W-League: Deans dishes Despotovski dirt


With the ambitions of Craig Deans’ side hanging in the balance, this weekend against Perth is one of the most crucial matches of the Westfield W-League for the Jets this season.

The divide between the Jets in eighth on the ladder, and the top four is widening and three points against Perth in a massive No.2 Sportsground clash will be crucial.

There’s an added layer to this one though – the friendship between the two men in the technical area.

Craig Deans and Perth boss, Bobby Despotovski have been mates for 25 years, a friendship which was born and bred on the football pitch during their time spent playing together with the Glory in the NSL.

W-LEAGUE: Five talking points ahead of Saturday

With the two playing a combined 289 games throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were plenty of tales to tell of their time shared playing football but there’s one which particularly stands out.

An NSL elimination final back in May 2001 saw Perth travel east to take on Melbourne Knights, and it was a heated match from beginning to end.

With underlying cultural differences between Despotovski and much of the Knights supporters base, the star striker made a gesture to the crowd which incited a raucous Knights Stadium further.


“At the end of the game, we went to get on the bus and were told we couldn’t go that way, we had to go a different way,” Deans said.

“I just remembered being surrounded by the security that was meant to be leading us to the bus, then from around the corner of the stand came 15-20 huge guys, and I’m just thinking ‘Oh, no.’

“I remember saying to Bobby, ‘What have you done?’ and he said ‘Nothing!’.

“One guy reached over and threw a punch at Bobby, then it was like I had two choices – punch or be punched, so we all threw a couple of punches and tried to get ourselves back in the changerooms.”

The backlash from all quarters was harsh, with the striker apologising for his actions but it wasn’t the only time that Deans said his mate had landed them in hot water.

“He nearly got me killed in Indonesia too! Started a riot in a tournament in Indonesia when we played there, but that wasn’t all his fault,” Deans said.

Craig Deans

“It was in the 90s, and we were playing in a tournament, we won and the locals didn’t appreciate that we’d won. They started throwing stuff at us, and as we walked off the pitch they were pelting us with rubbish and sticks and stones.

“Bobby picked one up and threw it back, and I was like ‘oh here we go’.”

The all-time leading goalscorer for the Glory, Despotovski was a talented striker who had played his junior football for Serbian powerhouse, Red Star Belgrade.

When he finally arrived at Perth Glory in 1996, the striker demanded the best from his teammates which is something which often put him at odds with those he played football with.

For Deans, it meant he was particularly surprised when Bobby chose to go into coaching.

“He won’t mind me saying this, I actually didn’t think he’d ever be a coach because my memories of playing with him are that he was the most talented player in the team and had very little patience for players of less talent, of which I was one,” Deans said.

“We regularly had disagreements, but it was all because he was such a better footballer and probably not so patient back then.

“I was a little surprised when he went into coaching, because I didn’t see him having that sort of personality.

“That being said, you don’t really see each other work during the game, how he talks to the players. He has a good manner and has done a good job, he’s got a good team and a couple of young players coming through.”

Bobby Despotovski

Their friendship will be put to the side for 90 minutes on Saturday afternoon though, as the Jets fight for their season.

The Greater Bank Community Round will see the girls play at No.2 Sportsground for the first time this season, against some tough opposition.

With four games to go and at least eight points to make up for a shot at the finals series, this weekend is virtually a do-or-die clash for the Jets and that’s something which isn’t lost on the boss.

“We’re in a difficult position at the moment, for lots of different factors. Injuries and suspensions aside, we haven’t played as well as we expected ourselves to play,” Deans said.

“Myself and the players are disappointed with that, but we have four games left and we want to try our best to win all four. We’ll try to be as attacking as we can be in all four games, there’s nothing to lose now.

“We enjoy being at No.2, we train there so we’re comfortable there. We definitely want to win, and we’ll certainly do everything we can to make that happen.”

Rd 12 v Glory