Everton manager Roberto Martinez has urged his squad to focus on their final 11 matches as he is not interested in talking about the World Cup or players’ contracts.
After Saturday’s disappointing FA Cup quarter-final exit at Arsenal, the season has been reduced to fighting for sixth place to secure a Europa League spot, although Martinez has not given up hope of sneaking into the Barclays Premier League’s top four.
But the players have been left under no illusions they will not be allowed to let things drift.
“All that matters now is to stop talking about issues which are not about the next 11 games,” Martinez said.
“All the individual issues, contract situations, what is going to happen, the World Cup influence - that is something we are not interested in.”
Captain Phil Jagielka is on the verge of a return from two matches out with a hamstring injury but Martinez said the fact the 31-year-old was England first-choice centre-back for the World Cup would have no bearing on his handling of the defender.
He also warned other players who may be thinking of Brazil they cannot afford to allow their levels to drop.
“Phil is recovering well and we will make a really late decision on him to make sure he is fully fit for the remainder of the season,” the Spaniard said.
“International commitments will be well looked after when the season ends so at this stage the World Cup does not come into any reckoning in terms of decisions.
“What is really matters is the last 33 points you play for so all the decisions are based on that.
“What you learn in football is the moment you want to protect yourself you lose your place in the team and that is going to affect the national team.
“It is straightforward. You need to focus on the games in front of you and finish in good form.
“There is still a good period until the World Cup starts and as a player it is just about narrowing the aims in front of you.
“The moment you start thinking a little bit further forward football can be cruel in that respect and you can end up with a negative aspect in your performance which is the last thing you want before a major tournament.”
Martinez hopes by keeping his players honest they can salvage some success out of a season which began with high ambitions but is in danger of petering out.
“We are still disappointed at leaving the FA Cup but in terms of the league this is a new part of the competition,” he said.
“Forty-eight points at this stage is a good return. Mathematically we can get top four. The points tally needed is still achievable.
“It depends on how other sides react to the disappointment of not being in Europe; other teams are still in Europe and there are many aspects which will affect the final points tally needed to be in the top four.
“Europa League qualification is another important aim to fight for. It would be very easy for us to say we don’t want to qualify for Europe and just let the season cruise through but that is not the case at all.
“Qualifying for Europe would be a massive step forward because it would bring the big football occasions we need to be able to develop into the type of team we want to be.”
A Europa League campaign is often seen as disruptive but Martinez, who missed out on making his European league debut after leaving FA Cup winners Wigan for Goodison Park in the summer, does not see it that way.
“Clearly getting into Europe is a big objective and all you need to do is plan at the beginning of the season as it brings extra demands,” he added.
“The squad is not a big secret. When you are involved in Europe you need a bigger squad but that is something we will look at in the summer.
“But if you are asking me if we can get into Europe the answer is we will fight with everything to try to achieve that.”