SELIM Benachour has told his Oldham Athletic players to stand up and be counted after their relegation fight intensified.

Benachour has introduced a post-match huddle on the pitch. Win, lose or draw he gathers the players together in the centre circle at the final whistle as an act of unity and a chance for an immediate debrief and motivational speech.

Boxing Day provided arguably the toughest one of his tenure as interim head coach so far, having surrendered a first half lead to lose 3-1 at home to Scunthorpe and replace Keith Hill’s side in 92nd place.

Asked what he said to the players straight after the final whistle, Benachour said: “I tell them that it will be tough, that we will see the real men inside the dressing room.

“I tell them I will take the responsibility. I told them that the loss is mine and I told them to be a team that likes to play. I didn’t see our identity, that’s a problem, so we need to bring that back.

“I tell them to relax and play like we know they can and put the responsibility on my shoulders.”

But there is pressure weighing on young shoulders.

Harry Vaughan was fast-tracked to the first team last season after impressing then head coach Harry Kewell.

The attacking midfielder’s place in the senior squad was then rubber stamped when he was offered his first professional contract by Keith Curle, having just turned 17.

With Covid and injuries impacting the squad earlier in the season, the first team door was opened to the likes of Junior Luamba and second year scholar Benny Couto, who was offered and signed a professional deal in October, with Couto scoring his first senior goal against Scunthorpe.

And while it was not enough to get vital points out of the game, Benachour feels it is evidence that his young guns have got the bottle for the relegation fight.

The 40-year-old has worked closely with the club’s rising stars over the last two seasons through his role in the Academy.

And he has maintained those links since stepping up to become interim head coach following Curle’s departure over a month ago.

And while this is new territory for the youngsters, as well as Benachour himself, he is confident they can cope with the pressure of their precarious league position, and that the demands will not be too much for the talented teens.

“The pressure is for me,” he said, ahead of another big game at Barrow tomorrow night, where Latics round off a turbulent 2021.

“The pressure is on my back, no problem. I take all the responsibility.

“Harry did okay (against Scunthorpe on Boxing Day).

“Harry can be better but it was difficult. He didn’t have a lot of space, they were marking him tightly so it was a little bit more difficult for Harry but I’m happy about those two.

“Benny was one of the best.

“One of the younger ones was one of the best on the pitch so I think I made a good choice to play him, and he scored a wonderful goal.”