Bolton Wanderers' honourable 3-3 draw with Manchester City at the weekend could be put down to Gary Megson's use of forthright language about his previously underperforming players prior to Saturday's match, but the manager will have none it, claiming such frankness has always been his modus operandi.
"They've been fine about the criticism," he said yesterday as he prepared his team for tonight's home match with West Ham United. "I didn't think I was harsh. When you're in the position we're in, you can't start differentiating between who has done this and who has done that.
"I didn't think I was harsh. I thought I was exactly the same as I always am, which is honest. When we've done well I'm honest, when we're so-so I'm honest and when it's not so good I'm also honest. I wouldn't accept that I was harsh at all.
"The players are not fragile, they're good people. Since I've been here I have never ever had to criticise them for a lack of effort, honesty or integrity and that was the same against Wolves [when Bolton lost 2-1 10 days ago]. We outworked Wolves, our intensity was higher than Wolves, shots, crosses, everything. The only thing that wasn't higher than Wolves was the one that really matters, which was that they scored twice and we only scored once. In terms of them as people and whether they accept it, yes they do, because they're good people."
Megson insists Bolton have the resources to push on up the table. "We haven't got a big squad, a squad that you could put alongside a lot of them in the Premiership. It's been shaken up at times and we can't just make wholesale changes.
"We're searching for the only thing that we're missing and it's a win. I know there was a lot of furore after the Wolves game, and indeed during it, but the first goal was two yards offside and how [the linesman] didn't see it, I don't know. That did cost us, not just in terms of the goal but when it came. It changed everything.
"Down at Fulham we were doing fine and Damien Duff's cross wasn't going anywhere until it hit Gary Cahill on the shin and went in. The game before that, Blackburn, we missed a sitter, hit the bar and 30 seconds later we're picking the ball out of our net.
"The dividing line between succeeding and failing is very slim and we're just looking for that to change. There's nothing you can do, apart from roll your sleeves up, keep working and making it change."