'You don't go into a dogfight with kittens' - Chris Coleman slams his Sunderland players
Sunderland boss Chris Coleman has questioned the loyalty of some of his more experienced players after the Black Cats crashed out of the FA Cup at Middlesbrough.
Goals from Rudy Gestede and Martin Braithwaite secured a comfortable 2-0 victory for Boro against the severely weakened visitors, who currently have 11 players on their injury list.
And while hailing the young players who stepped in at the Riverside Stadium, Coleman issued a warning that he will not tolerate others who he clearly believes are not up for the Sky Bet Championship relegation fight.
Coleman said: "One or two of them are out for a few months and have had scans, but could one or two be doing a bit more to be with us? Yes.
"My conscience is clear - I'm ready for what's in front of me and I won't always come out on top but I never duck it - so you'll have to ask them that (question) I think.
"We're in a dogfight and you don't go into a dogfight with kittens, that's for sure. I just need whoever is ready for it and the boys today were ready.
"We were naive and nervous but at least they were out there having a go. These are the players we need, and they need support in terms of strength and depth."
Coleman cited the example of striker Lewis Grabban, who decided to abruptly terminate his loan spell this week and return to Bournemouth.
He added: "He got a lot of goals but we didn't get a lot of wins if you look at the statistics. Consolations and penalties are fine, but we won one game in 16.
"You don't want to lose that but if he doesn't want to be with us, fine. Why should I get down on my hands and knees to get somebody to stay at Sunderland?
"If anyone wants to be in this fight with us between now and the end of the season you've got to make sure you're all-in, you can't just dip your toe in the bathwater when you feel like it."
The outlook is brighter for Boro boss Tony Pulis, who admitted he would relish a repeat of his trip to the 2011 FA Cup final with Stoke.
Pulis said: "I've got great respect for the FA Cup - I think it's the best cup competition in the world and having been there with Stoke and taken a team to Wembley, it was a fantastic experience and if we could do it again I would be delighted.
"We played really well in the first half. In the second half we started really sloppy but I'm pleased with the way the players went about it. We've had four wins out of five games now so the confidence is very good."
Despite Boro's return to the fringes of the Championship play-off race, Pulis resisted the urge to target promotion, insisting it is still too early in his time at the Riverside to make such a judgement.
He added: "People talk about promotion and there's no one who wants promotion more than me, but my remit was to come here and have a really good look at the place and try to build something."