Fulham boss Chris Coleman is confident his players will respond to his stinging appraisal of Saturday’s defeat by Everton when they run out at Anfield tonight.
The Cottagers were crushed 3-1 by the Toffees in a performance which Coleman described as “the most painful 85 minutes I’ve had to endure since becoming a manager”.
But he expects them to seek redemption for their Goodison horror show by halting a three-match losing run which has sent them hurtling down the Barclays Premiership table.
“They’re a good bunch of lads – they are good guys and there is a good atmosphere in the changing room,” said Coleman. “Nine times out of 10 we’ll have a go, although we don’t always win games.
“We were criticised last year for lacklustre performances. This year people like to watch us – and not only our own supporters because we’ve played well when on TV. But we’ve fallen away over the last couple of games.
“The players respond well when I give them a bit of stick – they should do anyway because if they’re honest they’ll know I was exactly right in what I said. I’m glad I said what I did.”
Fulham’s slide began after the 6-1 thrashing of West Brom a month ago, a result which Coleman believes made his players complacent.
“We beat West Brom 6-1 and were 12 points clear of relegation. Maybe one or two thought we were out of trouble. But that’s not the way it works,” he said.
“Every game we’ve won we’ve had to work for. The West Brom match was a one-off – the goals went in for us. After that there is the danger that players will start believing their own publicity.
“The job is not done until the final whistle of the last game of the season is blown.”
Coleman insists Fulham are in the middle of the hardest sequence of fixtures since he took over the Craven Cottage coaching reins nearly three years ago.
“This season we have a much better work ethic throughout the club and we have to maintain that,” he said.
“But we are only eight points clear of the bottom three and that could quickly be cut down to five and then to two. We’ve had a real tough run of games – Bolton, Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea.
“Since I’ve been in charge that’s probably the toughest run of games I’ve had. We mustn’t relax, we have to keep pushing until the end because we want to finish as high as we can.”