Western Sydney have pulled the trigger on under-fire coach Markus Babbel, axing the German midway through his three-year contract.
It comes in the wake of Sunday night's 1-0 A-League loss to an under-strength Perth Glory at Bankwest Stadium. The former Liverpool defender becomes the third A-League coach to be sacked this season after Marco Kurz at Melbourne Victory and Ernie Merrick at Newcastle.
"It is unfortunate that we have needed to take this course of action because we have a great relationship with Markus," Wanderers chairman Paul Lederer said in a statement. "However we firmly believe that we have a great squad and the results are most definitely not reflective of the ability of the players at this club and certainly do not reflect the aspirations of the Western Sydney Wanderers Football Club.
"We have total faith in the group of players here at the Wanderers and look forward to pushing on with renewed vigour towards the finals series."
Pressure had been building on Babbel for several months, with the Wanderers winning just four games so far this season, equalling just 10 wins from his 41 games in charge.
There were high expectations for the Wanderers this season with new training facilities and a move into the state-of-the-art Bankwest Stadium. However, the Wanderers remain ninth on the ladder, four points out of the top six after 14 games, with little signs of improvement.
Babbel has consistently denied feeling anything but support from the club, and when asked if Sunday night was his final game in charge of the Wanderers, he said: "Don't worry, I'm a fighter."
With a bye this weekend, it was expected the club would wait for the return of chairman Paul Lederer, but acted swiftly given the backlash from Sunday night's loss to Glory. NewsCorp reports the entire coaching staff were called to an emergency meeting at the club's training ground on Monday morning to discuss the decision.
There is now two weeks before the Wanderers face Central Coast in Gosford on February 2, with assistant Jean-Paul de Marigny to take over as caretaker coach, assisted by former player Labinot Haliti. Following Sunday's loss, Wanderers captain Mitchell Duke told Fox Sports there was a growing frustration within the playing group, who were aware that Babbel's time had come.
"There's been a sense it came to the point a couple of weeks ago, he was like 'I could either throw in the towel and give up or I can keep fighting'," Duke told the broadcaster.
"He said it's not in his nature to give up. He wanted to keep going. He's passionate, he loves football even now as a coach. He's passionate and he doesn't want to give up. He's a fighter to the end.
"He's made that clear and he wants us to look in the mirror and have that same demeanour about ourselves. Unfortunately we're not quite putting it out on the pitch and she's getting frustrating."