New Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic is not interested in hope. He wants expectation.
And he is quite happy to shoulder the weight of that expectation as he leads Glory into a new A-League era.
Too often Glory have been seen as perennial mid-table finishers hoping for a chance to make the finals.
But Popovic doesn’t do things by halves and insists there are no limits to what can be achieved in a much-anticipated season.
“We don’t want hope any more. We want to be the club where there is an expectation,” he said. “We want to be a club that people expect to be among the top four.
“The alternative is to say, ‘OK let’s try to make the top six and get in there’.
“In the past there was no expectation on where Perth Glory would finish. It’s up to us to change that.
“We want people to say: ‘We expect Perth Glory to be challenging’. Can we do that this season? Of course we can.
“How far we can go? I don’t want to put any limits on the squad. The sky’s the limit. Let’s see how far we can go.”
Popovic, a former Socceroos defender with proven coaching credentials — three A-league grand finals with Western Sydney Wanderers and guiding them to become the first Australian club to win the Asian Champions League — is a shrewd tactician who knows what he wants. He has a reputation as a master motivator and says the biggest challenge has been to instil a psychological change in players’ mindset.
“The biggest challenge was a mental one, the psychological aspect, to get a shift from we want to win to winning to win,” Popovic said.
“When I think back to where we started, where the group was psychologically to where they are now, they’ve all really grown along that path.”
Popovic, who faces his former side in the opening game, has replaced a third of the squad since his arrival with much of the recruitment aimed at plugging a defence that leaked 53 goals in each of the last two seasons. In Ivan Franjic, Jason Davidson and Matthew Spiranovic, Popovic has three of the back four that began the Socceroos’ 2014 World Cup game against Chile and he has also added the well-travelled Tomi Mrcela.
It is a squad more than capable of taking the big prize.
“You win games with your attack. You win titles with your defence,” Popovic said.
“People will see that the players we have brought in will be important in terms of our playing style.
“We want to be a team that can be quick on transition both ways and play at speed.
“It’s still early stages and we have a long way to go … I’m pleased with the progress.”