Alessandro Del Piero took a leading role in a players-only meeting held behind closed doors on Thursday aimed at ending the mounting crisis engulfing Sydney FC.
The turmoil surrounding Sydney has left their season's hopes in tatters, and Fairfax Media understands this prompted the players to hold talks away from coaches after training which addressed team morale, their performance and squad unity. The club's five-man leadership group of Del Piero, Richard Garcia, Terry McFlynn, Nicky Carle and Seb Ryall led the lengthy meeting in what was said to be an open and honest assessment of their predicament.
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Neither the players nor the club wished to comment on the meeting although it is understood there was a positive outcome after hours of crisis talks with captain Del Piero playing an integral role in the discussions. Sydney's captain is said to have grown distant from the squad, often training alone, but quashed suggestions of retreating from his responsibilities by encouraging his teammates to fight together for the remainder of the year.
The talks had been planned for days with some within the leadership group preparing detailed speeches with a theme of ''togetherness'' in response to the potential of a rift within the squad, following the isolation of two players on Monday morning. Carle and Matt Thompson were ordered to train away from the rest of the squad by coach Frank Farina as a disciplinary measure, and after his first day back to regular training, Carle is understood to have been active in supporting squad solidarity.
Thursday's team talks follow a four-hour meeting between the club and leaders of their official supporter group, The Cove, on Wednesday night in response to a fan revolt during Saturday night's 3-0 loss to Adelaide United. Fairfax Media understands that the club extended an olive branch to The Cove after a mid-game exodus from the stands and protests outside the ground calling for the removal of coach Frank Farina, chairman Scott Barlow and chief executive Tony Pignata.
Sydney FC were on the cusp of losing the faith of their core supporter group although a club source said they had made some progress in healing the relationship. ''Great to have an open discussion with members of The Cove last night. Looking forward to the Members Forum on Tues night,'' Pignata tweeted.
Members of The Cove in attendance at the meeting declined to comment.
Though, a Cove spokesman later posted on their online forum a list of questions that were submitted to the club's hierarchy before the meeting. He said The Cove will await to receive Sydney FC's statement before making their own public but confirmed that the discussions were primarily based around the club's leadership.
"After long discussions about the events of Saturday and the triggers for the protest, we identified that our deepest concerns were with the Leadership and Vision at the club. We felt that individual events were symptoms of issues, not the true issues themselves and based on this we compiled a set of questions which we felt reflected our concerns," the spokesman said in an open letter.
The Cove spokesman said that seven of their senior members attended the meeting, including the fan who was evicted for taking part in a displaying a protest banner last Saturday night.
Sydney FC were represented by chairman Scott Barlow, Pignata and two other board members.