Warren Joyce's tempestuous tenure as coach of under-achieving Melbourne City has reached a critical point, with anything less than a grand final appearance likely to result in his axing.
The World Game understands the patience of the City Football Group over continued lack of success under the Englishman is wearing thin after almost two seasons at the helm.
54-year-old Joyce has attracted plenty of headlines since his arrival in June 2017.
But they’ve been more about his rocky relationship with players - most notably the Bruno Fornaroli saga - than compelling performances or impressive results.
Those have been few and far between, with City beaten in the semi-finals by Newcastle Jets in Joyce’s debut season, after a third place finish on the ladder.
His inconsistent side are looking less likely to break the glass ceiling this time around, sitting fifth with five rounds of the regular season remaining - a whopping 18 points adrift of runaway leaders Perth Glory.
Renowned for avoiding knee-jerk reactions and giving coaches in their employ time to impose their presence and build momentum, the CFG have no qualms over Joyce’s hard-line stance with players.
Their patient approach was aptly demonstrated when they responded to Ange Postecoglou’s roller-coaster first season in charge of J1 League club Yohohama F.Marinos - where minority owners CFG run the football department - by tying the former Socceroos coach to a new long-term deal.
And that after Postecoglou flirted with relegation right up until the final day of the season.
In Joyce’s case they specifically recruited the ex-Royal Antwerp, Manchester United Under-23s and Wigan man to sweep away the perceived laissez-faire culture of predecessor John van’t Schip.
On that front the authoritarian Joyce has not been backward in coming forward, falling out with and discarding the likes of Tim Cahill, Neil Kilkenny, Dean Bouzanis and finally - and most notoriously - Uruguayan marquee Fornaroli.
Bruce Kamau, now of Western Sydney Wanderers, was another to feel Joyce’s wrath - shunned after news of his departure to Wanderland leaked.
All this is viewed as collateral damage by his bosses back in Manchester.
However, a stodgy style of play which has done nothing to appease a small fan base - let alone enlarge it - coupled with inconsistent results is threatening to seal Joyce’s fate.
Last Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Sydney FC was City’s first win in eight, and only served to paper over the cracks as cumulative failures of the franchise which began life as Melbourne Heart back in 2010 weigh heavily on the club, and its incumbent coach.
It’s understood that an intermediary, purporting to act for soon-to-be-exiting Adelaide United coach Marco Kurtz, has offered the German up to City for the season in a sign of just how flimsy Joyce’s hold on the reins has become.
City travel to face Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday night before hone games against Brisbane Roar and Adelaide United.
They complete the regular season away to Wellington Phoenix and at home to Central Coast Mariners.
Melbourne City were contacted for comment.