News, views and abuse from Australia
When your off-season is twice as long as everywhere else, transfer sagas tend to drag on a bit.
One of the A-League’s longest has finally concluded, with Robbie Fowler set to call Perth Glory home next season.
The news came as a surprise to many, following speculation that Fowler would stay on at cash-strapped North Queensland Fury as captain-coach, before Sydney FC admitted that they too were keen to sign the popular English striker.
Instead it’s Perth Glory who have pulled off a major coup, making immediate use of Football Federation Australia’s latest addition to the marquee player rule.
Perth’s marquee signing from last season, Mile Sterjovski, will now fall under the new 'Australian marquee' slot created to entice more Socceroos back to the A-League, leaving space for Perth to also sign Robbie Fowler outside of their salary cap.
In a week which saw one of the biggest sporting scandals in Australian history break – rugby league club Melbourne Storm have been stripped of two Premiership titles for cheating the salary cap – the Glory may now find it difficult to side-step questions about how they’ve managed to afford such a star-studded squad.
Fowler and Sterjovski will run out alongside veteran English defender Andy Todd, Scottish midfielder Steven McGarry and much-travelled Serbian striker Branko Jelic next season, not to mention Perth’s considerable pool of Australian talent.
The star names have Perth backer Tony Sage dreaming of a top-two finish next season, although Fowler’s arrival should also make a difference to the club’s bottom line.
The former Liverpool star added some 4,000 fans to the gate when North Queensland travelled to Perth’s ME Bank Stadium last season, and Sage is hopeful that thousands of new members will now sign up to watch a club that was once the best supported in the defunct National Soccer League.
When a new regime swept to power and established the A-League in 2005, they did so aiming to rid football in Australia of its long-standing ethnic ties.
However, the FFA has remained conspicuously silent on Perth’s close links to the city’s expatriate British community, and the Union Jack still flutters freely on the terraces in Western Australia.
Fowler will receive another dose of familiarity when he lobs up in Perth, as the Glory have also signed erstwhile North Queensland coach Ian Ferguson to act as assistant to top man Dave Mitchell.
Fowler and Ferguson were at loggerheads for much of the previous campaign, so how the pair get along in Perth will prove a fascinating sub-plot to what is already shaping up as an intriguing A-League season.
With Perth having lured Fowler from under the nose of Sydney FC, the Sky Blues will be doubly determined to land Crystal Palace midfielder Nicky Carle – one of the most coveted players in the A-League following his successful stint with the Newcastle Jets.
Carle has endured a peripatetic career in Europe, but the creative midfielder is fondly regarded in his homeland, and Sydney FC could face stiff competition to land his signature from a host of other clubs – including, it seems, Perth Glory.
The addition of new club Melbourne Heart will generate plenty of interest in the weeks to come, but for now its Perth Glory attracting all the headlines in the A-League.
After making their maiden finals appearance last season, they’ll hope to go one step further this time around, and with Robbie Fowler set to don the Number 9 jersey for the 2010-11 campaign, Perth Glory supporters may just have found their new 'God'.
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