Don’t blame the kids for Hartlepool United’s recent slump, says Nicky Featherstone.
It’s the experienced pros at the club, according to the skipper, who must bare the brunt of the criticism.
Hartlepool suffered an embarrassing 4-0 defeat at Port Vale on Sunday, crashing out of the FA Cup in the process.
While losing to a League One side away from home was no big shock, it was the manner in which the afternoon unfolded that makes talk of the loss so uncomfortable.
Featherstone, who by his own admission was poor in the game, says he was embarrassed by the performance.
And while he accepts that kind of show is maybe a sign of the starting XI’s inexperience, he thinks the likes of himself must take the hit.
“We are embarrassed - we let the staff, the manager and the fans down,” he said.
“We are capable of much more than that. We know we are and the fans do too.
“There is no excuse for how we have played.
“We had to tighten up to stay in the game and we just go and concede another goal. The players are hurt.
“What I see every day in training compared to that performance is like chalk and cheese. That goes for myself, too.
“The likes of myself and Matthew Bates and the older lads have to manage games better than we have.
“It is our responsibility.
“We have been very good in odd games this season but then too many games where we have been poor.
“We are still learning as a team. We are a young side.
“But we need to be better at that.”
While home form has been a particular thorn in Pools’ side this season, it has improved measurably in recent weeks, with Craig Hignett’s men racking up three wins at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium in the last month.
“Now we need to concentrate on the home game,” Featherstone said.
“We need to move on and forget. Our home form has been good of late and we need a performance.
“A positive performance, a positive result is what we need.”
In order to produce that, though, Pools have to cut out the errors. Talk is cheap, says Featherstone. Now is the time to act.
He said: “We have the same conversation every single week.
“The gaffer says we have to learn or we are in for a long, hard season. We know that. “The training ground play has to convert to a weekend.
“We are still in a position where if we win a couple of games we are right back where we want to be.”