Chesterfield’s young players have been given a heavy dose of reality this week.
Ian Evatt did not miss and hit the wall in his scathing comments on the lack of desire among footballers of a certain age.
The interviews he gave on Monday, after Saturday’s ‘disaster’ of a result and before the trip to Millwall will have been uncomfortable reading for many members of the Chesterfield squad.
Admitting he would like to have put a few up against the wall, suggesting results don’t mean enough to them, questioning work ethic and accusing them of being molly coddled – it was strong stuff.
Sensibly, however, he didn’t name names or make his points so specific that fans could work out the identity of those disappointing him.
On Saturday at the Proact, when it should have meant everything to beat Bury, there were worrying signs.
On more than one occasion a player lost the ball through a lack of care and then was content to jog back towards his own goal as the Shakers broke – leaving team-mates to bust a gut to cover him.
That shouldn’t be acceptable in the very first game of pre-season, never mind a ‘relegation six pointer.’
It was little wonder that Gary Caldwell was furiously barking admonishments, especially in the second half.
Evatt was right to ask how much it means, when players aren’t satisfying the basic requirement – effort.
It might be the case that loan players can return to their cushy Premier League and Championship reserve roles at the end of the season, but if they don’t make it at their parent outfit, they might find a positive reference hard to come by from Caldwell, his staff and veterans like Evatt.
It’s not just the loanees who have to take a good, long hard look in the mirror – there are players with experience on their side who haven’t pulled up any trees this season.
Along with a stinging rebuke from a senior player with over 500 Football League appearances, one they should all hope to emulate, perhaps sitting the players down in front of staff members who could lose their jobs should the club lose League One status would help drive home the message – results matter.
They don’t even have to look too far, there are players in the changing room who will have to seek employ elsewhere if Town go down.
Hopefully after Evatt putting the fear of God into them, they’ll now be acutely aware of the reality facing the club.
The 0-0 draw at Millwall is an encouraging early sign that it might just be sinking in.
On Saturday at the Proact they’ll have another chance to show fans they get it – if they work themselves into the ground, take care to look after the ball and chase every Oxford player who has it.
It doesn’t stop at the final whistle though – thoughtless social media posts are not what is required at such a pivotal time, as Reece Brown discovered on Saturday.
A picture of a slight graze on his head and a jokey remark about not wishing to head the ball was met with an avalanche of fan fury.
It was naive, but hopefully a lesson learned – what he and his team-mates say and do has very real consequences.
In their defence, it’s not the youngsters’ fault that they were brought in by the club instead of battled hardened veterans, and they’ve never been in this situation before.
But if they didn’t know what is expected of them for the final 13 games of the season, they do now.