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Sydney FC in crisis

Have things hit rock bottom for the Sky Blues? And what is to become of the new National Premier League? The panel discuss.

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The imbroglio may have unravelled quickly after fans hoisted banners calling for heads on ‘Black Saturday’, but dissatisfaction with Sydney FC had been simmering for some time. Here are the stakeholders and the key factors behind the drama.

1. The coach

In response to Sydney’s own ‘‘Black Saturday’’, Frank Farina made the boldest decision of his Sydney FC career by isolating veteran midfielders Matt Thompson and Nicky Carle as a disciplinary measure for their alleged negative influence and dissent. While he received the club’s blessing, it only added to the ire of the fans calling for his head and the pressure mounting on his job. Privately, there are suggestions that Farina will not remain beyond the season and his slim chances of staying rely entirely on his ability to finish in the top four this season, but even so, that’s no guarantee. The club has given Farina almost complete freedom in shaping the squad and football department and there has been little to show for it. 

Taking control: Sydney FC captain Alessandro Del Piero leads teammates onto the field for training on February 13. He held a players-only meeting during the week in which he reportedly called for an attitude adjustment.

Taking control: Sydney FC captain Alessandro Del Piero leads teammates onto the field for training on February 13. He held a players-only meeting during the week in which he reportedly called for an attitude adjustment. Photo: Getty Images

2. Players

The turmoil engulfing the club drew the spotlight towards their coach, chairman Scott Barlow and chief executive Tony Pignata and for much of the turmoil, the players remained in the shadows – which is exactly where they played their part. A private players-only meeting behind closed doors on Thursday was held to address their poor morale and strengthen team unity in response to the club’s plight. Every crisis opens the door for opportunity and the newly found unity within the team could be just that. However, there’s a danger that it could dwindle away just as easily as it was built if they slump to a heavy defeat against Perth Glory on Saturday. 

3. Fans

Flashpoint: The now infamous banner calling for the sacking of coach Frank Farina.

Flashpoint: The now infamous banner calling for the sacking of coach Frank Farina. Photo: Getty Images

The relationship between The Cove and Sydney FC looked to have splintered to such a degree that it was teetering on the edge of being irreparable last Saturday, though tensions have eased significantly after a lengthy meeting this week. For over three-and-a-half hours, seven senior Cove members and four club directors were bunkered down in peace talks and it’s understood that while much progress was made, not all matters were resolved. Their relationship is in a delicate situation and another disappointing performance this weekend could reignite fan discontent. 

4. Administrative response

For all the criticism that has been directed at Pignata and Barlow, the duo took the matter of the fan revolt very seriously. The club leaders immediately sought to reconcile their differences with the supporter group and internally they said it was largely positive. Still, the directors are yet to truly flex their muscle regarding football matters. They continue to throw their support behind under-fire coach Farina, to the extent of backing the isolation of Carle and Thompson and have not intervened in the football department. Time will tell if this is the right choice. 

Under the cosh: Sydney FC coach Frank Farina addresses the media before training.

Under the cosh: Sydney FC coach Frank Farina addresses the media before training. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

5. Season prospects 

They are just one point off the top six with nine games to play and the mantra of the club has been one of belief that they can still succeed this year. But rhetoric and reality are two different things. The harsh truth is that Sydney are nose-diving out of contention. They’ve picked up just four points of a possible 24 and lost seven of their past 10 games. They have nine games to play, five of which are at home and they play all the teams above them on the ladder. There is no doubt the Sky Blues have the talent to salvage the season but they are running out of time.

6. Future

There is no clarity over Sydney FC’s squad next season with just 11 players signed and the future of Farina and others in the football department uncertain to say the least. All other A-League clubs are heavily involved in negotiations with recruitments for next season and the current crisis at Sydney has distracted them from focusing on any transfer moves. Furthermore, the club’s disarray does not make Moore Park an ideal destination for many potential signings who may opt to continue their careers in more stable environments.