Mike Phelan has challenged Hull City to “grow up” or slip to Premier League relegation with little more than a whimper.
Hull were hammered at Bournemouth on Saturday and now stand winless in six Premier League matches, having leaked 17 goals in their last four contests.
Phelan won August’s manager-of-the-month award only for Hull’s form to taper off sharply, while Saturday’s hefty defeat was his first game after taking the manager’s job on a permanent basis.
The former Manchester United assistant manager refused to lay into his players in the wake of the latest lacklustre performance but admitted there were some emotional inquests among the squad on the south coast.
“It’s been an unbelievable task right from day one and I’ve stood by everything, I’ve committed myself to this football club and it’s a long season,” said Phelan.
“We don’t want many results like we’ve had in the past few weeks of course but we need to be stronger mentally, more disciplined and regroup and get on with it.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves because if we do it is going to be a hard slog.
“We need to grow up quickly, accept the level we’re at, how tough it’s going to be and do things better than what we’re doing now.
“The disappointment is that we probably started the season well, expectations rise and we come to Bournemouth and think it’s going to be a stroll in the park – and it isn’t.
“Bournemouth are a good side, like most sides are in the Premier League and we need to quickly learn from these things that we are who we are and our identity has got to be Hull City.
“We’ve got to conduct ourselves in that manner and make sure we’re difficult to beat.
“It reflects on me and I’ll take that and defend my players because I picked them, I brought them to the club and I’ll defend them.
“My players are under no illusions of the task ahead simply because they’re out there on the grass and they’ve got to perform.
“They understand the situation, they’re as disappointed as anybody and, hopefully, this is the starting point of something better.”
Ryan Mason’s deflected strike proved Hull’s only high point at Dean Court.
Junior Stanislas bagged a brace and Steve Cook, Charlie Daniels, Callum Wilson and Dan Gosling also found the net as Hull were outclassed by Eddie Howe’s rampant Cherries.
Phelan revealed Hull’s post-match changing room was a mixture of players holding inquests between themselves, and others simply quietly reflecting on their Bournemouth humbling.
Phelan continued: “It’s both, you get both sides of the coin, but what really matters is what I do and what I say to them because they are looking for a response from me.
“As much disappointment as I feel, as many do, I have to regroup this team and explain to them the demands of these decisions and what it takes to be successful.
“We are Hull City, we are giving it a go, we are probably a little bit open at times but we will sit down and address that in the coming weeks.”
Harry Arter will force his way into the Republic of Ireland’s starting line-up if he sustains his early-season Premier League form, according to Howe.
He hailed midfielder Arter’s all-action showing that underpinned the Cherries’ hammering of Hull, then tipped the 26-year-old for further Ireland honours.
Arter has recently brushed off suggestions he would aim to declare for England given he has yet to feature for Ireland in a competitive fixture despite winning three caps.
The Bournemouth midfielder left Dean Court on crutches after suffering a knee problem but that was thought to be a precaution.
“I think the player’s performance will dictate what happens on that side,” said Howe of Arter’s international chances.
“They’ve got to get their Bournemouth form right first and the rest will follow. In the last few weeks he’s been absolutely terrific for us. So I’m sure if he continues that form he’ll get rewarded. We’ve got some very good footballers here.”
AFC Bournemouth: Boruc, Adam Smith, Francis, Steve Cook, Daniels, Surman, Arter, Stanislas, Wilshere (Gosling 79), Ibe (King 62), Callum Wilson (Afobe 86). Unused substitutes: Ake, Federici, Fraser, Mings.
Hull City: Marshall, Elmohamady, Maguire, Davies, Robertson (Diomande 63), Livermore, Clucas, Mason (Meyler 78), Snodgrass, Maloney (Huddlestone 55), Keane. Unused substitutes: Hernandez, Jakupovic, Weir, Henriksen.
Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).
Man of the match: Junior Stanislas.