Steve McClaren says his Newcastle United squad are the most frustrating he has worked in a coaching career spanning more than two decades.
McClaren's side go into Wednesday's Premier League clash with Stoke City in 18th place - level on points with Norwich City above them - and in real danger of dropping to the Championship for the second time in seven years.
Despite occasional signs of promise, such as wins against Liverpool and Tottenham, and squad strengthening in January, Newcastle have struggled to build on their rare victories and face a challenge to pull clear of the bottom three.
Having seen his side slump to a 5-1 loss at Chelsea a fortnight ago, McClaren acknowledged unhappiness at how his debut season at St James' Park had gone.
"This is the most frustrating team I've worked with," the former England, Middlesbrough and Twente boss told reporters.
"At West Brom we showed our ability with a fantastic performance [in a 1-0 win] appreciated by the crowd.
"The next performance is 5-1 and it could have been nine or 10. The home truths have been there all season.
"We've talked about character, attitude and fight and realising the position we're in before it's too late. We're talking about everyone at the club.
"We're in a scrap, we're in a fight and we've got to start joining in."
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