The First Cut Is The Deepest

November 5, 2014 at 8:23 am 3 comments

In sport there are some people whose names are synonymous with the club they played for. In Australian football, Gareth Naven is one such person.

Gareth Naven was the inaugural captain of Perth Glory in 1996 and played with the armband around his arm until 2002, when he hung up his boots. He played 143 games for the club and was a player who lead by example, his passion and his commitment. While he was at the club they won two National Soccer League Premierships; they also almost made the finals in their very first season in existence.

When he retired his career had garnered so much respect that at Perth Oval/ME Bank Stadium or now NIB Stadium, he had a room named after him. Not only that he was made the first ever life member of the club in 2004.

In June of this year his contribution was recognised once again as an annual trophy was named in his honour. With Perth Glory having a side playing in the National Premier Leagues Western Australia, it meant the club where he is best known would play against the club where he made his name, Perth Soccer Club. The trophy named in his honour and sponsored by Macron is to be determined on aggregate scores during the home and away season. Former Perth Glory coach and now President of Perth SC Gary Marocchi  said at the time the trophy was announced “Gareth Naven was fiercely competitive on the field and always gave you 100 per cent passion and commitment, whether it was in the Azzurri or purple shirt.”

After his playing career came to an end Gareth Naven took over the coaching reins of Perth Glory’s youth team when the National Youth League started in 2008. in 2009/10 he lead the team to the Grand Final where they were runners up.

Naven took on an assistant coaching role to the first team when Alistair Edwards became coach and former club legend Scott Miller also came on board. The club making it very clear that they wished to involve more former club luminaries to try and bring back the pride in the floundering club.

It became clear at that time that the club was looking back at the key aspects that made the club successful under former owner Nick Tana. The focus was very much on Perth Glory once more becoming a community club, one the people of Western Australia could identify with, and be proud of. With an emphasis on youth, young local talent was signed with a three year plan to lift the club back into the top echelons of Australian football. Nick Tana created Perth Glory on the back of such values and talent, yet in recent years it was clear the club had lost its way and many welcomed the shift in focus. In fact word is this is what the much talked about Hatt Report recommended.

It was almost a year ago in December 2013 the club and coach Alistair Edwards parted ways, following a spat between the coach and club captain Jacob Burns. It was clear that the path that the club was taking under the Edwards regime, youth was being favoured, and the 35 year old Captain was unhappy at being left on the bench. His frustration was not helped by the fact that the Coach’s son Ryan Edwards played in Burns position in midfield in that match against Melbourne Victory; It is worth mentioning that the on-loan Ryan Edwards has since returned to English Championship side Reading where he has made ten appearances and been hailed by coach Nigel Adkins.

From that point on the focus at the club shifted again, as the club brought in experienced players in the transfer window to assist their push for the finals. The three year plan, the return to Nick Tana’s model club, were no longer the way forward.

In June the focus shifted again. It was time for out with the old and in with the new, confirmation that the path chosen at the start of the season was no longer going to be the path taken. Following a review of the club’s coaching structure Naven and Scott Miller were shown the door. Former WAIS Women’s coach John Gibson replaced Naven in charge of the Youth team.(Even though Wikipaedia at the time of writing still has both in charge!) Gibson’s assistants are Steve McGarry and the first appointee in the newly created role of General Manager Football, Jacob Burns.

These appointments were announced on the same day it was revealed that the two stalwarts of the club were shown the door.

When asked by Not the Footy Show whose decision it was to part company with these two former players and reverse the planned increased involvement with former players the club advised “following the end of the 2013/14 A-League season the club completed an internal review of its coaching structure and football department to reflect the Club’s changing business needs. Given the nature of the matter no further comment will be made.”

The sad and unfortunate thing is the club that Gareth Naven represented so proudly, now finds one of its greatest ambassadors taking it to court, for unfair dismissal. The case is due to go to court later this month. This cannot be good for either party.

Many fans would like to know who made the decision to part ways with these two former players. Was it the newly structured Football side of the club? Was it new coach Kenny Lowe? Or was it the CEO Jason Brewer? Based on the statement from the club issued to Not the Footy Show, one would assume the latter made the final call, as he is the head of the club, and as CEO he would be the logical one reviewing the structures being put in place. However it could also have been the owner.

Some would say that Naven paid the ultimate price for speaking out against the former club captain after the altercation in the changing rooms at AAMI Park. Naven was quoted at the time as saying, “As a former captain of the club, I don’t like to see the club be in this position. When I was the captain of the club, it was really important to me that the priority always was the club, the behaviour of the club, the team and the players, and the integrity and humility you deliver as a captain. I’ve been highly disappointed with Jacob Burns’ behaviour at the moment. He is trying to cause a revolt, which taints this club.”

If that is true it is a shame that someone at the club could not mediate between the two combatitive former midfielders.

While looking into what is a very sad story, a club stalwart upon whom so many honours have been bestowed taking that very same club to court, Not the Footy Show was advised that state administrator Football West had been told that they could not employ Gareth Naven in a coaching capacity as long as he was taking a NPL club to court.

