WHILE his team still clings to hope of a finals spot, Essendon coach James Hird accepts the scrutiny on his position after the Bombers' disappointing first half of the season.
The Bombers entered last week's bye with four wins from 11 games, and currently sit 13th on the ladder.
After more than two years in the spotlight as the club has dealt with the ongoing mess of the supplements scandal, Hird has been a constant figure of speculation and discussion.
Debate has now turned to his coaching after the Bombers' unflattering start to the year, but Hird understands that pressure and says it is just a part of the role as senior coach.
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"As a coach … if you're losing, you will get pressure. We're not where we thought we'd be this year, we thought we'd be in a better position and I fully expect that that pressure comes onto the coach and it is acceptable," Hird said on Tuesday.
"It's fair that if you don't win, people look at the coach. I think that is fair."
The Bombers have struggled to find any rhythm in their game since the round two win over Hawthorn, and have lost five of their past six games.
They return from a week off to face the Hawks again on Saturday, with the loss of Travis Colyer and Tom Bellchambers with foot fractures making their task more difficult.
Hird said Heath Hocking was set to play his first game of the year in the VFL after groin surgery, while David Zaharakis (ankle) and Jason Winderlich (back) are possible inclusions.
Shaun McKernan is a chance to be elevated back to the senior line-up, but veteran Dustin Fletcher is another week away with his groin injury.
Hird, who travelled to Europe through the club's bye to complete studies and missed one of the club's training sessions, said the focus on his coaching had not impacted him.
"I really don’t take a lot of notice of it to be honest. I'm here to do my job to the best of my ability. We'll win or we'll lose and I'll be judged by the amount of games we win and lose," Hird said.
"At the moment we're not winning enough games and that's how I get judged, and that's fair."
Hird's break during the bye has attracted criticism, but he said the club's hierarchy ticked it off, and a group of senior players were aware he would not be at the club late last week.
Hird has admitted he came close to losing his job last year as the ASADA investigation and subsequent court action reached its peak, but he said he has a good relationship with club chairman Paul Little and chief executive Xavier Campbell.
"I think we're doing very well in terms of our relationship. There's no doubt that everyone's relationships here were put under a lot of pressure over the last two or three years but in terms of what we're doing now, we're trying to build a good football team," Hird said.
"There's no worries with that at all."
The Bombers have not given up hope of reaching the finals for the second successive season yet, but Hird knows the group will need to make its charge soon.
"I think you get to a point in the year where you'll say finals is definitely not possible or it is possible," Hird said.
"We still think it is possible, but at the moment we're not worried about whether we make the finals or don't make the finals, we have to play a certain way."