Axing Fornaroli puts blowtorch on Joyce
He is Melbourne City's most successful A-League coach and his team sits inside the top six, yet Warren Joyce goes into Sunday night's Newcastle Jets match with pressure mounting on his job.
The axing of Bruno Fornaroli and the fallout between him and the coach has directed the blowtorch on City after just five rounds.
Riley McGree's semi-final scorpion goal last season is all that stood between City and a maiden Asian Champions League berth en route to a record-high ladder position (third) and points tally.
But this latest saga highlights that fans are after more than just results.
Loyalty, entertainment - and in kids' case heroes - also matter and City diehards are sick of the turnover.
It begs the question: how does Fornaroli go from the club's record goalscorer and talisman to an ill-disciplined player? Where neighbour Melbourne Victory has an extraordinary record of continuity - headlined by veteran Leigh Broxham, coach Kevin Muscat and Archie Thompson - City's fans barely get to know their players before they leave.
Thompson could have finished his career with another club, but didn't. Now Victory can say he was a one (A-League) club player.
If Fornaroli departs, that leaves Osama Malik (23 months) as the longest-serving player on its books.
Beyond that, no one's been there longer than 15 months.
McGree, like the man he replaced in Stefan Mauk, epitomises the discontent. He is a star in the making, but is unlikely to stay beyond one season as a loan player.
And so the revolving door continues. A title win may flip that theory on its head - but that appears a distant dream right now.
Daniel Arzani's exit is unfortunate - he would have torn the A-League apart this season and given frustrated City fans something to get excited about.
Many factors were at play with Arzani, including the salary cap. Arzani's exit and the high turnover is not really Joyce's fault and he is in some ways the scapegoat for City fans' continued frustrations.
The club is said to be disappointed with Fornaroli's attitude and there is a suggestion that he was approached by a rival A-League club before their match-up this season.
High skinfolds are also understood to be an issue.
Fornaroli feels let down by Joyce, although the coach did some rehab training with the Uruguayan.
Joyce's hard-line stance is courageous, for he has piled enormous pressure on himself. He is adamant it's the right call.
Joyce was within his rights to release Tim Cahill, Neil Kilkenny and Fernando Brandan, according to the club's version of events.
The players have a consistently contrasting version, with a clear pattern emerging of players with big personalities falling out with the coach - the same nature that made most fan favourites.
Joyce continually states he treats every player the same and therein lies the problem.
Cahill and Fornaroli cannot be treated the same as Harrison Delbridge and Lachy Wales. That's the art of man management.
City's impressive batch of youth players and the City Football Group's resources that enable a coach to turn over players quickly, mean Joyce could turn it around in the long term.
The question is, can he ride out the next month until the January transfer window?
After all, Joyce has a 47.06 per cent winning percentage, well above John Aloisi (20.51 per cent in 2012-13), Mike Valkanis (41.67 per cent in 2017) and FFA Cup winner John van't Schip (44.79 per cent from 2013-17).
The club wants to stick by Joyce, but the fans may have the decisive vote.
Sunday's two hours at AAMI Park will be telling.
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