• Swansea draw feels like a loss, midfielder adds
• 'We've got five games left and have got to get results'
It was part rallying cry, part damning analysis. As Nigel Reo-Coker outlined what it will take for Bolton to survive, an accusing finger was pointed at underachieving players. If they are relegated, he said, there will be no defence for them, no excuses that offer exoneration.
Four points from 17th place with five games to go, the severity of Bolton's plight should be obvious to all but whereas their manager, Owen Coyle, exuded positivity, the midfielder provided a blunter, bleaker appraisal of their problems and prospects. "You just want your team-mates to really step it up now," Reo-Coker said. "We can't keep making excuses and looking for an easy way out: 'Blame this, blame that.' I think that's all bullshit. We're paid to play football; that's the bottom line.
"When we cross that white line, whatever the burdens or problems you have – let them go. This is our job and you can't make excuses. It's as simple as that."
For him it is about taking responsibility rather than delegating blame, plain-speaking rather than clutching at imaginary positives. If Wanderers can be as incisive in their play as Reo-Coker was cutting in his comments, they should stay up. But, all too often, they are not.
While Coyle cited a return of 10 points from a possible 18, the last three games have only brought one. Even that was distinctly fortunate, Swansea excelling on Saturday. "The draw feels like a loss," Reo-Coker added. "Towards the end we looked a bit flat. We needed a bit more energy and belief. That can't come from management. It's up to us players. Really and truly, we have to dig deep. I can't speak for the rest of the team. I just hope they follow suit and really know what this means."
While Bolton have long had the sense that a friendly-ish end-of-season schedule represents their insurance policy in the relegation run-in, they are struggling to cash it in. Home games against Fulham and Swansea have yielded a solitary point.
Now they return to Reo-Coker's former club, Aston Villa, with the 27-year-old adding: "No more slack performances. We've got five games left and we've got to get results. Every game is a cup final. No bullshit, no sugar-coating it: that's the reality." The manager remains optimistic. "It is in our hands," said Coyle, whose team have two games in hand. "We don't need favours from anyone else. We just need to be at our best."
Yet optimal form has often eluded them. In contrast, Swansea provided their latest passing masterclass, Scott Sinclair scoring a glorious goal before Chris Eagles levelled. Their manager, Brendan Rodgers, said: "When we came into this level we were the new Blackpool. Today people are calling us the new Barcelona. That shows how far the players have progressed."
Bolton have rather more similarities with Blackpool's class of 2010-11 but after only scoring once in their last two games, there is an unwanted common denominator with Barcelona, too.
Man of the Match Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea)