JOHN Hughes has warned his Hartlepool United players that he will “see through” those who do not deserve to remain at Victoria Park.
Since November the Scot has been privately assessing the playing staff he inherited with one eye on building his own squad come the summer, regardless of which division Pools find themselves in.
Hughes felt his men let down their club on Tuesday night as they were soundly beaten by relegation rivals Oldham Athletic.
That result is likely to prove fatal in Pools’ bid for League One survival.
And the performance could yet have far greater consequence for some players, as Hughes told SportMail: “I didn’t blow my top on Tuesday because I know what I’ve got in the dressing-room and I know what needs to be done at this club.
“I know where I want to take the club.
“What I’m saying to these boys is ‘if you want to be part of that then go and show me what you’ve got – don’t get left behind’.
“If not then football evolves, that’s what happens.
“But maybe that was a game too far for some of them.”
Hughes, himself an imposing captain during his playing days, places great emphasis on the mental strength of his players.
And that, he concedes, was sadly lacking at Boundary Park.
“When you talk about character I’m learning about my players all of the time,” he went on.
“Who are the ones who really want to go where it hurts?
“Who wants to take their body and their mental mindset somewhere they’ve never been before?
“But it’s all a bit transparent.
“I’ve been in the game a long time and I’ve seen the ones who just don’t go there, always half a yard short.
“The ones who don’t put themselves in the right areas, I see through all that.
“I’ve been in dressing-rooms where you build a culture and set standards.
“That just wasn’t there on Tuesday night, we accepted defeat.
“So I’ll sit back and look at it and really analyse it but tactics aside, if you’re not right mentally you don’t stand a chance.”
Pools now face Walsall at Victoria Park on Saturday where they are likely to be without striker James Poole (knee) while Ritchie Humphreys (calf) is also a major doubt.