Craig Hignett says every Hartlepool United player’s future is on the line.
And the gaffer has tasked his dressing-room with standing up and being counted, rather than wilting under the League Two heat.
Last weekend’s trip to Port Vale in the FA Cup was meant to be a welcome distraction from the week-to-week toil of the fourth tier.
But the tie - a 4-0 loss - ended up producing more questions for Hignett than answers. And it has led the manager to question his players’ character, heart and commitment in recent days.
But Hignett admits he can only say and do so much. It is down to the individuals to prove they are worth their place in the Pools squad.
The former Middlesbrough assistant says if his players do not show a marked improvement over the coming weeks, a number of them could find themselves shown the Northern Gas & Power Stadium exit door in the January transfer window.
“It is up to the players to stand up,” he said ahead of this weekend’s clash with Cambridge.
“They are all playing for their futures here. There is no one who is safe.
“If they are not going to stand up, I will get players who can.
“They all know the situation. They know what I expect.
“They are good lads - they care. They are hurting. But the performance at the weekend was unacceptable. It can’t go on.”
Hignett wants players who are up for the fight, not ones who shy away from the limelight when the going gets tough.
He explained: “We have to stand up to the fight.
“It is OK to play nice football but we need to be able to play against teams who get in our faces.
“I don’t think we cope well with that. It is frustrating because what I see in training is very different to what I actually see in games.
“We need to bring what we do in the week on to the pitch.
“It’s OK doing it for parts of games but we need 90 minute performances.”
Hignett says his patience is starting to ware thin,
“I’ve stuck with the players and maybe it’s a blind belief,” he continued.
“I can’t have training ground players, I need matchday players and at the minute I don’t know what I’m going to get.
“Consistency hasn’t been there at all, and it’s been poor but we will kick on in the league.
“Get a run going in the league and kick on.
“We have had our say, but we have to move on and move on quick.
“We have to stick together. There’s a really good unit of players, but we don’t have any nasty ones.
“That’s what we are missing.”