Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Glenn Hoddle has warned his under-performing players that they face the axe if they continue to look like "a soft touch".
Tuesday night's extratime Carling Cup exit at Watford stretched Wolves' run to four games without a win.
That in itself does not appear cause for concern, particularly given the slide Wolves were going through at this same stage last season on countdown to the sacking of Dave Jones.
But for a side like Hoddle's who were muchfancied for promotion this season, their current stumbles are starting to become a real worry, chiefly in the manager's office.
"We have got to be stronger mentally and physically or we will become a soft touch," warned Hoddle. "None of my teams have been a soft touch and I won't let that happen at Wolves.
"My overall concern at Watford was how we started well, dominated, but in the end were not good enough. It's unacceptable and I've told the players that. There were not enough men out there. We fell apart against a young side.
"I'm finding out a lot about my players - about who has got character and who hasn't. If they haven't they will be well and truly out of the team."
While Hoddle has publicly questioned his team for the first time, the one plus point of the night was having main attacking threat Kenny Miller back in action.
After limping off inside half an hour at Luton 12 days ago following the painful side injury he had suffered on Scotland duty in Oslo, Miller had missed Wolves' last two games completely.
But he took just 11 minutes to make his mark with his sixth goal of the season (four of which have come for Scotland and two for Wolves, both in the Carling Cup). And the most important bulletin was that he came through the 90 minutes without doing himself any more harm.
While Darren Anderton ( shin) and Paul Ince (thigh) are still three weeks away from a return, Jackie McNamara still has a chance of being fit for Saturday's trip to Stoke after sitting it out on Tuesday night with a slight strain. But Gabor Gypes has to be a doubt after a first-half 'dead leg' that saw him unable to continue after the break.
One other piece of welcome news for Hoddle is that keeper Matt Murray is now back in light training.