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How for much longer can Western Sydney Wanderers afford to hold Carl Robinson?

The self-proclaimed biggest club in the A-Leagues is on the edge of an abyss, after the Mariners’ 2-0 win in Gosford left Western Sydney Wanderers staring at yet another wasted season.

Western Sydney’s last three fixtures have yielded a 2-0 defeat to neighbours Macarthur FC, a 2-1 loss to NPL side APIA Leichhardt in the FFA Cup and Saturday’s dismal 2-0 defeat on the Central Coast.

Carl Robinson had few answers on the pitch – even if he was typically forthright in the post-match press conference – but the real fireworks came on Twitter a day later when former Western Sydney coaches Dean Heffernan and Patrick Zwaanswijk both teed off on the club.

Heffernan and Zwaanswijk are perhaps better known as former Mariners players, but until Robinson arrived at CommBank Stadium, both were on the Wanderers’ coaching staff.

That was until Robinson – who oversees the entire football department – deemed assistant coach Zwaanswijk surplus to requirements, while Heffernan said he rejected a third year as the Wanderers’ women’s coach because of the club’s “toxic environment”.

And in name-checking chief executive John Tsatsimas and general manager of football operations Gavin Costello, Heffernan went further than most in his quest to identify the culprits for Western Sydney’s ongoing poor form.

That stats make for sobering reading. Not since the 2016-17 campaign have the Wanderers played finals football, while Robinson is the club’s fifth different coach since Tony Popovic departed for Turkey in October 2017.

Tony Popovic

(Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

They’ve since churned through players at a rate of knots and despite moving into the best purpose-built stadium in Australia, the red-and-blacks have never once looked like recapturing the essence of what made them the most exciting team in the league during their early years.

The question now is: how much longer can the club stand behind the beleaguered Robinson?

Fans of rival clubs might be watching on with glee, but the reality is that Western Sydney’s diabolical form is costing the Australian Professional Leagues and broadcasters Ten and Paramount+ big time at the box office.

How much longer can a club which has seen their average attendance halved over the past five years be allowed to wither on the vine?

There’s no doubt Robinson is a gifted communicator. He almost seems better suited to being a TV pundit than he does an A-Leagues coach.

The Welshman speaks so forcefully and with such conviction that it’s hard not to wonder whether his employers aren’t actually intimidated by him. But at some point owner Paul Lederer is going to have to make some tough decisions.

There’s a perfectly good coach in Mark Rudan who knows the league and the region currently twiddling his thumbs on the sidelines, so why not start with him?

Channel Ten are fortunate they had the Melbourne derby to broadcast on Saturday night because it took some of the focus away from what’s going on in Parramatta.

The derby was undoubtedly the game of the season, as Italian import Francesco Margiotta opened the scoring following a quick free-kick from Jake Brimmer, before City hit back through two well-taken goals from Jamie Maclaren and Andrew Nabbout.

It was fitting that Nick D’Agostino scored such a ridiculous equaliser in front of Victory’s deafening away fans, before the match descended into an utterly crazy finale at the death.

And who was the coach whose substitutions changed the complexion of the derby? Tony Popovic.

More than four years after his departure, the Wanderers are yet to adequately replace the former Socceroo.

And what made the Melbourne derby so compelling, aside from the high quality of football, was simply the noise raining down from the stands at AAMI Park.

It’s a noise that used to be synonymous with the Western Sydney Wanderers – and the A-Leagues desperately need it back.

They won’t get it with Carl Robinson at the helm because the fan-base has already turned on him.

Which begs the question: how much longer can the Western Sydney Wanderers afford to carry their underperforming coach?



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