After a disastrous 2021/22 A-League Men campaign, the Perth Glory will be looking to make amends and take a step in the right direction as the club looks to rebuild.
Whatever could go wrong for the Glory, did go wrong. The club recorded it’s worst ever season in the A-League Men competition, taking out its first wooden spoon in the process.
Marquee players and former Liverpool teammates Daniel Sturridge and Brad Jones joined in the off-season to plenty of fanfare, but the duo would fail to have much of an impact after being struck down by injury.
Sturridge was the biggest disappointment, with the former Liverpool striker making just six appearances, only one of which he started, and no goals. He’d be released at the end of the season with then club CEO Tony Pignata publicly coming out and saying the move was a failure.
They were also marred by injuries to star striker Bruno Fornaroli, while the emerging Luke Bodnar also spent a stint on the sidelines.
On the coaching front, the Glory would part way with two of its coaches. Head coach Richard Garcia and assistant Steven McGarry were sacked, with assistant and Glory NPL coach Ruben Zadkovich taking the reins, now tasked with getting his side back to the top.
The Western Australia border closure was another blow, with the Glory forced to play another season on the road, away from their home state, for much of the season.
Last year, the Glory fielded a side which was comprised mostly of youngsters. The club has addressed this in the off-season, bringing some much needed experience to the squad, spearheaded by former Socceroo Mustafa Amini.
The 29-year-old is a good fit for the Glory, as a workhorse midfielder who is dynamic, creative and possesses the ability break the lines when deployed as a attacking midfielder.
He’s also proven throughout his career that he’s more than capable of playing deeper in both central and defensive midfield.
Following a 10-year stint in Europe with the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Randers FC, Aarhus GF, Apol Lissamol and PAEEK, and also being a regular fixture of the Socceroos squad for the past couple years, Amini returned back to Australia last season.
After struggling for first team minutes with Sydney, he should walk straight into Perth’s starting XI and add some much needed experience and class to the Glory.
There’s not too many cases in which a teenager is a club’s biggest departure in an offseason. 18-year-old Joshua Rawlins, however, leave a big hole in defence, securing a move to Dutch outfit FC Utretcht after an impressive 2021/22 season.
He’d make 22 appearances for the Glory last season, and while he began the campaign as a rotation player, he quickly asserted himself into the starting line-up and was one of the highlights of the season.
Despite his age, he adapted quickly to the physical nature of the A-League Men competition, holding his own against some of the best attackers in the league. He also proved he was versatile, having been used as both a full-back and centre-back throughout the season.
And while the Glory defence was leaky, Rawlins was solid throughout the season. The Glory still have Antonee Burke-Gilroy at their disposal and brought in Matt Hatch from the Mariners as coverage, but Rawlins will still be missed at the back.
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What to expect:
After two turbulent seasons, Zadkovich will be out to get the club back on the right track and bring some stability and organisation to the side as he takes over the top job full-time.
Defensively, the side should look more stable after keeping just five clean sheets last season, notably bringing in experienced English defender Mark Beevers from Peterborough United.
With Zadkovich liking to set up his side with four defenders at the back, the 32-year-old will likely be leader of a back four. The defence will be rounded out with fellow signees John Koutroumbis, who comes across from the Wanderers, and the aforementioned Hatch, who is also expected to stop the bleeding in defence.
The Glory will look to have a better balance in the squad of inexperience and seasoned veterans. While Zadkovich will be keen to progress the careers of the youth players he coached, he’s also addressed the need to have experienced heads around them to lean on.
Signees Amini and winger Ryan Williams will have an impact. The former has spent the past ten years in England with Portsmouth, Fulham, Barnsley, Rotherham United and Oxford United. The 29-year-old has been a great role player in his time abroad and will looked upon to create a spark in wide midfield.
Meanwhile in central midfield, Aaron McEneff also comes across from Hearts in the Scottish Premiership to add some much needed experience and class.
As too will former Tunisian international Salim Khelifi, who joins from Swiss side FC Zürich. The 28-year-old has played in the Bundesliga, Swiss League and Europa League.
They’ve also bolstered their attack with David Williams returning to Australia following a stint in India. He’ll likely play the supporting striker alongside Fornaroli.
Having been eager on his contingent of under 23s players getting minutes in the first team, Zadkovich will be keeping the faith again this season.
Having the blueprints of building a formidable side, the likes of Callum Timmins, Giordano Colli and Bodnar will be expected to get plenty of chances again this season.
And having brought in Stefan Colakovski from Melbourne City and Luke Ivanovic from the Brisbane Roar, a duo with plenty of upside, Zadkovich looks poised to rebuild the Glory.
Though it doesn’t look like this season will be a quick turnaround, Perth will be a more competitive outfit and will show some encouraging signs as the club looks to become a top side of the competition once again.
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