'HURT' Sydney FC coach Ian Crook denied his side stopped trying during the 7-2 mauling against Central Coast Mariners - and believes the embarrassing defeat will make the club stronger.
Crook is faced with a mammoth repair job to rebuild his side's shattered confidence following one of the darkest moments in Sky Blues history last Saturday night.
The Sydney boss said it would take some time for him to get over the severity of the defeat but hopes the players can use it as motivation for this weekend's clash with Melbourne Victory.
At the club's first training session of the week on Monday, Crook spent the majority of it dissecting the match tape with a handful of senior players.
While admitting much of what they saw was hard to stomach, the players' response would define whether the result was just a hiccup or if it could become a theme of their season.
"It's about being positive and pushing on from here and it's so important you learn from it," Crook said today. "You can't brush it aside and say it never happened but it's how (you) come back from it.
"It should make us stronger. We need to understand that losing seven is not acceptable but we need to use it as motivation to drive on.
"When I was (first team coach) at Norwich three years ago we got beat 7-1 in the first game and ended up winning the league with four games to go.
"It's something we used as motivation to turn it around and I believe we can do the same here."
Crook said he was unconcerned over reports his job was on the line if the side were beaten by Victory and was confident they are on the right track despite winning just twice in the opening five games.
The Sydney players have come in for heavy criticism for their performance but the Sydney boss was adamant they didn't throw in the towel late in Saturday's match.
"I saw them in dressing room on the weekend and they were hurting big time," Crook said of the players.
"It hurts me to read people saying they showed no heart and desire. That for me is a cop out and an easy thing to say is they don't wear the shirt with pride. That is far from the truth.
"There was 23 minutes to go when it was seven so if they had showed no heart it could have been a lot worse. We just have to keep driving on."
Sydney defender Seb Ryall added: "We have to look at the negatives and work on them because there's not many positives out of the game.
"As a player it's a terrible feeling but it's a test of character for the players to really pick it up and show what we're worth.
"On paper we've got a very good squad and we've got players to come back next week so we're not panicking."
The Sky Blues should get some respite this week with as many as five senior players in line for a return to the side.
While Alessandro Del Piero is considered a definite starter after missing the Mariners game with hamstring tightness, Socceroos midfielder Jason Culina and defenders Pascal Bosschaart, Fabio and Adam Griffiths could also feature against Victory.
Culina, who hasn't played a match in almost two years, will have his first run in a Sky Blues jersey on Tuesday in a practice game against Western Sydney and Crook said it will be up to his newest recruit how long he played against the Wanderers.
"If he feels good after 45 minutes and feels like he can do another 15, great," Crook said of Culina. "If he feels that's enough then fine.
"It's a progression as well with the likes of Jason and Pascal and Adam all coming back in."