Glory defenders to step up

Perth Glory assistant coach Ian Ferguson is confident fan favourites Jamie Harnwell and Jamie Coyne will produce big games in defence in the season opener against North Queensland.

Perth Glory assistant coach Ian Ferguson is confident fan favourites Jamie Harnwell and Jamie Coyne will produce big games in defence in the season opener against North Queensland.

With last season’s solid defensive partnership of Andy Todd (knee) and Chris Coyne (on loan) unavailable, the Glory are turning to Harnwell and Jamie Coyne to form a makeshift defensive pairing in Friday night’s clash.

This is because Perth’s other centre-half, Josh Mitchell, can’t play after failing to receive an international transfer clearance from previous club, Romania’s now infamous Universitatea Craiova.

Despite the setbacks, Ferguson is confident Harnwell can turn back the clock to his premiership-winning NSL days in defence as the 33-year-old has enjoyed a full pre-season for the first time in two years.

Having been the club’s top-scorer in 2007-08, Harnwell’s preparation for the next campaign was hindered by a stint at FC Vaduz in the Swiss second division that saw him return to Australia carrying a few niggling problems.

The following year, Harnwell appeared in tip-top shape heading into last season, but a serious hamstring injury in the final pre-season game was followed by a bad knock to his knee in Round 7, restricting Harnwell to just 11 appearances in 28 matches, and only one full game.

Ferguson, though, believes Harnwell is more than ready to put last season behind him as the 235-game veteran closes in on Bobby Despotovski’s record of 241 games for the Glory.

“Jamie’s excited you know,” declared Ferguson.

“You know he’s determined to try and pass that and I’m sure that if he keeps playing the way he’s been playing pre-season he’ll get a real opportunity to do that.”

“He’s had so many ups and downs with injuries and problems but he’s played most of the pre-season and we’ve been wrapping him in cotton wool at certain times, but he’s come out and he’s looking very strong.”

“We are quite blessed in that we’ve got a lot of versatile players that can play certain positions,” Ferguson added when discussing the players that can be swung through the defence if needed.

“We’ve just got to deal with the hand we’ve got at the moment and try and do our best and I’m pretty confident these boys (Harnwell and Coyne) can do a good job.”

Former Fury coach Ferguson was forced to deputise for ill coach Dave Mitchell with media duties this week after a virus swept the club, hitting Australian marquee player Mile Sterjovski, who missed Thursday’s training.

However a club spokesperson has confirmed that Sterjovski will play in Friday night’s match despite suffering from stomach cramps on Wednesday night.

And, while Harnwell is determined to consign last year to history, there’s none more determined to leave 2009-10 behind than Sterjovski, who struggled with injury throughout and ultimately failed to make the Qantas Socceroos squad for the World Cup in South Africa.

But having announced his international retirement, Sterjovski believes he’s in a far better psychological frame of mind for this campaign, saying he had forced himself to play unfit last year, purely in an effort to gain that coveted spot in the Australian team.

“I’m taking a different approach this season,” Sterjovski said.

“I just want to enjoy my football and just go out every game and play my game and not worry about anything else.”

“Obviously there was that pressure for trying to perform and trying to make the (Australian) squad and since I’ve retired from international football, I’ve been feeling much better and a lot happier.”

“Being able to spend a lot of time with my family and not worry about going away with the Socceroos, it’s a load off my shoulders and I am feeling better.”