August 26, 2005. The first game of the A-League era. Perth Glory against the Central Coast Mariners in the west.
If indeed you do remember it, it’s probably Noel Spencer’s laser-like matchwinner from long range that comes to mind.
But for a young West Aussie at the time who grew up on the fun and fervour of the Perth Glory and was now attending his first game in a media capacity it’s another moment that is etched in my mind from that landmark occasion.
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It was pre-game and rather than be entertained by the bevy of cheerleaders surrounded by purple and orange smoke with the great Steve Armstrong belting out ‘GLLOORRRRRRRYYY, GLLLOORRYYYY’ as we had grown accustomed to over the years there was a solitary musician and his guitar in the centre circle of the pitch singing some rather docile tunes.
Damian Mori and his Perth Glory teammates celebrate winning the NSL Grand Final.Source: News Limited
It honestly looked like they’d picked out the best busker they could find that morning at the Fremantle markets and convinced him to play at Perth Oval that night.
That was as stark a sign of any as to how far the club had fallen by the time the A-League had come around.
And a reminder for those who have stuck with the club through the dark days to revel in the magnificence of their current revival, crystallised in this Grand Final appearance with 60,000 in tow.
The mentioning of the tough times at the beginning of the A-League era is not a crack at anyone. If anything it’s a sign of sympathy.
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Nick Tana poured his heart, soul and millions of his own money into the club that would become the great unifier for football lovers in Western Australia for many a year. But through the demise of the NSL and by the time the A-League came around he decided he could give no more.
I remember seeing Tana before that same game. He looked almost sheepish about what had happened to this great club. He need not have.
His foresight, passion and bold leadership helped create a juggernaut that would make Perth the benchmark for football in Australia for close to a decade. They would not be here today without him.
Nick Tana poured his heart and money into the club.Source: News Corp Australia
The Glory were an A-League style club before the A-League came about and that’s not a dig at the NSL, trust me. Far from it. The NSL was wonderful and we are forever indebted to the work that those clubs did through their ethnic backgrounds to establish the game in this country and we hope that they’ll be back at the top table soon.
But the Glory became a powerhouse without any ethnic identifier. It did not matter if you were Greek, Italian, Croatian, Serbian, Macedonian, English, African, Jewish, Arab you went on a Sunday to Perth Oval and supported the Glory as one and it was a party and a half every single time.
Miller, Despotovski, Strudwick, Naven, Kalogeracos, Siasia, Boutsianis, Harnwell, Hay, Halpin, Tapai, Markovski, Petkovic Mori and plenty more.
Great players, marquee stars, Gary Marocchi.
Bernd Stange thrilling the media, Bernd Stange kissing female police officers, superb football. 40,000+ attendances for epic finals at the WACA and Subiaco Oval and crucially, titles.
By 2005 though that feeling had seemingly evaporated. The party was over and it was replaced by angst.
Tana chose to hand over control of the club to the FFA who didn’t have the power to invest so it would simply wade in the water until a new owner was found.
Bobby Despotovski celebrates scoring for the Glory.Source: News Limited
Steve McMahon was a huge name but as the inaugural A-League coach he only exacerbated the problem. His intentions were positive but he signed poorly, fell out with players and created a divide with the fans.
That basically set the tone for the next 10 years.
A fan group that had grown accustomed to being the benchmark of Australian football was always going to struggle with being brought back to the pack through a salary capped league but pile a myriad of problems on top of that and you had a club that was a very long shadow of its former self.
And that is why those who have stuck with the club through the tough times and even others who have jumped off but will be back in earnest at Optus Stadium shall enjoy the resurgence even more.
Steve McMahon was a huge name as Perth’s inaugural A-League coach.Source: News Limited
It has not been easy.
Tony Sage has ploughed millions into the club for little emotional gain never mind financial, until now.
He has made mistakes and he’d be the first to admit them.
And while there was a Grand Final appearance and two FFA Cup Final defeats those days only ever felt like false dawns.
Yes, many others had tried valiantly to rekindle the old spirit.
They involved the legends of days gone by and brought them back to the club, there were retro strips, they recruited WA based players and while they should be applauded for their endeavours it simply wasn’t the Glory of old.
Because the Glory of old was the benchmark. That’s all the fans knew. Even if they didn’t win the title each year they still felt like the best because nobody could match them off the field.
Tony Sage and the Glory celebrate winning the Premiers Plate.Source: AAP
Well this season, finally, belatedly, that has all changed.
Sage listened to his advisors and brought in a coach that could change the culture. The coach brought in quality players desperate to work under his famed style.
And while it took a little longer than many thought the fans have now returned.
60,000 at Optus Stadium. The party has resumed.
The Perth Glory are the envy of Australian Football once more and that is what this supporter group knows best. That is why this season has been so special for them. That is why the Glory Days are officially back.
And they’ll know they need to savour it regardless of the result because once upon a time these days seemed everlasting.
In football though, that is never the case. You only need to look at the Perth Glory for proof of that.