Hard decisions in store for Barrow AFC boss Cox after Southport loss
BARROW AFC manager Paul Cox is thinking long and hard about what needs to happen to his team after a third defeat in quick succession.
Tuesday night's 1-0 loss against Southport at Holker Street saw the Bluebirds produce one of their worst displays of the season.
Coming on the back of the FA Cup exit at the hands of League One Rochdale and the 4-1 National League reversal at Gateshead on New Year's Eve, it was a display which left the AFC boss with many questions to answer.
Cox knows there need to be changes to reinvigorate a side who had gone 26 games unbeaten in all competitions before the defeat at Gateshead, with new players set to arrive and other aspects to be addressed.
Speaking after the Southport loss – which came in front of a season-low league home crowd of 956 – Cox said: “It's going to be an interesting 24 to 48 hours now, because I'm not accepting that at this football club. Standards have dropped so much today, and I've got to do something about it.
“We've come a long way very, very quickly, and it would be very easy to sit down and admire what we've achieved. Anyone who knows me, knows I'm not that way inclined – I don't buy into all this razzmatazz, having your face in the papers, reading the headlines – I prefer to get to the end of the season and assess if we have been successful, not at Christmas.
“At this minute, we are still in this bubble. We have this belief that we are probably better than we are. Our results up until a certain point showed us as a very good side that was consistently good, that consistently knew how to win football matches. Let's be honest, our results over the last five games having told that story.
“There are loads of different things we could talk about. All the big decisions now are going to be in my head – I've got to be logical with what I'm going to do and it's going to have a bearing on making this club successful in the second half of the season.
“The chairman pays me to do things. I'll know his thoughts and we'll see what materialises – not necessarily over the next 48 hours, but over the next week or so. Now it's the time for major decisions to be made.”
Cox reinforced that his desire to bring in new players and his belief that the team are not meeting their high standards of earlier in the season is not a knee-jerk reaction to the poor manner of the Southport loss.
He has spoken over the last month of the need for reinforcements to add new vitality to the squad, bringing in Dan Rowe and Jon Flatt on loan over the past week, and said: “I've said for a long time now – this isn't a case of waiting for things to break and saying 'I told you so' – that we've been chugging along and we haven't been showing the energy levels we'd shown in the early part of the season.
“There will always be basics in terms of the ways I manage, the way my teams are set up, the way we play, the intensity of the game, which means that at certain points things will need changing.
“This group haven't become bad players overnight. I always work on the basis of having a state of mind. As a football club, we've come so far and they can probably see the Barrow AFC name up in lights at the minute.
“I've spoken about chip paper in the past. No medals are handed out in December or January, and my experience tells me there need to be some major decisions going forward, if we're not just going to become mediocre.”
He added: “The first thing I have a look at is myself. I'm always the first person I look at – have I done everything right? Can I get any better? I'm always wanting to improve every day.
“I wasn't very happy even about losing to Rochdale on Saturday. That might come as a surprise, but I think the team from 10, 12 games ago, would probably have affected Rochdale a bit more.
“The warning signs have been there for a number of weeks. I'm not saying the players have all of a sudden become bad, but it's now about what needs to be done to take this club forward.
“There will be logical decisions, there will be decisions that some people don't like, and there will be decisions that some people won't like me for. I'm going to make them – I probably know in my head now what needs doing, I probably did two or three weeks ago. Now is the time to act and to really re-energise us to make sure this little dip we're in now doesn't grow.”