Football West CEO Peter Hugg was quick to refute that claim and said “‘as governing body of the sport in WA, Football West is entitled to and reserves its right to employ whoever it determines to be the best candidate for any such vacant position. I have received no directive from Glory not to employ any previous coach or staff member.”

We did ask Mr Hugg whether such a directive may have come from the FFA but he assured us that it did not.

There is no doubt that such a court case will bring more bad publicity to Perth Glory, and there is still a case pending with Alistair Edwards. It is very sad to see former stars forced to take such action and no doubt it pains them and tarnishes the memories they have of great times at a club they loved.

Coaching is a precarious game, and that is why coaches are paid more than most of us, as compensation when the inevitable firing happens. Is it therefore not fair for them to expect their contract to be paid out in full?

Sadly in all of this there will be no winners. Sadly in all this, irrespective of whether you love him or hate him, a true club legend – and the accolades were bestowed on him by the club – should not have to go down this path.

Would Nick Tana have ever let this reach this stage? Unlikely, as he had a passion for the club similar to Gareth Naven’s. He may not have shared your viewpoint, but he would go out of his way to make sure that nothing harmed the club.

It is a very unfortunate and disappointing situation, for the club and one who served it so well, Gareth Naven.







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Going Through the Roof A Sporting Chance

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dan  |  November 5, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Once again a display of the completely muddled thinking at the club. If you decide that you want to go in a new direction and get rid of a coach with a contract then you must pay the contract of your coach out. Before a decision to get rid of someone is taken, the cost of the decision should be understood by the business and evaluated and then the decision can be based on the cost/benefit analysis. That is standard business practice when operating a review of structures and roles – which is how the club wish to portray this case as a purely business decision.
    The saddest thing about this case is it shows the true colours of the club and the people behind it – if this is how they treat a legend of the club, a man who gave above and beyond both on an off the field (whatever he was being paid – he never treated it like a job but like an obsession – 24/7 he was always trying to improve the standards and led by example demanding the most from himself before expecting his players and staff to do the same) then where is the loyalty? Where is the respect? What chance do normal people, who have not bled for the cause of the club, stand when it comes to being treated fairly and with respect?? its no wonder the fans feel alienated. Its no wonder the WA football community feels alienated.
    I have experienced some low points in my association with the club and seen some great (and talented) people bundled out in the most disgraceful manner but just when you think they can not get any worse…most of the people behind the scenes have changed over time but the common factor must be the ownership. The only conclusion i can draw is that the club is a classy as the people who own it!
    On a contrasting note – i have recently moved over to Sydney and am absolutely amazed and enthralled by the WSW phenomenon. From the stories i have heard from Gareth Naven & Scotty Miller it sounds just like what it would have been like to be part of the Glory story in those first few years. Uniting a community where everyone can get behind you and feel like they belong to something great. It has even made the Sydney FC fans up their game. Sure – success on the field is a massive help but i bet these guys would be just as passionate if their team was bottom of the league! In this city it seems football is finally flourishing – i really hope the Glory the can find a way to get back to those basics and rekindle that passion and fire for the game which most definitely exists in the west.

  • 2. Stephen  |  November 6, 2014 at 11:35 am

    This is the story of Perth Glory under Tony Sage. The guy has no feeling for the club whatsoever, it is all a publicity stunt to him, and he does not care who he hurts along the way, as long as he gets his name in the paper.

    It would appear that as he did with Alistair Edwards, he backed Burns over a guy with a rich history at the club. Once again he appears to have backed the wrong horse, as I am sure if this does go to court a great deal of the club’s dirty washing will be aired in public.

    The only plus is it may result in change, and hopefully that change will be Mr Sage leaving NIB for good along with all his cronies he keeps putting in key roles.

    A very sad day indeed. Let us not forget that the former CEO promised Jamie Harnwell a job when he retired… Words have no value at Perth Glory neither do contracts. Oh how good it would be to have a man of honour such as Nick Tana back at the helm!

  • 3. Not The Footy Show  |  November 6, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Dan, Thank you for your comment. As you say it has been sad the way good people have been bundled out of the door and their reputations damaged as a result. The only good thing is many in football circles are beginning to realise that a departure from Perth Glory often has little to do with your performance or work.

    It is incredibly sad that the club and Gareth find themselves in this situation and one cannot help thinking it could have been avoided, or managed better.

    Both of you highlight the common denominator, the owner, as we have had different CEO’s as well as different coaches and other positions but the story is the same, it cannot be a coincidence.

    Stephen, I was at the press conference where Jamie was told he would have a position at the club. It was on the public record yet never happened! The negotiation in the end was I believe that he was given a role with Football West and would always be referred to as ‘former Perth Glory legend’ and Perth Glory would pay an agreed amount of his salary. I believe this was for a two year term.

    As sad as it is one has to ask when is it going to change? What will be the catalyst for that change?


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