses on the comparable lack of return the Reds have seen for their investment in Andy Carroll. As if to underline his point, on the TV screen behind me, Carroll is booked for diving against Newcastle United.
Being a Liverpool supporter, d-Avray is also au fait with the cyclical nature of the game.
“Teams have their winning times, and Perth have certainly had theirs. Football can be a lottery, but Perth are in it and they can do it again. For their next match they have home ground advantage and even more importantly home ground support."
He recalls with great fondness the impact of “The Shed”, the hardcore supporters who turned out in fine voice week after week.
“Our success meant a lot to the people of Perth, we had the best supporters in the land - people would come to the games in part to see them chanting, singing and dancing. It was a wonderful spectacle for the neutral - everyone wanted to be part of ‘The Shed-."
“They-ll be out there again on the weekend, everyone will be behind the team."