COLLINGWOOD president Eddie McGuire has issued a rallying cry ahead of the finals, suggesting the latest speculation about Michael Malthouse's future is another example of others desperately trying to unsettle the club.
"Let there be no mistake, everyone else desperately wants to see us fail. Our club, that is the internal team, is absolutely rock solid. The negativity will come from everywhere so let's make sure all Magpies stay up, positive and on song," he wrote on Collingwood supporters' website Extreme Black 'n' White.
"It is us against the world. I'm not making it up — just read the papers. If ever we needed all you guys in our corner, it is now. Not just when we are in front but a fanatical level if and when we are challenged."
McGuire then implored supporters to show unity and whip themselves into a frenzy to help shield the club from distractions. "I promise you we are all as one. Don't tumble into the Collingwood haters, don't let those who should know better lead us from our path," he said.
"It's time for the family to close ranks, stick together and give it to everyone. Big challenges ahead but let's go for it together."
McGuire's impassioned plea came as Malthouse's manager Peter Sidwell yesterday reiterated the 58-year-old was not a candidate for any of the three vacant coaching positions, at Melbourne, Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs.
"He's not going anywhere next year," Sidwell said told The Age. "I promise he will not be coaching another club."
The Pies' unfinished coaching blueprint could be left stagnant until the end of the year, with coach Malthouse declaring it trifling compared with the club's premiership defence.
Speculation about whether Malthouse will fulfil a two-year-old agreement to be a coaching mentor to impending successor Nathan Buckley has increased recently; partly because of the present coaching vacancies and also Collingwood becoming less vehement about the arrangement.
Malthouse yesterday insisted the issue of what his mooted director of football role would entail was "the last thing on my mind".
"I don't know how many times I have to say it. One, it's very annoying, two we're on the verge of the finals. Do you really think that's the thing that's going to be worrying me at the moment? It can be sitting there for the next month for all I care. It won't even be worried about," he told SEN radio.
"I've got great issues in front of me. The final eight is set, there's my biggest worry."
Sidwell became more centrally involved in the issue yesterday, with former Hawthorn great Dermott Brereton revealing Malthouse's manager was involved in conversation with Garry Lyon, the influential interim football consultant to Melbourne's directors, at a weekend function.
Brereton took a photo of the pair in conversation, which lasted about 15 minutes. While not privy to their specific conversation, he told The Sunday Footy Show he doubted Lyon and Sidwell were "talking about cars".
Brownlow medallist Shane Crawford, in response, expressed supreme confidence Malthouse would be the full-time replacement at the Demons for Dean Bailey.
"With Mick Malthouse, if he has a year off, you won't see him as a coach ever again. I'm convinced he's going to Melbourne, 100 per cent. I've been convinced all year," Crawford said.
"He likes the [Melbourne] list, it was his most favoured list going into this season if he could take over someone. I just think the timing's right. He has to go there."
At the weekend four-time premiership coach Leigh Matthews, former Richmond spearhead Matthew Richardson and former Tigers assistant coach David King were among pundits who suggested Collingwood would be better served by scrapping the succession plan and retaining Malthouse as senior coach.
Malthouse's predecessor at Collingwood, Tony Shaw, yesterday said he shared that view — but insisted nothing would impede Buckley taking over from Malthouse.
"There is no way known Nathan Buckley will not be the coach of Collingwood next year," Shaw told 3AW.