Interim Newcastle Jets coach Craig Deans has put players on notice after the sudden sacking of A-League's most experienced manager Ernie Merrick.
The Jets cut ties with Merrick on Monday after five consecutive losses, during which time they conceded 17 goals to slump to the bottom of the ladder.
With a David and Goliath challenge against competition leaders Sydney FC on Friday night on home soil, Deans poured the cold truth on the playing group.
"As a team, when your coach gets sacked, it's your responsibility because the coach is not on the field playing the game," Deans said on Wednesday.
"I would imagine and I would hope that every player out there is feeling a little bit hurt by it and taking some responsibility for the fact that the coach is gone and they need to lift because there's another coach coming in.
"If they want to be a part of the new coach's plans, they need to make sure over this period of time that they're fully focused and performing.
"Otherwise they're going to make it hard for themselves."
Deans will juggle his role as W-League head coach with his new position with the men's team while the Jets hunt for a replacement for Merrick.
He insists he is not targeting a move to become a fulltime A-League coach and is enjoying his challenge in the women's competition.
However, his immediate problem will be ensuring the men's side remain focused on turning around their recent run of form and instilling some self-belief.
"If they don't (believe they can make the finals), that's a problem. The A-League is very quickly turned on its head," Deans said.
"They've all been around the league long enough to know it changes very quickly. It's just breaking the cycle of not winning that's the challenge.
"And the quicker we can do it, the better.
"I don't see a group of players that don't want to be here and don't really believe that they're good enough, I see a group of players who need to break the cycle of not winning and that's what we're going to try and do."