Vukovic sold on excitement
Vukovic sold on excitement

When Danny Vukovic turned his back on a new deal with Wellington Phoenix to join Perth Glory last year, he wrenched himself away from one of the most tightly-knit groups of professionals he had ever encountered.

Life had been good in New Zealand and Vukovic had instantly felt a connection with the place, the people and the players.

But the chance to link-up again with coach Ian Ferguson, who the goalkeeper had worked with at Central Coast Mariners in the A-League's early years, and join the Scotsman's planned Glory revival was irresistible.

"I had a great time there and the first day I got to training I noticed the team camaraderie," Vukovic said of his 17-match spell with the Phoenix.

"It was one of the best I've ever experienced. A lot of the boys aren't from New Zealand so everyone sticks together. Pretty much the whole team lived in two apartment blocks and everyone was living on top of each other.

"There was a contract on the table for me to stay at Wellington, but at the same time I was being talked to by Perth Glory. I knew Fergie from my time at the Mariners and his vision and the players he said he was going to bring to the club excited me."

At nib Stadium on Saturday, Vukovic will be back in the company of his old mates, but there will be no back slapping ahead of the win-or-bust A-League minor semifinal, which kicks off at 5.30pm. Vukovic keeps in touch with the Phoenix players and knows from experience how they will benefit from the sense of mateship that has been fostered under coach Ricki Herbert, who is also New Zealand's national team boss.

"When the game starts on Saturday they are going to be my enemies for 90 minutes," Vukovic said.

In fact, the stand-off could go longer with a winner to be decided either in normal time, after 30 minutes extra time or on a penalty shoot-out.

The latter option is something Vukovic would delight in, although Glory fans might not like to hear about his record in that particular area.

"I enjoy penalty shoot-outs," he said. "I haven't been in a whole heap of them and I can't remember ever winning one.

"But I enjoy them and it makes it really exciting for the spectators."

If another former Wellington player has his way, there will be no need for a shoot-out. Shane Smeltz has scored seven goals in his last two games to bag 16 for the season and is in the mood to deliver more.

"Any half chance is pretty much a goal and even when he's not trying to score it's a goal," Vukovic said of Smeltz's looping header in last Sunday's win over Melbourne Heart. Smeltz later said he had been trying to head the ball back across goal when it hit the post and bounced over the line.

"The first day I got to training I noticed the team camaraderie … when the game starts on Saturday they are going to be my enemies for 90 minutes.""Perth Glory goalkeeper *Danny Vukovic *

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Compare & Save

Follow Us

More from The West