WA News Celebrity Profiles Following the Round Ball
Following the Round Ball
Written by Peter McClelland
Monday, 02 October 2017

29092017-Bobby-Despotovski-Coaching Sep17It’s been a colourful career for W-League Perth Glory coach Bobby Despotovski. As a young, talented teenager in Yugoslavia it was a choice between handball or football. Bobby decided on the latter and then the Army, with the looming horror of war in the Balkans, decided they wanted him.

“I played a lot of sport when I was young and it came down to a choice between two different codes, both of which are incredibly popular in Europe. I was playing handball on Saturday and football on Sunday.”

“I was on the brink of a professional career with Dinamo Pančevo and then I found myself in a military uniform. As an Australian citizen [Bobby was born in Perth] it wasn’t compulsory for me to fight in the war but I’d grown up there, all my friends were going and soon I was heading in the same direction. I had a change of heart and, after a couple of strategically self-inflicted injuries, I came home to Perth.”

It turned out to be a good move. Bobby represented Australia, played more than 200 games for Perth Glory and scored more than 100 goals.

“When I look back on my playing career I realise how lucky I was. The team was just emerging in the late 1990s and we had the good fortune to play under the incredibly popular and successful German coach, Bernd Stange.”

“We won three titles in the old National Soccer League and two championships in the current A-League so it was a great time to be at the club. When I moved into a coaching role, the experience of playing under Bernd was invaluable. He had such a positive rapport with the players and I use a lot of his strategies in the way I shape a team.”

“Nonetheless, it’s very much my own brand of football that I bring to Perth Glory. Some things I’ve borrowed from Bernd, but most of it is me and it has to be that way.”

Managing retirement

When the final whistle blows on a player’s career, particularly at the elite level, it can be difficult stepping away from the spotlight.

“I didn’t find that aspect too difficult. For a player who doesn’t have anything to fall back on it can be incredibly difficult. All the training with your teammates, the thrill and excitement of big games combined with lifting a trophy now and then is pretty seductive.”

“I’d planned well ahead and had a sports shop in the latter stages of my career. I also had a young family to look after, so the impetus was there.”

And, according to Bobby, the move into coaching in the W-League was pretty seamless, too.29092017-Sam-Kerr-v-AdelaidePerth Glory player Sam Kerr in-flight

“It really helped that Perth Glory had been involved in the women’s game for some time. It’s important to have the right blend of players at the club because the psychological dynamics are directly related to success on the pitch.”

“You might have some of the best players in the world, and we do with Sam Kerr, but if they aren’t a good ‘fit’ for the team there’s no place for them at Perth Glory.”

“There are some important differences between the women and the men when it comes to football at the elite level. We see this, in a physiological sense, with knee injuries. They’re more prevalent in the female players and, as a result, the incidence of ACL problems is much more pronounced.”

Monitoring knee loading

“We try to minimise that with strengthening exercises and monitoring knee loadings but it’s something we have to watch closely.”

“And, with the women’s game becoming more popular, these issues are really important. If you want to see attractive, fast and skilful football you have to have the world’s best players at peak fitness.”

“The national team [the Matildas] is a crucially important component in lifting the profile of the women’s game. There’s no doubt the code needs to attract more sponsorship and that requires more coverage on both television and radio.”

“We’re beginning to attract more top-level internationals and that’s vital because of the finite pool of players in Australia. There are 10 teams in the competition, which spreads the talent pool pretty thinly.”

The current coach of the Socceroos, Ange Postecoglou is under pressure due to poor World Cup performances. So, is that a future role for Bobby?

“I have no desire to manage a team at the international level. The pressure is intense and relentless with too much time away from home. I’ve got a wonderful job here at Perth Glory and I’m very happy.”

ED: The Westfield W League season kicks off on October 27 with Perth Glory playing Melbourne City at NiB Stadium.