Steve McClaren says he’s under no illusions about the seriousness of Newcastle United’s plight.
McClaren’s relegation-threatened side are two points adrift of safety at the halfway point of the Premier League season.
And next up are league leaders Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
McClaren, the club’s head coach, has tried to stay positive in public, and some of his recent upbeat comments have been questioned by supporters.
However, beneath the surface, McClaren has admitted to concern at United’s position.
Asked if he understood why fans were worried, McClaren said: “Believe me, under the surface I’m paddling like mad.
“But we have a little bit more information than everyone else. We know what we have got and what we are trying to do.
“We feel as if we are getting there after a tough start. That is the first half of the season gone – 2015 is about to end. Good! We can’t wait for the next year.
“We have been unfortunate the last few games.
“We need to turn that around, and you only do that by hard work. Let’s see what we do.”
Only a significant on-pitch improvement will save Newcastle, who stayed up on the final day of last season.
“It’s not been good enough, and that’s why we are in the bottom three,” he said. “That is where we are realistic and we need to do something about it.
“And we will do. There are 19 games to go.
“You try to make sure with ten games to go, you are in a good position and with five to go you are in an even better position.
“Before that we have a lot of work to do.”
One thing McClaren has vowed not to do is publicly criticise his players, something Jose Mourinho chose to do before his sacking at Chelsea.
However, the 54-year-old insists his assessment of games are honest – and not spin.
“I think I’ve been quite honest in terms of whether the performances have been good or bad,” he said.
“I think certainly that was expressed after Palace and after Leicester. I will never fault these players as long as they give 100% attitude, effort.
“I think they have done that. If I feel certain individuals haven’t, then I’ll let them know privately
“But I think, publicly, I’ve never said we’ve played well when we’ve played badly.”