NEIL Harris admitted it is “difficult” telling players they won’t be involved in a match-day squad – but stressed: “that’s where we want to be at”.
Harris left Shane Ferguson, Ben Thompson and Harry Toffolo out of the squad that faced Cardiff last Friday.
And with just Aiden O’Brien and Byron Webster injured at the moment, there are set to be some disappointed players before the trip to Birmingham on Saturday.
“We always have an open-door policy with the players and if they are not playing then I tell them why,” Harris said. “They are not easy conversations at times because everyone wants to play. That’s what they get paid to do.
“But they’re great lads and they are realising now – and I’ve told them more than once as a group recently – that even if you play well, yes there is every chance you stay in the team, but you could come out for a game as well. It might be that it’s time for someone else to play, and that can be all over the park.
“What they do know is that if their standards drop, if they don’t perform to the best of their ability or put in a performance I expect, then they will find themselves out of the team and maybe out of the squad.
“The hardest thing Friday night was leaving Ben, Shane and Harry out of the group. That was difficult, but that’s where we want to be at. That’s a situation I find myself in for the first time in almost three years.
“You want players not to rest on their laurels, and these players won’t because they know what’s behind them now. That’s how we want to progress as a club. We want a tight-knit squad, but we want options.
“There have been far too many games this year when we’ve only had the option of limited changes, whether defensively or in attack. We went virtually three months with only two recognised centre-halves. We got lucky to a certain extent, apart from Jake’s red card.
“We have to cover ourselves in positions.”
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