Western Sydney Wanderers players have thrown their support behind embattled coach Tony Popovic who they say is a hugely positive influence.
Popovic is under pressure with Wanderers sitting outside the top six with just four wins from 19 games this A-League campaign.
Despite that, the former Socceroo has been linked with the Shanghai Shenhua head coaching role.
Popovic distanced himself from the Chinese whispers after Sunday’s 2-0 home loss to Central Coast, which has heaped the pressure on him to retain his current job as fan unrest grows.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s Sydney derby, Jaushua Sotirio and Jack Clisby threw their support behind Popovic and both remarkably still believe the club can make the 2016/17 Grand Final.
“I still think the fans need to back him,” Sotirio said.
“He’s done a lot for the club. We’ve won a Champions League before, we’ve been to grand finals, now we just need to win a grand final.
“I’m sure we’ll be in it this year.”
Clisby added: “I hadn’t even heard the rumour until yesterday. It’s something we don’t pay attention to.
“We fully back the boss and everyone believes in his philosophy.
“The way this season has gone, we know we can push on to the finals.
“Our target is to be in that grand final and there’s no reason why we can’t.”
Sotirio said Popovic’s message had been positive after Sunday’s deflating loss to the lowly Mariners.
“He’s the most optimistic person,” Sotirio said. “He’s always positive and backs us and gives us massive belief.
“He said we’ve got a good philosophy. We just need to apply and we’ll get the win.”
Clisby reiterated Sotirio’s comments when asked about whether the pressure had impacted the coach.
“No effect on Popa,” he said. “He’s one of the most positive people I’ve ever met.
“That hasn’t changed at all on speculation out there. Nothing’s unsettled the group at all.”