The appointment of a new coach is normally a time of celebration and optimism, yet Western Sydney Wanderers were today forced to defend their decision to appoint former Adelaide United and Australia U-23 coach Josep Gombau as their replacement for former supercoach Tony Popovic, as rumours surfaced the decision was brought about after sustained interference by the Russian government.

Speaking to journalists during yet another replay of the Wanderers’ Asian Champions League triumph at Rooty Hill RSL, a Wanderers spokeswoman said rumours of Russian collusion were ‘ridiculous’ and that Gombau was appointed on his own merits.

“Josep is an outstanding coach who is a perfect fit for the kind of culture the club wishes to build going forward. To suggest his appointment was the result of subterfuge and intrigue from Russia is ridiculous.

“The Wanderers are a family friendly club and would never tolerate any pro-Putin or pro-Russian support, whether it’s from staff or from fans. The mere thought some within our club could support a brutal authoritarian regime is laughable.”

The Kremlin declined to comment.