By Matt Farrand (Perth Glory fan).
When former Manchester United midfielder, Liam Miller was announced as having signed for Perth Glory on June 3 2011, there was a fair deal of excitement on Australia’s west coast. Miller came to the Glory with a decent résumé, and at an age (30) where he would be able to still offer some of his best football. Miller was signed by former Glasgow Rangers legend, Ian Ferguson. Miller was set to star in Perth’s midfield and provide a much needed spark between a solid defence and a starving attack.
From the opening game, Glory fans were impressed by the former Hibs and Sunderland playmaker. Miller’s ball control, passing, vision and ability to dictate the tempo of the game made him an instant success with fans and pundits alike. With 3 wins in their first 3 games of the season, this new look Glory side were able to attribute much of that success to Miller. Unfortunately for Miller, Glory’s season went downhill fairly quickly from there until a late run of great form pushed Glory up into 3rd place, and secured a spot in the A-League finals. Despite the club’s unpredictable form, Miller was a constant standout on the park.
The late season form strung together by the Glory was so good that they managed to scrape in the Hyundai A-League Final against Brisbane Roar, who were hosting the Grand Final for the 2nd year in a row, and were clear favourites to win the game. Miller’s showing in the final was impressive, however the Glory failed to turn what possession they had into chances. Due to an own goal, the Glory managed to take the lead in the 51st minute. However, all the glory was going to Brisbane Roar that night, as they equalised in the 82 minute, and converted a controversial penalty in the 94th. The penalty in question was given away by none other than Liam Miller, who slid in from behind, in an effort to win the ball from golden boot winner Besart Berisha. At the time the contact barely appeared visible, and there were plenty of accusations about Berisha diving, however after the game, Miller admitted to making contact, even if it was minimal.
Despite giving away the winning penalty, Miller was voted Supporter’s Player of the Year for Perth Glory, and remained a relatively popular figure. This was quite the opposite for the club manager, Ian Ferguson, who was never a popular appointment in the first place, and rarely did much to change fans opinions. When Ferguson came to the Glory, the A-League was changing shape, and the long ball style of play was being criticised by pundits and fans alike, who wanted to see a short passing style that had proven successful for several clubs already. The long ball game was labelled as a ‘British style’ of football, and Ferguson came under attack for his poor style of football and his British recruitment policy.
The 2012/13 season started with a great victory, as Ferguson’s Glory got their much celebrated revenge over the Brisbane Roar, in a 1-0 win. The celebrations were short lived however, as Perth’s style of football returned to the spotlight, and the poor form that followed for the next few months could only be linked with the style of football on offer. In this period of time, Miller drew a fair amount of criticism for ‘going missing’ in games, racking up to many fouls and yellow cards, as well as apparently losing his ability to put his vision and passing range to good use. His midfield partnership with former Leeds hardman, Jacob Burns, and former Motherwell man, Steve McGarry was highly criticised for offering nothing going forward, and leaving far too many studs marks on the legs of opposition players.
On February 11th 2013, Ferguson was sacked, and Alistair Edwards was appointed as the interim manager. Edwards came in as a young manager who spent time working in the Australian youth set-up and believed in local youth, and short passing style of football. Immediate results were seen, once Edwards took over, and Miller was at the heart of the turnaround on the pitch. In an effort to free up Miller from defensive duties, Burns was pushed deeper and Miller was allowed to roam the pitch, always providing a short option to the player with the ball. His combination with young Japanese winger Ryo Nagai proved to be the weapon that would push the Glory off of the bottom table, and into the finals, once more. Despite being eliminated by Melbourne Victory in the first week, many had tipped Perth be the dark horses of the finals series, mostly due to that Nagai/Miller combination that was undoing defences for fun under the guidance of Edwards.
Rumours of Miller’s departure from Perth were confirmed on May 22nd, when he ironically signed for Brisbane Roar, whom he gifted a Grand Final winning penalty only a season before. Miller ought to enjoy his time at the Roar, who play a possession and passing style that should suit Miller, and hopefully bring out the best of what he still has to offer. Liam will always be remembered at Perth Glory for his great vision and ability to control the game, as well as some tough tackling, and unfortunately, ‘that penalty’.
Matt is a member of the Australian FourFourTwo forum.
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