AFL premiership coach Mark Thompson has a basic warning for Nathan Buckley – the Collingwood players will save or doom you.
Thompson has great sympathy for the embattled Magpies coach and knows exactly what he is going through.
He went close to being sacked from Geelong at the end of 2006, only to lead them to their drought-breaking 2007 premiership and another two years later.
Collingwood’s Anzac Day loss to Essendon inevitably ramped up the pressure on Buckley, with their failure in the biggest home-and-away game of the season leaving the Magpies floundering at 1-4.
Last August, Buckley acknowledged his coaching future at Collingwood was tied to making the finals this season.
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire pledged support to Buckley on Wednesday and is adamant the club will not turn on their own.
Thompson said Buckley’s priority must be to make sure of the relationship with his players.
“You’ve got to get to your players and keep talking to them – they don’t deliberately go out and lose,” Thompson told Fox Sports.
“They are the ones who are going to save your job.
“It (the pressure) is horrendous – everywhere you walk, you think people are looking at you.
“You think you’re a failure, but what you have to do, if he wants to fight for his job, he has to let all that go and just get to his players and just be positive.”
Collingwood are far from the AFL’s worst team this season – their biggest losing margin is only 19 points.
But their forward line is impotent and they will need a massive turnaround to threaten the top eight.
Again, Buckley put it best when he said after Tuesday’s loss that they are not far off, but they are a mile off.
Since Buckley took over from Mick Malthouse in McGuire’s controversial succession plan, the Magpies have slid from fourth in 2012 to 12th for the past two seasons and their last final appearance was in 2013.
On Wednesday, McGuire strongly defended Buckley and backed him to turn around the floundering team’s fortunes.
“Every time I’ve looked to Nathan Buckley as a player, as a person, as a coach he has never let me or Collingwood down,” McGuire said.
“There has been no greater servant of the Collingwood Football Club.
“There is no better person to have our club’s future in his hands than Nathan Buckley.”
And McGuire, president since 1999, said their on-field woes would not cause off-field division.
“We’ll never give up, we’ll never dog it, we won’t turn on our own,” McGuire told TripleM.
“We won’t desolate people who give to the club day in and day out and we don’t turn on our people. We stand side-by-side.”
Collingwood’s next assignment is unbeaten Geelong on Sunday at the MCG.
“Geelong are a great club, they might beat us but I tell you what. It will be the spirit of Collingwood that will be tested on Sunday afternoon,” McGuire said.