Recuperating boss Tony Sage has defended the recent Perth Glory player exodus – insisting it’s counter-productive to hold on to players who want to leave.
The departures of the now clubless Bas Van den Brink, Billy Mehmet (Bangkok Glass FC) and youngster Jesse Makarounus (Melbourne Victory) provoked questions from teammate Michael Thwaite over a lack of direction as last season’s grand finalist slumped to second bottom of the A-League.
But Sage, who underwent heart bypass surgery last week and has vowed to continue devoting his full attention to the club, insisted: “It’s always been a case that if we have a player at the club who isn’t happy and wants to go we will not stand in his way – as long as we are adequately compensated.
“You don’t want players staying at a team under duress - that creates a recipe for resentment which can impact the player group and can be undermining.
“In Billy’s case he wanted to go for nothing because he wasn’t getting the game time he wanted and we got $30,000 for him, plus we saved on his wages.
“We had already told Bas that he wouldn’t be required for next season and when he asked for an early release when the offer (from Indian I-League Churchill Brothers) came in we didn’t stand in his way.
“Obviously that didn’t work out (Van den Brink’s contract was terminated within days of arriving in India) and now he is looking for a club again.
“The only one of three I was sorry to lose was Jesse - that did hurt.
”But he wanted to go and while we could have insisted on him seeing out his contract, it might have ended up causing a rift. The last thing you want is a situation like that at Sydney where you had Jason Culina at odds with Frank Farina.”
Sage maintains there have no further requests from players to leave, adding: “interim coach Alistair Edwards got them together when he took over and asked them to put their hands up if they wanted out and nobody came forward.”
Sage, who had surgery to unblock a clogged vein, says it could be up to two weeks before he returns to full duties overseeing his multi-million dollar mining interests and running of the club.
He is also awaiting further exploratory tests but remains committed to continuing to drive Glory forward.
“I had what in the end was a simple procedure and there are a few tests to go but I should be 100 per cent again in a couple of weeks,” he said.
“My energies will continue to be focused on the club as ever and that won’t change unless my health was to degenerate. I am not planning for that to happen.
”Hopefully the outcome of those tests will be positive and I go on with life.
“I am not expecting that they will find anything else wrong but if I was told by the doctor that I had three months to live and then of course that would change things!”
Sage, who has been ordered not to undertake any long-haul flights in the short term, is in Sydney and planning to be at Parramatta Stadium for the vital duel against higher-flyer Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday night.
“We have Thwaite and Scott Jamieson returning and our injuries are easing off so hopefully we can pick up at least a point,” he said.
“We are still within striking distance of the top six with six games to go and I certainly haven’t given up hope of making the finals.”
The game will be the second in charge for Edwards – the Joeys coach who has who has taken the helm after the departure of Ian Ferguson.
Victory over league leader Central Coast last weekend has boosted morale and Sage is not actively seeking a new full-time coach while former Australia striker Edwards continues his audition for the top job.
“We have received around 40 CVs from coaches all over the world,” said Sage.
”I am surprised by the quality of the applicants. We have been inundated. About 60 per cent of the applicants are Europe-based, 20 per cent from South America and the rest from Australia.
“Right now, though, we’re just seeing how things work out with Ian and whether he even wants to be an A-League coach beyond this season.”
Sage also declared that parting company with Ferguson was the “hardest football decision” he has had to make.
“It was a tough call but his situation in terms of results had become untenable after losing five in a row,” he said.
“The truth is he wasn’t sacked but left in the best interests of the club.
”Would I have sacked him if he had not taken that course of action? I really don’t know.
“We discussed the situation and he basically said it was time to go after we’d lost to Melbourne Heart. He is a great guy and a gentleman and I have the utmost respect for him.”
Melbourne Heart star Massimo Murdocca says that after coming this far over the last seven rounds, the game against Newcastle Jets means "everything" to the team.