Dave Mitchell, Robbie Fowler and Ian Ferguson. Names familiar to football fans in the UK and, this week, all names making the papers in Australia. Neil Sherwin reports.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece entitled ‘What’s the story with (Perth Glory?)’, which spoke of a club on the rise, with the players and structure in place to push for the summit of the A-League. Since then Perth Glory have lost all four of their games and this week coach Dave Mitchell left his role to move ‘upstairs’. You could say that it has gone very much downhill in a ‘Be Here Now’ kind of way.
Never the most popular with Perth fans since stepping into the hot seat in November 2007, Mitchell has moved to a football director role. His replacement as head coach is former Glasgow Rangers midfielder Ian Ferguson who last season managed the North Queensland Fury in their inaugural season. Both Mitchell and the club say that there was nothing sinister in a move that has been coming for a while.
"This has been in the wind for some time now," said Mitchell. "I made the first approach to the club about it last year. The club wasn't too sure about it at the time and just wanted me to continue to coach. I was just happy to do the right thing by (chairman) Tony (Sage) and (director) Lou Giuliani because they have been good to me."
Sage, meanwhile, launched a stinging attack on the club’s players, blaming them for the recent run of defeats. "The players have got to take a lot of responsibility for this,” he said. “We're losing a good coach in this process. If professional players need the motivation of the sacking of the coach to play, it's not good enough.”
Eyebrows were raised when Ferguson moved to Western Australia to serve as Mitchell’s assistant at the beginning of the season following his much publicised fallout with Robbie Fowler when the two were at the Fury. Problems arose when Fowler was benched for a game against Brisbane Roar and then opted to sit out the game altogether, though the club claimed the issue was resolved fully shortly afterwards.
Fowler is currently in England having been given time off over the international break but it has now emerged that ‘personal problems’ mean that the former Liverpool and England striker will not return in time to face his old club in Queensland this weekend.
Obviously this has sparked some concerns amongst the Glory supporters but Ferguson moved quickly to dismiss any rumours that Fowler may not return at all.
“Robbie's back home,” said Ferguson. He's had a couple of personal problems that he's got to try and fix over there, but he'll be back on Tuesday.”
Ferguson says he is looking forward to the challenge of getting Glory out of their present slump and has been given a contract that takes him through to the end of the 2011/12 season.
“I'm obviously delighted to have it, but there's a touch of sadness there getting a job this way,” he said.
“I would have liked to have worked a bit longer with him (Mitchell) as an assistant coach. But I've got the opportunity now, the buck stops with me, I'm the head coach and looking forward and relishing the challenge.”
Despite the present run of poor form, a healthy crowd of 9758 still turned out for the Brisbane Roar game and three points this weekend would set Glory up nicely for the visit of winless Sydney FC on October 24.
Neil writes regularly for IBWM and is a co-editor of Back Page Football.