Sheffield United captain Michael Doyle is looking for a reaction from his team-mates after a dressing room showdown with manager David Weir.
The rookie manager locked his players in at Bramall Lane for over an hour after Tuesday night’s shock defeat to League Two strugglers Hartlepool United in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Doyle claims Weir delivered a few “home truths” to the players and even questioned their effort and commitment to the cause.
“When you’re losing a game, you want people to have a go and run round,” he said. “I think that is the one thing the manager questioned about us (on Tuesday).
“He questioned that about us and as a footballer you should never be questioned about that.
“I know I wasn’t accepting that, other people as well, and as a footballer that’s one of the worst things you can have thrown at you. People have got to react to that now.
“What went on was behind closed doors, but a few home truths were told, that’s as much detail as I can go into. It’s got to the stage now where there’s winners in the dressing room who have had enough. And I include the manager and his staff as winners.
“You don’t play for clubs they have played for if you haven’t got something about you.
“You cannot feel sorry for yourself, it’s been a tough run we have been on, but you just have to get on, stick your chest out and play.
“Obviously supporters aren’t happy, they are disappointed and are going to voice their anger, rightly so.
“You just have to be man enough to take that and show some character.
“That’s why you’re at this club, show some character and grind out some results. Get us up the table and everyone’s happy. There’s a lot of disappointment around the place at the minute.
“Everyone has to stand up now and show a bit of character.”
Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat means the Blades have not won inside 90 minutes since the opening day victory over Notts County.
Chants of ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’ started from the visiting Hartlepool fans, but by the final whistle Blades fans had joined in too.
The shame-faced players left the pitch to boos, but that was nothing compared to what was reserved for former Scotland international Weir.
The manager stood on the touchline as he shepherded all of his players off, before turning to the tunnel where he was greeted by a chorus of boos. But for Doyle, he believes it is the players who must shoulder the blame.
“It was very disappointing,” admitted the Blades captain.
“It’s embarrassing, gut-wrenching as a player. We are so desperate to turn it around, we keep showing glimpses of how good we can be but we are not getting results and that’s what matters at the end of the day.
“There’s a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes, at the training ground. We are working as hard as I have ever worked. But we are not winning and it’s down to the players.”
Asked if he feared Weir would get the sack, Doyle replied: “I hope not, there’s a lot of hard work going on. We are working most days at the training ground until 3 or 4 o’clock since pre-season.
“We have been working ever so hard, a lot of change, and I hope he gets the time to see it through. At the minute, people aren’t happy, but I hope people are strong enough to give him that opportunity. If he gets that opportunity he will be very successful.
“At the minute it’s tough times and he is the one everyone looks at. Ultimately, it’s easy to blame the manager but at the end of the day it’s the players who have to take full responsibility.
“I was here last year when Danny Wilson lost his job. It’s a horrible thing and I would hate to see it happen to the manager after such a short spell. I think he has so much to offer. I know he will get through this and when he does, I think the club will benefit from it massively.
“There’s pressure on the manager, but I am sure he’s big enough and strong enough to be able to take it and stand up. It’s if all the players can do that and put in performances that the club is worthy of, and especially the manager.”
Doyle takes the Blades back to his former club, Coventry City, on Sunday for a televised League One match.
And the Scottish midfielder believes the players owe Weir a “big performance” as they look to climb out of the relegation places.
“He deserves a big performance from us, I think we definitely owe him,” added Doyle. “I can only speak for myself, but it’s horrible to be playing here at the minute – for such a good club – and everybody’s is unhappy. It’s coming down to one man’s head when it isn’t really like that. It’s the people on the field at the end of the day.
“It’s easy to be pointing fingers. But I believe we have a good enough squad to be challenging at the right end of the table and we are not doing that at the minute. We have to change that.
“It’s up to us. People have to stand up and be counted.
“We have to turn it around, we have been saying that for weeks now, but it has got to start with the match on Sunday at Coventry.
“We owe the manager a performance, we owe the fans a performance.”