Perth Glory coach Ian Ferguson dismissed suggestions his team plays “dirty”, saying it is a physical side that plays hard and that it’s up to the opposition to deal with that.
“We squeeze people and get in their faces, but we’re not a dirty team,” Ferguson said. “We’re physical. It’s a man’s game, and we won’t take a step back when the aim is to go forward. You win the ball and play on.”
Glory has been accused of crossing the line with its tackling, as well as niggling tactics from the players, but Ferguson argues that statistics out of the first two rounds of the A-League competition tell a different story.
“The facts are that our tackling is more effective than any other side in the league,” Ferguson said. “There are statistics available that show we have made 30-plus tackles in which we have won the ball cleanly. We’re a well-organised side, it’s as simple as that.
“We can play entertaining football as well, and we do. I like to play good football. But sometimes you have to win the physical battle first, and you find out what people are like when you go against the opposition like that.
“It’s a contact sport, and we won’t take a step backwards. Sometimes, you try and play pretty football, and sometimes you’ve got to play physical football to get on top in the game. That’s the approach we take.”
Ferguson said Glory’s star striker, Shane Smeltz, would have to be assessed by the club’s medical staff after they received word that he had developed “hamstring tightness” playing for New Zealand in World Cup qualifying games.
Smeltz represented the Kiwis against Tahiti in Papeete on Saturday and Christchurch on Tuesday, with the All Whites winning both games. Smeltz only came off the bench in the second game, midway through the second half.
Ferguson said Smeltz arrived back in Perth last night.
“Our physio was among the group that went out to the airport last night,” he said. “He was checking on Shane’s condition, and he’ll be further assessed today. I can’t be sure about his chances of playing on the weekend until we get a full report.
“The word we got from him over in New Zealand was that he had a bit of hamstring tightness. I don’t know if he developed it in the first game against Tahiti or the second one, or whether he’s done anything significant to it. We’ll have to see him at training and go from there.”
Perth will play Melbourne Heart at nib Stadium on Sunday.
Ferguson said he had plenty of respect for Heart, which has beaten Melbourne Victory and drawn with Wellington Phoenix in the first two rounds. Glory has beaten Brisbane Roar and lost to Central Coast Mariners.
“I think Johnny Aloisi has done a good job with them,” Ferguson said. “They’re good at controlling the game, through Richard Garcia, and breaking forward, through Fred and Matt Thompson, and they’re dangerous up front, with strikers like Dylan Macallister.”
Central Coast Mariners saviour Mike Charlesworth says the A-League champion needs to stop playing the underdog card and embrace the mantle of being “the best” in the land.