JEF United Chiba defender Eddy Bosnar is adamant his side can escape relegation from J. League Division 1, despite lying eight points adrift of safety with just 11 games of the season left to play.
JEF, which sold five international players before the season began, started the campaign in wretched form, taking just two points from its first 11 matches.
A 3-0 mauling at the hands of Urawa Reds in May prompted the club hierarchy to dismiss manager Josip Kuze, just four months after the Croatian had taken the job.
The appointment of former Liverpool assistant manager Alex Miller helped stop the rot in Chiba, but JEF still has a mountain to climb if it is to avoid demotion to the second division for the first time in the club’s history.
Australian defender Bosnar acknowledges the predicament the club is in, but refuses to rule out the possibility of survival.
“Compared to past seasons we are in a bit of trouble,” Bosnar admitted.
“There is no excuse for it. The club sold five players last season but that is not an excuse. The players we have now are good enough to stay in top-flight football.
“When you look at the past few weeks it is very different from the start of the season. I am optimistic. If I wasn’t optimistic, I wouldn’t be playing the game.”
JEF managed only a 0-0 draw in its last match, a crucial basement clash against fellow struggler Jubilo Iwata.
Bosnar is frustrated at the missed opportunity to make up ground on its relegation rival, but takes positives from his team’s performance.
“When you look at Japan in the last few years, Jubilo away is a tough game,” he said.
“As soon as they drew against us they sacked their coach, so they are also in trouble. We didn’t play badly. We have got seven games at home now, so let’s hope we win all seven.”
Bosnar credits Miller for JEF’s improvement since the debacle of the opening few months of the season.
“I think he has made the team a lot more aggressive,” Bosnar said.
“Since the boss has been here we have been a lot more solid at the back. We are scoring more goals so that helps, but we have to score more. We have been defending well recently, but we need to score more goals.”
The defender also recognizes the influence senior players at the club have had in keeping the squad united through challenging times.
“I think the mood is different now,” he said.
“At the beginning it was a shock to lose those five players. It is not easy for young players. The older players have kept it together and I think that is the most important thing.
“If we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t even be on 18 points. It is drastic but it is certainly not panic time. I think we will be all right.”
But Bosnar has also played his part in JEF’s rear-guard action, refusing a callup to the Australian national side to remain with his Chiba teammates.
“I have had a bit of a hiccup with them because we agreed I was going to stay here and help the team, and I missed two friendly games,” he said.
“He (Australia manager Pim Verbeek) wanted to give me a chance to get back into the squad and I didn’t go back. I don’t regret it at all. It is nice to play for the national team but JEF is the one that puts food on the table.
“I’m not really bothered with it at the moment. It would be a bonus to get into the national squad, but my first priority is keeping JEF in the top flight.”