Perth Glory had a 2021/22 A-League campaign to forget as they picked up the wooden spoon for the first time in their history but in fairness what could go wrong did go wrong.
Hopes were high heading into the new A-League season following a number of new signings, including the capture of former Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge.
Glory had just missed out on the top six in the previous season, but there was a real hope they would play finals in the new campaign and mount a push to make the grand final.
However no-one could have really predicted the way they fell to the bottom of the ladder, picking up just four wins out of 26 games played.
It was a dramatic fall from grace. In the 2018/19 season Glory won the minor premiership under the leadership of coach Tony Popovic. They also made the grand final before losing to Sydney FC on penalties.
Just three years later they hit rock bottom. So what exactly went wrong? Here are the five big issues.
Daniel Sturridge was a flop
It was arguably the biggest signing in the history of the A-League when the former Liverpool and Manchester City striker put pen-to-paper on a one-year deal.
It was a gamble. The striker had not played professional football for 18 months and has had a history of injuries. But Glory banked on him staying fit, scoring plenty of goals and putting plenty of bums on seats at HBF Park.
However the move was a disaster from the start. He was unfit and it was taking an age to get him up to match fitness. When he was close to getting there both illness and injury struck.
Sturridge played a total of 138 minutes over the season with zero goals and zero assists. It came as no surprise when he quietly left the club at the end of the season. The big financial outlay for zero return hit the club hard.
The loss of key players
The signing of Sturridge also had a knock-on effect as it meant that Diego Castro would not be returning for the new season.
The playmaker was a big loss as Glory lacked creativity in the middle of the park throughout the season. So many times Castro was the spark that Glory needed and he was not there to bail them out this time.
Other players moved on at the end of the 2020/21 season and it soon became clear they would be badly missed.
Neil Kilkenny was allowed to leave for Western United and it could be argued that his experience was missed in the middle of the park.
Perth’s loss was Western’s gain as the midfielder went on to play a key role in helping them win the grand final against Melbourne City.
Too much time away from home
The entire Perth Glory group had it tougher than most as they were forced to spend weeks on end away from home due to the Western Australian borders being closed.
It meant that teams could not travel into WA so Glory had to head east and play all their games over there.
It would have taken its toll on the players and that was proven by results on the pitch. By the time they returned to Perth, the damage was done and they could not recover during a run of home games.
Troubles behind the scenes
It would appear that all was not well behind the scenes. When Glory did return to Perth the poor form continued and resulted in coach Richard Garcia losing his job.
Many felt this was harsh due to the unprecedented times the club had battled through and he should have been given until the end of the season. It was suggested all was not well and that was also effecting performances on the pitch.
Reuben Zadkovich was handed the job for the rest of the season and things still did not improve.
In fairness Zadkovich was hit by crippling injuries as a host of his best players were ruled out.
Captain Brandon O’Neill was ruled out for the rest of the season with a bad shoulder injury, while star striker Bruno Fornaroli suffered an ankle injury while on international duty with the Socceroos.
Countless others were also ruled out and it resulted in Zadkovich having to field pretty much a youth team for the rest of the season.
Despite a spirited and gutsy 2-0 win over Melbourne City, it did not work out well despite the best efforts of the youngsters.