• Matt Olsen

Perth and Wellington must show character as COVID-19 continues to impact their seasons

Since the turn of the decade and the rise of a global pandemic, Perth Glory and the Wellington Phoenix have had their fair share of problems.


Whilst there is no doubt that factors have struck down these two clubs out of their control, they also have the rare opportunity to do their talking on the pitch when all seems lost off it.


This season represents the ultimate showing of character and ability for the players and their respective organisations as a whole.


They may also meet critical metrics and have statisticians left marvelling at what is created should they succeed.

WIN Stadium is once again the home away from home for the Nix. (Austadiums)


Round two of this A-League Men campaign marks the proper toll of the pandemic on both clubs.


Glory is starting a nine-game streak of away fixtures.


Meanwhile, the Phoenix - who won't be playing in New Zealand until round twelve at the earliest - play their first "home" fixture in Wollongong.


These respective road trips are valuable in determining the strengths for either side because not a lot is expected with what is at their disposal.


Perth, regardless of the geographical boundaries, needs to solidify its defensive structure.


Adelaide already put that to the test in round one.


Meanwhile, the Phoenix, who already have an underwhelming unit on paper, need to find a spark without a flair ridden player distributing bounds of talent and positivity.


To overcome these challenges is one thing, but to do it whilst facing unimaginably difficult schedules is the ultimate test of strength and determination.


Let's not forget that this competition also faces negative contentions and is marginalised in the mainstream media apparatus.


I won't stray too far from the point.


But within Western Australia and New Zealand, there is a belief that an inherent bias is stacked against them.


You could compare this belief to the bias stacked against football in an Australian context.


Therefore, you can see why a succeeding Glory or Phoenix invokes strong feelings under the circumstances facing them in the coming weeks and months.


Perhaps they could even open a few eyes to the marginalisation lying deep within our football product.

New Glory recruit Aaron Calver was given a short cameo against Adelaide at the weekend. (Getty Images)


On the pitch, the Glory will hope their time in Victoria is aided by the readiness of a full-strength starting eleven.


Daniel Sturridge may yet be restricted to cameo appearances for a week or so.


But the likes of Adrian Sardinero, Daniel Stynes and from a crucial defensive standpoint, Aaron Calver, are also awaiting their first start.


Carlo Armiento has been completely ruled out for the time being.


If the squad can perform to its desired best, aided by a solid away record at AAMI Park, the gruelling run of fixtures may start in an idealistic fashion.


For the Phoenix, consistency will be the key to a winning combination.


Unlike Perth, the starting eleven may already be fine-tuned.


Ufuk Talay has his style of play sorted, whilst David Ball, Gary Hooper, and the ever-entertaining Reno Piscopo started against Macarthur.


Ben Waine will be in a fight for the starting birth upfront alongside Jaushua Sotirio.


New captain Alex Rufer may have a heavily rotated midfield partnership forming, with Clayton Lewis, Luka Prso, and even WA born Nicholas Pennington worthy of starting for the yellow and black.

Phoenix fans celebrate the team returning to New Zealand towards the end of last season. (Photosport)


We would be remissive to ignore that some big home crowds could yet await the Nix and Glory should they come home as winning squads in January.


Add to that the rarity of an Auckland fixture that has amassed great numbers in recent years or the already overwhelming popularity of the Daniel Sturridge signing in Perth.


Such events could be surplus to positive results.


We may yet see two of the leading attendance figures held by clubs typically overshadowed by such metrics.


But it's not just that; the potential marketing and fan-fair can roll off the fact that during the heart of COVID-19, these clubs proved just how well they stuck it to those on the Eastern seaboard.


If you ever ask a local in Perth or Wellington, that feeling is always a sense of pride.


From a football perspective, these clubs need to rebound as the world slowly returns to a new normal.


What looked like a bright future may have been taken away under the circumstances, though truthfully, this season is still in its infancy and wide open.


The knowledge of their potential has not necessarily reached a verdict in its own right.


One certainty is that no matter what the future holds and how Perth and Wellington fair, the proper test is about to begin.