Perth SC plot to stop Suns rise in the east

Tonight sees Perth Soccer Club emulating their A-League big brother as they fly the flag for Western Australian football against the more fancied Rockdale City Suns in round 32 of the FFA Cup.

After being knocked out in last year’s first round by Cockburn City – a game Perth SC head coach Taki Nicolaidis called “our worst performance of the season” – WA’s NPL powerhouse are glad to be back in the national football spotlight.

“A lot of the time we are the forgotten state being so far away from the major states in Australia,” Nicolaidis said.

“From my point of view, we’re not only just representing Perth Soccer Club but we’re also representing WA.

“To be able to possibly get a win in the round of 32 and get into the last 16 will be good from the club’s point of view and also from the State’s point of view.

“Perth SC are the most successful club and biggest club here in Perth. And to get back to the national stage and get that national exposure is good from a club point of view and also from a player point of view.

“I’m happy for the boys to be able to get this opportunity to come up against a fellow NPL team in Rockdale. Just to be able to go like for like and have that comparison with the two states and we’ll be having a good crack at that.”

Nicolaidis has been coach at Perth SC for four years and with some inside knowledge of the NSWNPL he will be looking to cause an upset against the Suns who have a squad brimming with ex- A-League players.

“One of our players Callum O’Connel used to play for Sydney United two years ago and he’s still got some friends over east,” he said.

“I’ve also got a couple of contacts over there who have seen them play weekly and I have been going through the highlights that we see on the websites.

“I know they’re mid-table at the moment in the league and that’s probably not a true indication of their late form. They had a poor start but they’re form has improved recently.

“They’ve got a bit of A-League experience in Paul Reid, Dylan Macallister, Ivan Necesvski, plus Marco Jesic and Alec Urosevskii have been scoring the goals for them.”

Nicolaidis’ team also has players with European and A-League experience and he will look to them to cause problems for the Suns.

“We’ve got a few players that have more profile,” he said.

“Clark Keltie, who’s our club captain, has played 300 plus games in the lower leagues in England. He’s the current first and best winner for the whole competition last year.

“We’ve also got Dean Evans who has had a spell in Hong Kong and also with Perth Glory. Two years ago he played in a game against Chelsea up in Hong Kong and a year and bit ago he was with Perth Glory. There is also Reece Vittaglia – he’s also had a spell with Perth Glory. He’s an outstanding talent and for me he should be playing at the A League level.

“Then there is Mark Pritchard. He’s a Welsh under 21 player – played four times for his country and was at Swansea when he came over. One of our defenders Lawrence Gaughan was on the books at Liverpool, Celtic and Oxford before coming out to Australia.

“And we also have one of our local boys in Josh Wilkins who’s been with our Perth juniors since the age of seven or eight. He came through the ranks and is only 22 and into his fifth season now playing state league here. He’s an exciting talent as well.”

Meanwhile Mathew Ribarovski, who coaches the Suns alongside former Adelaide United and Sydney FC midfielder Paul Reid, feels Perth will be a tough proposition despite their home advantage.

“We’re really excited by the opportunity that has been presented to us and we look forward to the game ahead,” Ribarovski said.

“I think the exposure for the club and our supporters and our players is fantastic. And the actual concept of being involved in a national competition is fantastic for our country.”

And Ribarovski, who’s been in charge at the Suns since Branko Culina’s sacking in round eight of the NSWNPL, had this to say about their favourites tag: “I wouldn’t like to call us favourites, but I’d say we’re probably the preferred team at this point in time considering that Perth are going to be flying across from the West side of the country.

“They have a long way to come. We’re with our very loyal fans and crowd and I think we should do quite well.

“We know that they are a very competitive team. They are the WANPL champions from last year. They sound like a really good, strong, competitive team”

PHOTO: Perth SC

Con Stamocostas is an Australian football writer. Click here to see more of his work and check out the latest episode of his A-League Snobcast with co-host Rob Toddler.