Birmingham City captain Damien Johnson has told his young team-mates they have to grow up fast if they are to be successful in avoiding the drop into the Coca-Cola Championship.
The Northern Ireland international was in commanding form at the heart of Blues' engine room during the disappointing 1-1 draw with Derby County at St Andrew's on Saturday. However, Blues' longest-serving player, who is closing in on his 200th appearance for the club, was helpless as the team conceded a soft, late goal that gifted the Rams a point.
Now Johnson is calling on Blues, who dropped into the relegation zone as a result of Saturday's result, to learn from their mistakes and do it quickly.
"No-one likes to be in the bottom three," he said. "It was a disappointing game. We didn't close the game out and that is something we need to learn how to do. We haven't won for a while and this is why.
"Against Chelsea [a 1-0 defeat at St Andrew's last month], we would have settled for a draw after holding them for 79 minutes and we have got to be able to see the game out and keep a clean sheet.
"It was the same again against Derby. Once we got the opening goal, we should have been more precise in seeing the game out, although we were unlucky, really. "Late goals kill you. It is something we need to eradicate. The performance against Derby was decent but it has all ended a bit disappointingly."
Blues' young players, who include Fabrice Muamba, Sebastian Larsson, Mauro Zarate and Cameron Jerome, look up to the combative Johnson who joined Blues for a bargain £50,000 from Blackburn Rovers in 2002 and has set a strong example so far this season.
His bitter experience of relegation two years ago will stand the team in good stead during the vital run-in but, while Johnson said he is more than happy to give the side some much-needed direction on the pitch, the players needed to take responsibility for their own performances and cope with the pressure that comes with a relegation dogfight.
Johnson knows all about strength of character. He has had to work hard to battle back into favour, not just with former manager Steve Bruce, but with the Blues fans after he threw his shirt to the ground in temper after being substituted during a game at the start of last season.
But he has won them over once more with his determined, committed displays and the fact that he was willing to play with a protective face mask to protect a fractured skull will have won him kudos with the supporters. Now, the Blues fans will be demanding equal commitment from the rest of the squad over the remaining 13 games.
"It is a tough position to be in but the players have to grow up quickly and I am sure we have the right type of characters in there to come through this," Johnson said.
"It is just about keeping up the performances like we have against Derby and seeing games through. When we went down last time, we struggled the whole year. I think this time, the character in the squad is a bit better and that is the sort of thing that is going to stand us in good stead.
"We go to West Ham United on Saturday and that will be another tough game but we have to start to dig ourselves out of this." n The Premier League hope to further boost their profile in India by launching an international football development project in the country.
Former players Warren Barton and Robbie Earle launched the project 'Premier Skills' in Delhi, working with the British Council to enhance young people's football coaching skills and develop their English.