Darren Ferguson says his Doncaster Rovers players have the next 16 games to prove they have the right character to play for his side next season.
Following Saturday’s disappointing performance and defeat to Sheffield United, Rovers are without a win in five in the league, leaving them only six points off the League One drop zone.
While convinced relegation is not on the cards for his side, Ferguson is keen to discover which of his players want to be at the club next term.
“The last three games we have lost at home,” he said. “Now it’s a different ability I need to see in them.
“It’s about their character and temperament.
“They’ve shown it before because they were on a bad run when I came in.
“It will be an interesting next 16 games and things like that are important for where we want to go as we move forward.
“It’s not about putting a gun against their heads. I’ve worked out most of them. Some of their form has been really good.”
The theme of the players proving themselves was something Ferguson continued in a message to supporters yesterday as part of the club’s early bird season ticket appeal.
Writing on the club’s official website, he said: “We had a bad day at the office on Saturday and now is the time for us all to learn who wants to be in that dressing room next season.
“It was the first time I have ever publicly criticised my players and I don’t want to ever have to do that again.
“I demand that ever player that pulls on the Rovers shirt will put in a shift for the team and the supporters.
“Moving into next season, I will have a Rovers team, my team, and our aim and what we are working towards are those play-off places.
“When I arrived I promised a better brand of football. We aren’t there yet but working towards next season we know we will be better equipped to try and achieve what we desire.
“That is what we all want and I aim to put together a squad that should enable us to do that.”
The character of the side was something which previous manager Paul Dickov questioned last season when Rovers meandered to a finish.
Rovers got themselves into a strong position to push for the play-offs only to fall away dramatically in over the last two months of the campaign.
While a mid-table finish appears to be the best Rovers can hope for this term, Ferguson says he does not the same share similar feelings at this time that Dickov did a year ago.
And he believes a drop in confidence may be the reason for the recent poor run.
“I don’t feel the character is in doubt at the moment because I think we’ve shown it before,” he told The Star.
“I’m not going to absolutely annihilate my team. What I am saying is that performance against Sheffield United was not acceptable.
“I have seen a lot of character from my players at times, we’ve come back a lot, especially at home and people have seen that.
“At the moment we’re going through a run where it looks to me like a little bit of the confidence has gone, maybe in particular at home.”