A-League 2018/19 report card: Perth Glory

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From unlikely Premiers to shock grand final losers, the rise of expectation at Perth Glory under Tony Popovic has been immense in the 2018/19 season.

And as the dust settles on Glory’s grand final heartbreak, The Football Sack brings you their 2018/19 season report card.

This season

A-League: Premiers

Finals: Grand Finalist

FFA Cup: Round of 32 (Lost 1-0 to Melbourne Victory)

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Top-scorer: Andy Keogh (15 goals)

Season Summary

Wow. What a remarkable campaign it was for Perth Glory under Tony Popovic. The former Western Sydney boss performed miracles at the Wanderers and his impact in Perth was no different, taking Glory from 8th at the end of the 2017/18 season to the Premiers Plate and a home grand final in his first season in charge.

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Unfortunately the fairy tale ended without a final chapter when Sydney FC travelled to Perth and took home the champions trophy with a penalty shootout win over the hot favourites. But Popovic was upbeat and optimistic after the game and so should all Perth Glory fans, who have seen only a glimpse of what is to come as Glory head into the 2019/20 season with the prospect of the AFC Champions League and another tilt at the A-League title well within sight.

Areas in need of improvement

This season Perth learned the hard way that an A-League championship is won by a handful of key moments, not by a body of work produced over the entire season. Rising to those key moments is something Glory failed to do when it mattered most.

In round 23 a regular-season high of 17,856 Glory fans were on hand to see their side beaten 2-0 by Melbourne Victory. The game was billed as a potential premiership-sealing game for the hosts, but Perth were truly undone by Victory on that day, a defeat which significantly dampened Glory’s sails.

That was an early warning. Then came the crunch-time of finals and Adelaide United almost knocked them out of contention, losing out to the premiers in an action packed semi-final which went all the way to penalties. The following week it was Sydney’s turn to push Glory all the way, this time in the grand final which also went to penalties but ended in favour of the Sky Blues.

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An improvement in performance on the biggest stage is what Popovic will be hoping to instil in his side for the 2019/20 season. It’s fair to say this season’s heartbreak will go a long way towards fuelling the fire in the playing group to kick on next season and seize their chances when those crucial moments arise.

Top Student

I’m in danger of ruffling some feathers by overlooking Diego Castro, but for me Neil Kilkenny has been the top performer in Glory’s squad all season long.

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In the centre of the park Kilkenny was calm, controlled and metronomic as he dictated the tempo of Glory’s play. Six goals and six assists for the season to go with an unmatched contribution of passes, crosses and created chances for his side show his undeniable importance to the function of Popovic’s game plan.

It’s not just the amount of touches of the ball he had this season, but what he did with the ball when he got it. He played smart, creative, intuitive football which his teammates lapped up like ravenous hounds. Unfortunately, a serious training injury to the ligaments in his ankle on the eve of the finals hindered his performance in the post-season, but his willingness to play through the pain was a testament to the mentality of Glory’s truly underrated midfield star.

Class Clown

Hint: if playing hide-and-seek with this player, the first place you’d look for him is behind a defence in an offside position.

Andy Keogh was caught offside a league-high 34 times this season. It’s an aspect of the striker’s game which draws a lot of ire from his own fans in his direction, which was particularly humorous to observe this year as he went on to break Glory’s single-season A-League goals record with his 15 goals over the course of the campaign.

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With Bruno Fornaroli waiting in the wings and the overall improvement of the Glory squad it seems criticism of Keogh’s performances went up a notch over the 2018/19 campaign. If you ask one Glory fan about Keogh they’ll tell you he’s their favourite player, but ask another and they’ll want him on the first plane back to Ireland. It’s a fascinating relationship he has with the club which is bound to become even more compelling with the arrival of Fornaroli for the 2019/20 season.

Outlook

Sunny skies and smooth sailing, barring any shock personnel changes over the off-season. Popovic’s stock is undoubtedly rising after the success of this season, as is the case for a number of his star players. Questions over the future of Chris Ikonomidis and the out of contract Matthew Spiranovic will arise in the coming months and Popovic and his staff will undoubtedly do everything they can to secure the services of both players for the coming season.

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Should the club retain the bulk of their premiership winning squad, Glory’s prospects for a new campaign look very bright indeed. The club’s first taste of Asian Champions League football adds a new sense of excitement to a club already on the up, and after coming frustratingly close to perfection this season the coaching staff, players and fans will be back with a vengeance, and an insatiable hunger for more success.

Grade

A+

Featured image credit: Perth Glory media team

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Matthew Comito
Football nut, student journalist and firm believer that Berisha dived in the 2012 A-League Grand Final. Covering Perth Glory for the 2018/19 season.