Graham Barrow has called on Wigan Athletic’s players to prove they deserve to be part of the future as they prepare to enter last-chance saloon this weekend against already-relegated Rotherham.
Anything less than three points against the rock-bottom Millers will surely see Latics – seven points adrift of safety with only six games remaining – joining them in the third tier next season.
With interim boss Barrow steering the ship until the appointment of a full-time successor to Warren Joyce, he says he’s looking for solid evidence of who wants to be here and who doesn’t.
“The players should know by now they’re all fighting for their futures,” Barrow acknowledged.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but I do know I have an opportunity to be a part of it.
“Any manager who comes, or new regime that comes in will get the full lowdown from me on who’s behind the club and who’s not.
“The players have still got time to prove everybody wrong – myself included.
“I don’t want to go on about it too long because that’s for the future.
“But as every game presents a different challenge, every game presents a different opportunity, and every player has a chance.
“And they are getting chances. I’m searching for a winning team so all the players are getting chances to show what they can do.
“I’ve been making changes to the team and the system, and that is what the situation has needed. We have to find a winning formula.”
Barrow has been looking for a reaction in training after accusing the players of ‘letting down’ the club during the 3-0 midweek defeat at Ipswich.
“There were a few home truths based on the performance on the night – not the time I’ve been in charge as a whole,” he explained.
“People will make mistakes – but I don’t think I’ve seen three mistakes in one game like that.
“You search and search for reasons, and it was harsh we’d got no reward for all the effort we put in during the two previous games.
“Maybe that disappointment was a little deeper than we thought, and we then come up against a different animal in the shape of a Mick McCarthy team that was set up not to let us play.
“We didn’t deal with the shock of that very well, and you have to be ready for every eventuality in this league.
“All we can do is move on now - the situation demands we can’t dwell on things.
“The only good thing to come out of the game is the situation in the league is no worse with other results going our way.
“Yes it was an opportunity missed, but we’ve still got a chance – a real chance. Let’s go for it.
“It’s obviously ‘must-win’. It doesn’t take a genius to work that out. But we still have to perform – you can’t allow the players to get too nervous.
“We’ll work the players as normal, and let’s get out there and give it a good go.”
Despite the situation looking bleak, Barrow will not be giving up the ghost until it’s mathematically impossible.
“I can assure the fans that no-one will be giving up,” the ex-Latics captain insisted.
“We also have to put the other into perspective.
“There were three individual mistakes that cost us the game – not the performance or the effort on the night. We had chances to score goals and win the game, and there were excellent performances as well as individual errors.
“I just feel we need to be firing on all cylinders.
“Anyone can make a mistake, but we just need to be going at it from the off.
“I just feel there’s always been two or three players – not the same two or three – who have not been at it. And I find that a little bit strange, in the position we’re in now.
“We’re almost in a ‘nothing to lose’ situation. Rotherham are definitely in that situation already, we’re almost there, and we need that attitude.
“We need to go the whole way. We’re only going so far in certain situations.
“I want us to be as resilient as we were a few weeks ago in not losing goals, while able to go forward and find the goal at the end of it to justify the good work that goes on in between.”
Barrow also called on the supporters to stick with the team, with a remarkable 176 making the long trek down to Ipswich four days after over 1,200 made it up to Newcastle.
“That doesn’t surprise me at all about the supporters,” he added. “I’ve been all over with this football club - including Europe a few years ago.
“They always travel in their numbers, they’re always behind the club.
“As disappointing as this time is, the history of this football club is outstanding – what we’ve achieved, what we’ve done. We can’t forget that just because we’re having a bad run at the moment.
“It works both ways. But this is a time where we can still do something about this.
“We lost to Rotherham at their place, and they showed what they can do when they go for the jugular and went at us.
“They’ll probably feel the same way and I would expect another open game. They’ve certainly got dangerous players who can score a goal.
“Let’s face it, at the end of the day, when it comes down to it, we should want it more than them – and that should come through.”