Soccer: Perth Glory’s appointment of Tony Popovic a signal of intent to return to the top

Tony Popovic has joined Perth Glory. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Tony Popovic has joined Perth Glory. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

TONY Popovic’s recent appointment as the Perth Glory’s new head coach represents a new and exciting era for the sleeping A-League giants.

Despite a rich footballing history, Glory has so far failed to hit the glorious heights their name suggests.

Since the dissolving of the National Soccer League (NSL) and birth of the A-League, Perth has been riddled with inconsistency, having failed to translate their old NSL success, trophyless since the inception of the league in 2005 and only one grand final appearance to its name.

Former Western Sydney Wanderer’s mentor Popovic put pen to paper on a three-year deal last week and succeeds outgoing coach Kenny Lowe, who was relieved of his duties following Glory’s failure to qualify for the A-League finals.

Alongside Popovic, the Glory also announced Tony Pignata as the club’s new chief executive.

The former Sydney FC boss played an important role in the Sky Blues’ rise to the top of the domestic game.

It represents a new era for the Glory and ushers in an exciting time for soccer fans in WA.

Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Tony Popovic pose with the Asian Champions League trophy. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

The 44-year-old’s arrival is a coup for Glory and he boasts arguably one of the best CVs in Australian soccer.

Widely praised for his tactical nous, Popovic’s method of style is a counter attacking game, where he readily selects his team and lines up his strategy according to the opponent in each case.

He demands the absolute best from his players and will not compromise when it comes to professionalism, his players know exactly where they stand with him, and failure to meet the standards set means no place in the first team.

It is this no nonsense attitude that brought major success to Western Sydney Wanderers, where he won the Asian Champions League in 2014, an A-League premiership and guided the New South Wales outfit to three A-League grand finals (2013, 2014, 2016).

It also represents a chance for Popovic to bounce back following an ill-fated spell at Turkish club Karabukspor that lasted 10 weeks.

He wants to make Perth a feared outfit again and take them back to the glory days that once saw the club win three premierships in the NSL.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of tapping into the vast potential that the club has,” Popovic said last week upon his unveiling.

“I’m also looking forward to continuing to work with the great young talent that exists in WA… it’ll be great to have the opportunity to work with such talented young players.”

Popovic’s impressive CV goes back to his playing days where he represented the likes of Crystal Palace, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Al-Arabi and Sydney FC.

He was also part of the Australian team that participated at the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Tony Popovic (right) takes on Brazilian superstar Kaka at the 2006 World Cup. Picture: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

His transition from player to a coaching role saw him become assistant manager at Sydney FC from 2008-2011 before moving Crystal Palace until 2012.

Appointed as the inaugural manager for the Western Sydney Wanderers in May 2012, he was named A-League coach of the year after leading the club to first in the league in 2012-13.

This led to the club qualifying for the Asian Champions League in its debut season, where Popovic guided the team to a remarkable run to the final where they defeated Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia to become the first Australian team to win the competition.

Popovic’s first game in charge will be a marquee friendly with English Premier League giants Chelsea on July 23 at Optus Stadium.

“It couldn’t come any bigger than that and I think everyone will be really excited to see what we can do,” he said.

Popovic’s arrival will definitely change expectations at the Glory, with the club now considered one of the frontrunners for next year’s championship.

His immediate task will be recruitment, following the loss of goalscorer Adam Taggart to Brisbane, the future of key talisman Diego Castro in question and several other players out of contract.

Perth has made a statement of intent with Popovic’s arrival and now it is time for him to bring back the glory days.

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