“They didn’t care” – not words Nottingham Forest fans want to hear during any assessment of their efforts this season.
Those are, however, the words Aitor Karanka chose when summing up Saturday’s performance against Queens Park Rangers.
That is worrying.
The Reds boss said on the club’s official website in the wake of another 1-0 reversal on home soil: “I think we started the game thinking it was a friendly game or a training session.
“We didn’t approach the game in the way that we have to. We knew the mistakes we made against Ipswich, we had to play in the way that we know how to play especially when you relax or don’t play your best in the Championship, it is impossible to win games.
“In the first half and part of the second half, I think we were playing a friendly game or a training session because they didn’t care. I don’t know why. If I knew why I would have done something at half-time or earlier.”
It could be argued that it is Karanka’s job to ensure that any XI he sends into battle are suitably fired up for the challenge ahead.
There is not much he can do, though, if those on the field decide they do not fancy it.
The Spaniard added: “We have to forget this as soon as possible and know that if we go into games in this way it will be impossible to win games.
“It is difficult to understand, especially the attitude of some of the players on the pitch when they should be the opposite – they should be committed and supporting each other.”
Seeing their attitude questioned should offer the kick up the proverbial backside Forest need on the back of recent showings.
Yes, a decent battling display was put in during a derby draw at Pride Park, but the last two outings at the City Ground have been forgettable to say the least.
Chances have come and gone, but there has been no siege laid once chasing priceless points.
Karanka is not the type to lose his cool on the touchline – a la his mentor Jose Mourinho – and would probably prefer to wash his dirty laundry behind closed doors.
He has, however, been prepared to go public as a line, in his mind, has been crossed.
The challenge has now been thrown down to the Reds squad and it is up to them to prove that they do care during a potentially pivotal festive period – starting at Norwich on Boxing Day.