BLACK clouds are gathering over the A-League's most hyped club and a storm threatens to break at Melbourne Victory if the team, chock-full of star strikers and with the biggest but most vociferous fan base in the country, doesn't start scoring goals and winning games.
Saturday night's dreadful display in a 0-0 draw with local rival Melbourne Heart has sparked a wave of disaffection. Defender Matthew Foschini labelled the team's performance ''disgraceful'' in the post-match press conference as the players sought to take their share of the blame for a season-opening three weeks that has seen them garner two points from scoreless draws and suffer a 1-0 loss to fierce rival Adelaide United.
But most of the venom is being directed at rookie coach Mehmet Durakovic and his assistant, Socceroo veteran and club great Kevin Muscat.
Steve Horvat, a former Socceroo centre-back who spent years playing in Europe as well as in the local leagues, described Victory as a rabble and said that unless things turned around quickly he feared for Durakovic's tenure in the post.
''They play Wellington away next week and then have the champions, Brisbane at home. If they lose both those games - and the way they played on Saturday there is no guarantee they won't - then the club would surely have to look at its coaching set-up and ask some tough questions,'' he said. ''It sounds harsh, but they were a disorganised rabble at times. When you get the ball played forward and two hugely experienced players like Grant Brebner and Harry Kewell run into each other and collide, and the ball goes to a Heart defender, what's that about?
''It's a mess. There are a lot of big personalities who feel they should be in the team and playing. Archie Thompson goes into the media and says he should be playing up front and then the team is changed around and suddenly he is up front and is captain. It's all a bit amateur hour and lacking leadership.
''Mehmet says he needs more time, but he has been in the job since March. He has had most of these players with him since May, except for [Marco] Rojas and Kewell. He has had plenty of time to get them used to the system. I know Kewell arrived late, but he's a world-class player. If he can't slot in somewhere quickly there has to be something wrong.''
Victory chief executive Richard Wilson yesterday acknowledged the critics had a right to voice their disappointment. But he said that the coach's position was not in doubt and that it was far too early to be making judgments on coaches, players or tactics. ''It's a long campaign. Players get injured, called up for international duty, things change. There's a strong determination in the group to work hard and get through this.''
He said the board had weighed-up the pros and cons of appointing a rookie coaching team when they gave Durakovic and Muscat their positions after the pair had impressed during the Asian Champions League campaign, which they ran following the dismissal of dual premiership-winning mentor Ernie Merrick. ''The board took that lack of experience into account when they made their decision to appoint them,'' Wilson said.
''Mehmet didn't have coaching experience at the highest level, but we appointed him in tandem with Kevin as an assistant who had played at the highest level. It's part of an evolutionary process that we have embarked on to develop this club. We have very strong faith … that they will come through this and develop this squad to play the way we think it can.''