Sheffield Wednesday’s players must prove to Garry Monk they can help change the “culture and mentality” at Hillsborough.
Saturday’s humiliating 5-0 loss at home to Blackburn Rovers has led to inquests – both from puzzled supporters and Owls players, who held a meeting with Monk this week – about what went wrong.
It was Wednesday’s third consecutive defeat at Hillsborough, and their fourth in five games, which has seen them tumble from third to 10th in the Championship, four points adrift of the play-offs.
But, while the scoreline and “unacceptable” performance surprised Monk, he knows the Owls face long-term challenges.
To be serious promotion contenders, Monk must improve the squad – either by enhancing individuals, or better recruitment – and admits “there’s a lot of hard work to be done”.
“I was shocked, we all were shocked, to see that performance,” said Monk, as he reflected on their 5-0 defeat to Rovers. “I couldn’t see that coming and didn’t expect it.
“I have seen a lot of good things from this group, but I have also seen things that I don’t like – things that need to change.
“This is a big job, and there’s a lot of work to be done. I said that right from the start. My opinion hasn’t changed.
“We were bitterly disappointed with that result, it was unacceptable.
“It’s a process. You can’t just change things by talking, or just working on them, of course that’s what we do.
“But the bigger picture is changing the culture and mentality of this club, this environment, and get it where it needs to be.
“That’s my determination, what I am here to do, and I am trying to do that as quickly as I can.
“But it needs time, fight and an attitude towards it.
“The players are working hard at it, that I can promise. The want to do it is clearly there.
“I work with these guys every single day and I would like to think I have given them all an opportunity to show that.
“But, there’s a need for more than just that, that’s all part of moving forward and the journey which is ahead of us.”
The Owls travel to Queens Park Rangers in the fourth round of the FA Cup tomorrow, but Monk is hoping to bring in a couple of signings before next Tuesday’s trip to Wigan Athletic in the Championship.
How many new signings Monk needs to raise standards – over the next two transfer windows – will depend on how his current squad rises to the challenges ahead.
“We are in a transfer window so, if we can add one or two who can help, the here and now, we have to be mindful of that,” said Monk.
“But we have given them all an opportunity to show they can be the ones to move us forward.
“It’s up to them to show that.
“I have seen quite a lot of good things which show they are capable of doing that, but we need that mentality every game, daily, weekly, mentality.
“We have let ourselves down in certain moments. Everyone has that opportunity, but then there will be decisions made.
“The here and now, these are the ones who have the opportunity. Moving forward, they will show us.
“I work with the players every day. It’s not through a lack of effort, or want, but there are different levels of mentality.
“The best mentalities that I have been with, and are successful, are the ones who go above and beyond.
“They try to do it every day, every single game. These guys are trying to do that, I can promise you that, and the opportunity is there for them to try and take it to those levels.
“They have shown they can do that, that’s the tangible bit.
“I am also very realistic. I understood what needed to be done, before I came here, and I have tried to drive that from the start. But it needs time.”
Midfielder Massimo Luongo is free to face his former club, QPR, after his red card – in the first half against Blackburn – was rescinded.
The Owls have reached the fifth round of the FA Cup only three times over the last decade.
But, with Saturday’s crushing defeat still lingering over the club, Monk knows tomorrow’s game has added significance.
“The pressure is to win,” he said. “It’s not just a cup game, it’s a game we want to win. We need to win.
“Wins breed confidence. Losses like the one at the weekend, of course that’s a dent to the pride, to the ego.
“After that result, I expect to see a real fight – that should be in you anyway, regardless.
“That’s what I have sensed from the players this week, and that’s what I hope to see on Friday.
“We let ourselves down, and everyone else, last week and if we have anything about us – and we learned anything from it – we will come fighting back from it.”