Perth need to get behind their team

As Perth Glory prepare for their first home game of the season, let's see if the crowds are on the way back. Time to put up or shut up? It's getting to that stage.

As Perth Glory prepare for their first home game of the season, let's see if the crowds are on the way back. Time to put up or shut up? It's getting to that stage.

Truth be told, the attendance at nib Stadium for the visit of Melbourne Heart will interest me more than the result. Why? Because, perhaps for the first time in the Hyundai A-League, the Glory have all their ducks in a row. A former player as coach, a clutch of talented young West Australians in the dressing room, and a squad deep enough - and good enough - to sustain a title challenge.

Then there's the stadium itself. For most of last season it was a construction site. Now it's complete, offering a level of comfort the fans have rarely enjoyed. Look back at footage of what was then-known as Perth Oval when the Glory debuted in the old NSL (1996) and you can see what I mean. The only constant is 'The Shed', and even that's had a makeover. In short, there's no place like home. Again.

Given an A-League record crowd of 16,708 showed up when the Glory re-opened their refurbished stadium in the final round of last season against Adelaide United, there are encouraging signs. We all know how Perth Glory were the dominant force, on and off the field, during the death throes of the NSL. Four grand finals, two championships, and crowds averaging 12,346 for their eight seasons in the old competition were extraordinary achievements given the future of professional club football in Australia, at the time, was routinely in doubt. In an unforgettable festive period in 1997/98, they pulled more than 17,000 to three home matches, while the club record (18,067) for the visit of South Melbourne the following season stands to this day.

But that was then, and this is now. In the eight seasons of the Hyundai A-League, Perth Glory have yet to hit the 10,000 average. At times, those averages have dipped below 8,000. Not good enough.

For a club which has such history, and pedigree, five-figure averages should be the bare minimum. Blessed with a monopoly on what, I still believe, remains a significant football market, it's clear there's been a serious disconnect. Spend anytime at the ground, or in the beer garden at the 'Brisbane', and you'll hear a litany of reasons why that's the case.

In no particular order, the complaints centre on the shortfalls of the coach, the lack of a genuine marquee, the lack of matchday entertainment (bring back Steve Armstrong perhaps), the absence of local players in the squad, results, kick-off times, and the level of media support. Let's be honest, fans are - by definition - malcontents. Every club in the country would hear similar concerns. The difference is the Glory had a rusted-on support base which - until recently - was looking in other directions.

Thankfully, the pendulum may finally be swinging back in the right direction. Reaching the 2012 grand final drew a line in the sand after years of poor results, while the sense of injustice at the way they were eliminated from last season's finals series provides extra motivation for the fans to start believing again.

A coaching staff headed by Alistair Edwards and including two other ex-Glory players - Scott Miller and Gareth Naven - creates an important sense of ownership. Having local players like Ryan and Cameron Edwards, Brandon O'Neill, Jack Clisby and Daniel de Silva in the mix fortifies the argument that the Glory are rediscovering their soul. Shane Smeltz is a bona-fide marquee, and imports Sidnei and Ryo Nagai are genuinely exciting. In short, there's a lot of reasons to believe the Glory will have a decent campaign. For the latent support there's far less justification for staying away. For the sake of the club, I hope they don't.

A strong, vibrant, Perth Glory is crucial to the evolution of the Hyundai A-League. If you look around the country - with the possible exception of Wellington - it's the market which has the most untapped potential. Let's be honest, the players must be sick of hearing about the good old days. One way to fix that is to deliver results. The rest, though, is out of their hands. That's up to the punters. The way I see it, they've run out of excuses.