Reading caretaker-manager Eamonn Dolan has warned his players they cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves if they want to avoid relegation from the Barclays Premier League.
The Royals have become the bookies' favourite for the drop following an emotional week in which boss Brian McDermott and his assistant Nigel Gibbs left the club.
The Reading players were left shocked by the news, with Dolan revealing morale had initially been "floored", as owner Anton Zingarevich sought to turn the club's fortunes around.
With a replacement still to be courted and time running out the odds are, however, stacking up against the club.
Following a weekend in which their immediate relegation rivals all won - including Wigan's stunning FA Cup quarter-final success at Everton - their five-game losing streak in all competitions has arguably left them as the most vulnerable of the bottom clubs.
With nine games remaining Reading are four points adrift of safety, ahead of the resurgent QPR on goals scored only, while they are yet to keep a clean sheet in the league in 2013.
It hardly gets any easier for them either with a horror fixture list sending them to champions-in-waiting Manchester United on Saturday, before a trip to Arsenal immediately after the international break.
Even if the new manager is installed before then no Premier League club has survived the drop when replacing their boss in March.
It is grim reading for the fans at the Madejski Stadium but Dolan is determined to keep spirits high.
"I've asked for focus. We've got a Premier League to stay in and that's our goal now," he said.
"There are nine games to go to stay up. We have a realistic target to stay in this league. To do that we need to climb two places in nearly a quarter of the season.
"We have to be clear about what we want to do. I am positive we can stay up - 100 per cent positive.
"The players were floored at the start of the week but they realise the importance for the club. We need to be in the Barclays Premier League next year.
"It is in everyone's interests from the owner, the board, the players, and Brian and Nigel to stay in the Premier League. If we do that then they'll get even more credit."
Saturday's trip to Old Trafford will be Dolan's first return to the touchline after almost a decade.
The 45-year-old spent just over a season at Exeter before moving to Reading - where he has been the academy director for eight years - and admits it will be a far cry from those days when he rubs shoulders with Sir Alex Ferguson tomorrow.
"It will be exciting of course, he is the greatest football manager of all time," he said.
"It's the best club in the world - the way they do everything. I have great respect for everybody, but on Saturday I wont be thinking about Sir Alex. They will just be names.
"I'll be doing my best for Reading trying to get that result. I'm experienced enough to know that if we are going to have that ruthless streak we need to focus on the job."
If the omens are not good for Reading staying up Dolan can at least call on one statistic to provide hope ahead of Saturday's game.
"I have an unbeaten record as a caretaker manager," he said.
"I did it at Exeter for a game. I think we beat York."
The former West Ham striker went on to take charge of the Grecians on a permanent basis and almost helped them back into the Football League at the first time of asking.
He dismissed any thoughts that he might follow the same path at Reading though, with the likes of Nigel Adkins, Phil Parkinson and Paolo Di Canio linked with the position.
Asked if he had spoken to Zingarevich about the possibility of getting an interview for the top job, he said: "I have not asked those questions at all.
"Just out of respect for Brian, and also for respect for the club.
"I don't know why I've not asked those questions, it kind of makes it easier, just to manage, in these two or three days.
"Who knows what the future holds? None of us thought that Brian wouldn't be here this week so it's impossible to predict."