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  • Failing to finish in the finals has proven fatal for Josep Gombau as the Spanish coach was sacked by the Western Sydney Wanderers this morning.

    After just 5 months and 13 days since his first game in charge, having been appointed in the wake of Tony Popovic's shock abandonment of the club a week before the season start, the Wanderers board elected to punt the charismatic Spaniard out of a job that he had been given a 3 year contract for. Gombau's tenure was dogged by pundits both in print & television hounding every move he made, with every substitution met with cries of player feuds and his best unbeaten run of games of 4 games between January 1st and January 13 was not enough to keep the wolves at bay.

    Gombau had to take charge of an ill-disciplined, unfit and woefully under-performing playing squad and his attempt to rebuild the team in his Catalan image was met with indifference, apathy or hostility from many in the the playing group. Hayden Foxe managing a 5 game unbeaten start to season papered over the cracks as he and Popovic before his exit saw a clear reliance on marquee Oriol Riera to save the team from embarrassment against Wellington & Blacktown City in the FFA Cup, while in the A-League the team were incapable of closing out matches strongly to hold onto wins, even against the Central Coast Mariners or teams playing a man down.

    If the earliest results were less than inspiring, the 5-0 annihilation in the second Sydney Derby of the season drove home that the Gombau era would not be smooth sailing to begin with, or even that he would "get the best" out of an attack as penetrative as a tennis ball thrown against a brick wall, and a defence that had more holes in it than swiss cheese. A 4-0 loss not long after to Newcastle saw urgent meetings take place amongst the club officials & staff, and a desire to transition more slowly to Gombau's intended tactics appeared to pay dividends, as the team picked up wins against Melbourne City and Brisbane Roar.

    That was unfortunately the peak of the Wanderers season, with back to back losses against Melbourne Victory & Perth Glory putting the side in danger of missing the finals series. A 3-0 win against Brisbane in the penultimate game of the regular season saw everything to play for against Gombau's former club Adelaide United, and yet they capitulated in a dismal 3-2 defeat, as Riera missed a penalty to bring the game level, and Keanu Baccus was sent off to kill his team's chances of playing in the finals.

    Rumours of squad infighting that rose to multiple fights between team-mates, poor off-field behaviour that saw Chris Herd banished from the side, the exits of Hayden Foxe & Robbie Cornthwaite after a training ground argument along with the whisper campaign in the media all resulted in Gombau losing full control over his team, and despite sections of the Wanderers supporter base wanting the club to see through the Gombau project, those who wanted a fresh direction have seen their hopes realised. The Wanderers board lost their patience with the "project manager", and Gombau was punted on Thursday morning.

    What direction the board go in remains to be seen. Original target Ante Milicic may be looking for a job after Graham Arnold takes over the Australian national team post-world cup, while German manager Dirk Schuster may be available in the next few weeks should his side Darmstadt 98 be relegated from Bundesliga 2.

    Ultimately, this season was a complete waste of time & money, and the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of John Tsatsimas and the ownership group fronted by Paul Lederer. Why on earth would any management team elect to bring in Gombau, a man who it was absolutely crystal clear would need time to implement his own style and bring in players that suited it, and then turn around and sack him 5 months later is inexplicable to me. If they really wanted to keep playing the same plodding, non-attacking style that Popovic had perfected before his exit, they should have told Popovic that it was too late to release him, or then let Foxe takeover until the end of this year.

    Instead, the Board effectively stole the time & money of every single season ticket holder, to watch a club held together on the pitch by Riera & Janjetovic while those in between failed to provide the remotest sense of application and skill unless they were facing the very worst teams in the competition. And for what? The new manager is going to come into a club in crisis, another dozen squad positions to fill, and the sense that having sacked their last manager within 6 months that it could happen again before Christmas.

    Good luck to whoever that is. You're going to need it.

    A late red card to Keanu Baccus, a missed penalty from Oriol Riera and some lackadaisical defence combined to see the Wanderers lose 2-3 to Adelaide United. Requiring a win to finish 6th and play in the final series, instead the Wanderers finished 7th and saw their season end at fulltime.

    The quest for 6th started so well in the 15th minute, Adelaide keeper Paul Izzo got in a right tangle as he spilled a long-range shot into the path of Riera, then scrambled into the path of the striker and cut him down. Riera stepped up and slotted it into the bottom corner past the desperate dive of Izzo.

    That lead lasted bare minutes. Clisby & Hamill were caught square & far up the park, standing on half way when a long bomb from the Adelaide backline flew over Clisby's foot and into the path of Baba Diawara. He had Hamill beaten for pace and finished smartly with the outside of his right foot past Vedran Janjetovic.

    The topsy-turvey game continued with Adelaide taking a 2-1 lead in the 38th minute. Nathan Konstandopoulos weaved into the penalty area and had a shot blocked by the defence, only to roll into the path of midfielder Daniel Adlung, he ran onto the ball with a sweet left foot strike that curled into the top corner.

    Just like the Wanderers lead earlier, Adelaide's lead was erased in quick time. Raul Llorente strode onto a ball down the left flank and delivered a first time cross into the center, it passed over Riera but Marcelo Carrusca rose into the air and nodded the ball home.

    Only 3 minutes later the Wanderers were going to the penalty spot again. The referee missed a blatant penalty on Chris Ikonomidis, but the VAR intervened after a short delay. Once again Riera stepped up to face Izzo from 12 yards, Riera went the other way and Izzo had guessed correctly, turning the ball around the post for a corner.

    On the hour mark the Wanderers hopes of playing in the finals drastically went down. Keanu Baccus & Johann Absalonsen tangled together while fighting for the ball, as they both fell to the turf and got up, Absalonsen stood up then went down like he was shot. After a break in play the VAR intervened, with Baccus called out and red carded for a kick out action.

    Josep Gombau threw players forward looking for an unlikely winner, turning to a 3 man defensive line with Santalab & Riera up front, but the low hopes were extinguished 10 minutes from full time as Adelaide went on the counter.  Sweeping down the right flank through Nikola Mileusnic, his cross evaded both Llorente and Hamill, and Josh Risdon at the back post was completely beaten for pace by Ryan Kitto and he slammed the ball past the despairing dive for Janjetovic.

    Finishing 7th is an abysmal result for the Wanderers. It is absolutely not good enough. There is no singular person who is at fault for the result tonight nor the season as a whole. It is a collective failure, a cascade of heartless players, ill disciplined players both on and off the field, inept players who have been paid for too much for what they delivered this season and a coaching structure that imploded early in the season, Gombau's desire to setup his possession first philosophy with defense as an afterthought and poor recruitment from Tony Popovic before his exit at the start of the season.

    The men who own this club have some searing questions to answer to fix the major problems that plague the Wanderers this year both on field and off the field. The RBB situation is a farce and must be fixed before the start of the new season. The club staff had their big "We're in charge" banning the RBB moment, now it is time to swallow your pride and start talking with the people to resolve the situation. Spotless Stadium and it's ridiculous security apparatus that poisons the goodwill atmosphere by threats of arrests & bans against paying customers and as seen recently, club staff should not be tolerated by John Tsatsimas and the rest of the executive office at the Wanderers.

    Next season is the last before our new stadium. It would be a horrible shame if we go into our new stadium without the vibrant supporter culture that involved all membership groups at the club and another year of failure on the pitch to go along with it.