MICHAEL Appleton has laid down the gauntlet to his Blackburn Rovers squad after challenging them to ‘show me you want to be part of our success’.
A realistic Rovers boss has conceded their Championship play-off dreams are now looking “difficult” and, while refusing to throw the towel in, admits he is already preparing for next season.
Tuesday night’s 3-0 defeat at Leicester City leaves Rovers without a win in four Championship matches and still seven points adrift of the top six.
Appleton said: “Ultimately there are still a lot of points to play for but now they have to show me who wants to be a part of it.
“A team being successful is not about eight, nine or 10 games, it is about doing it over a 46 game period as Leicester, Hull and Brighton are showing.
“We want to be in that pack and that race. I said to the lads in there for me, over the past couple of years, the club has been built on quick sand and that is showing now.
“For it to have the proper foundations that is the only time we can really push forward. At the minute there is not the foundations in place and we have to make sure we do that very quickly.
“Sometimes in life things happen for a reason. Maybe the players getting injured has brought a reality to the football club of where we are.
“I am desperate to be successful at this football club. It doesn’t happen overnight and, maybe with the injuries we have it is time to take stock of where we are, let’s take a step back again, build the foundations right and then kick on.”
After an encouraging start to life as Rovers boss, including wins against Derby County, Bristol City and Ipswich Town, Appleton has seen his side struggle against some of the Championships better sides.
A draw with Brighton has been followed by defeats at Hull and Leicester, showing Appleton how much work is still needed to be done.
He said: “What they have shown is we are where we are for a reason. Ultimately we have not hit the standards the opposition have. The three teams we talk about have consistently been in the top six. That is the standards we have to be aiming for.
“We are where we are, the table does not lie. It is difficult sometimes for Premier League sides to adjust. But the next 12 games have got to be about the detail of building bridges and hopefully in the next 12 games I can see good signs of where we can maybe go and push on at some point.
“As far as I am concerned now it is a case of preparing for next season. We have a very important game against Millwall in the FA Cup which gives you an opportunity of getting to Wembley.
“I don’t think the lads will be allowed to think that far ahead because at the minute we are not good enough to start thinking ahead of ourselves. We have to get back to basics, being hard to beat and see where it takes us.
“It is going to be difficult (the play-offs), there are still 36 points to play for and nothing is impossible. We have to concentrate on winning games of football. If we win four or five on the bounce, the picture changes again.
“I am just being more of a realist than an optimist or a pessimist. We just want to win games and bring a feel good feeling to the football club.”
Meanwhile Appleton is still looking for reinforcements and admits he would be “amazed” if two loan signings were not added by Peterborough’s visit on Saturday.