Gerard Houllier would rather crack a smile than the whip but was left with no alternative when it came to taming Villa's dressingroom rebels. If the mutineers had succeeded, Houllier could have walked the plank by now, pushed over the edge by players who were not doing it for him.
As Aston Villa target their first back-to-back league wins of the season, the manager is in full command of his bridge. A verbal flogging has sufficed, and a group of malcontents is becoming a united squad.
Defender Stephen Warnock has been banished to the reserves as a reminder that beneath the Gallic charm lurks a hugely focused Frenchman. Meanwhile, Richard Dunne is back in favour, apologies presumably accepted.
No 1: Houllier has left his players in no doubt as to who is in charge at Villa Park
Bolstered by the £24million arrival of striker Darren Bent, Houllier heads to Wigan in buoyant mood after Saturday's battling 1-0 win over Manchester City. City have provided season high and low points for Villa.
The abject 4-0 Christmas defeat at Eastlands left Houllier on the brink. Since then there have been laudable draws against Chelsea and Birmingham, and a tricky FA Cup tie at Sheffield United negotiated safely.
Outcast: Warnock has been dropped into the reserves
Houllier may make changes tonight as he contemplates five games in 14 days, yet he will not tolerate any signs of displeasure from a player.
'If that happens, I bomb him out,' Houllier admitted. 'You can't prepare a game with somebody who is pulling a face, because it drains the mental energy. There was a time when even players who were playing were moaning, whining and unhappy. It's something I had to overcome, yes.
'We get results if we are together. From the start of the year we have had five games - won two, drawn two and lost one. The important thing is work and enjoyment. It's about togetherness. If you don't enjoy, leave, go.'
Warnock could see that as a personal message. Stephen Ireland, too, is not wanted. The midfielder is injured, but Houllier does not believe that will prevent a loan move if another club is interested.
Bent's scoring debut was a huge bonus on Saturday. Houllier has plans to involve his other January signing, Jean II Makoun, although he may only start on the bench. Striker Emile Heskey is back after suspension for his red card against Sunderland, when he petulantly shoved Jordan Henderson.
Houllier revealed Heskey had said sorry. 'He said, "I'm sorry I let you down".' Villa have failed to win two successive league games since April, under Martin O'Neill, when they managed three.
Houllier's team are three points above the drop zone, which makes the game against third-from-bottom Wigan even more crucial.
The manager admitted: 'We need to keep the momentum going and capitalise on Saturday's result.' Why didn't you attack Dalglish? Angry Houllier hits out at Holloway over AdamWigan v ASTON VILLA: Makoun poised for debut and Heskey back after banWho won £51m battle at Villa Park? Darren Bent or Edin Dzeko?All the latest Aston Villa news, features and opinion
Explore more:People: Emile Heskey, Darren Bent, Richard Dunne, Gerard Houllier Places: Birmingham, Chelsea