Reading caretaker manager Eamonn Dolan has warned his players they cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves if they want to avoid relegation from the Barclays Premier League.
The Royals have become the bookies' favourite for the drop following an emotional week in which boss Brian McDermott and his assistant Nigel Gibbs left the club. The Reading players were left shocked by the news, with Dolan revealing morale had initially been "floored", as owner Anton Zingarevich sought to turn the club's fortunes around.
With a replacement still to be courted and time running out the odds are, however, stacking up against the club. "I've asked for focus. We've got a Premier League to stay in and that's our goal now," Dolan said.
Following a weekend in which their immediate relegation rivals all won - including Wigan's stunning FA Cup quarter-final success at Everton - their five-game losing streak in all competitions has arguably left them as the most vulnerable of the bottom clubs.
With nine games remaining Reading are four points adrift of safety, ahead of the resurgent QPR on goals scored only, while they are yet to keep a clean sheet in the league in 2013.
It hardly gets any easier for them either with a horror fixture list sending them to champions-in-waiting Manchester United on Saturday, before a trip to Arsenal immediately after the international break.
Even if the new manager is installed before then no Premier League club has survived the drop when replacing their boss in March. It is grim reading for the fans at the Madejski Stadium but Dolan is determined to keep spirits high.
He added: "There are nine games to go to stay up. We have a realistic target to stay in this league. To do that we need to climb two places in nearly a quarter of the season.
"We have to be clear about what we want to do. I am positive we can stay up - 100 per cent positive. The players were floored at the start of the week but they realise the importance for the club. We need to be in the Barclays Premier League next year.
"It is in everyone's interests from the owner, the board, the players, and Brian and Nigel to stay in the Premier League. If we do that then they'll get even more credit."