PHIL Parkinson’s team-talk at Middlesbrough tonight will be short and to the point: “Play for Darbs”.

News that Stephen Darby has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease, forcing his immediate retirement, hit the squad hard on Monday.

But the defender dropped into Lostock yesterday morning to speak to his team-mates ahead of their trip to the Riverside.

And Parkinson feels Darby’s own high standards should be applied as Wanderers look to bounce back from the weekend defeat against QPR.

“As you can imagine, when I told the lads it was a very sombre training ground,” he told The Bolton News. “He came in to speak with the lads before they went to Middlesbrough and I think he would want us to put in a performance which reflects what he is all about.

“He is a fighter. He has a battle on his hands, going forward, but even after Wednesday he was saying to me ‘I don’t want this to affect your preparation.’

“Darbs is that type of person.”

Parkinson admits recent events – a brush with administration and the passing of former owner Eddie Davies, followed by Darby’s heart-breaking news - have taken their toll on the Wanderers camp.

But the Bolton boss feels the only response his team can give is out on the pitch on Teesside tonight.

“Last week was tough, especially as the staff knew about Stephen’s situation. The only thing we can really affect is by giving a really big performance,” he said. “That’s the only way in football. We have to go to Middlesbrough with the determination we can get a result. This hit us hard but the onus is on us.”

Parkinson is confident the players will receive full backing from the supporters.

“Bolton fans are used to ups and down but they are such a resilient group of people,” he said. “Last season we had some horrible defeats, like Burton away, and there was anger. But they quickly switch to back their team .This bad news has affected us all – staff, players, fans, but I know they will be right behind us.”