Perth Glory’s Premiers’ Plate success did not happen overnight.
Plans were already quietly being hatched midway through last season at a series of lunches and meetings between owner Tony Sage, former chief executive Peter Filopoulos, football manager Jacob Burns and a couple of hand-picked players including Neil Kilkenny.
With the A-League finals drifting away there was a need for change, a different strategy, a new coach, retention of players and Sage loosening the recruitment purse strings.
It all came together when a 15-year silverware drought was broken on Sunday night as captain Diego Castro lifted the Premiers’ Plate after the 1-0 win over Newcastle Jets.
“The vision has been fulfilled a year earlier than we expected,” Sage said. “We had to make a decision on which direction we were going to go.
“There were several coaching candidates available and Jacob pushed and pushed for Popa (Tony Popovic).”
Filopoulos, who has returned to Melbourne to lead Football Federation Victoria, tweeted after Sunday’s win: “Remember that lunch chat last year @killa_kilkenny?”
“We wanted a new approach to build success. There was a lot of discussion around how to do it,” Filopoulos said.
“We looked at who we wanted to keep and there were a number of coaches but Jacob pushed Tony very hard for Popa. He was what we wanted.”
Sage — who admitted dropping the Premiers’ Plate on the pitch — said the job was not finished with the finals series ahead and then planning for the Asian Champions League.
“Nobody’s counting their chickens,” he said. “We’re up for the challenge. It’s only going to be a feather in everyone’s cap if we can do it. Asia has been a dream of mine from day one. It’s going to be huge.”
Sage has poured nearly $30 million into Glory in more than a decade and is seeking an investor to ensure further success.
“For us to succeed we need to find a partner,” he said.
“We have to be realistic. In this day and age one individual can’t support an A-League franchise.”
The club has come a long way since the 2015 salary cap scandal that saw them booted from the finals and handed a $269,000 fine.
“I copped a lot of criticism. I took it personally but I didn’t give up,” Sage said. “It was a relief to be able to do this for the fans that we disappointed. To actually win something means a lot to me. I shed a few tears.”
If Glory make the grand final they will host it on Sunday May 19, unless they face Sydney FC in which case it will be on Saturday May 18 because of the Sky Blues’ ACL commitments.