Dougie Freedman's records at Wanderers and Palace after 92 games
Wanderers: played 92, won 32 drawn 32, lost 28, % 34.8
Crystal Palace: played 92, won 32, drawn 28, lost 32, %34.8
FULL-TIME whistle, jeers, repeat: Home has hardly been sweet for Dougie Freedman since the day he walked through the doors at Bolton Wanderers.
Kike’s late winner for Middlesbrough on Tuesday night signalled that all-too-familiar chorus of unhappiness ringing round a half-empty Macron Stadium.
What would have been a passable draw had turned into a disaster, picked apart into the small hours by fans whose patience appears to be at breaking point.
Criticism centred on a defensive display in which Wanderers had enjoyed only 38 per cent of the possession, a sin on home turf in many fans’ eyes.
Some of that had been down to the tactics employed on the night – with a long diagonal ball hit frequently towards target man Craig Davies – to mixed success.
It was a big departure from the possession-based football Freedman has become known for – but, in fairness, more a case of playing to the strengths of the strikers he had available.
Some of the failures, however, had been very much of the Whites’ own making.
Two midfield lynchpins have failed to impress in the opening three games – with skipper Jay Spearing enduring a poor 90 minutes against Boro and Medo Kamara losing his place in the side thanks to another indifferent display at the weekend against Forest.
The lack of creativity in a midfield has been an issue over the course of three games and the absence of the injured Mark Davies has stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb.
Furthermore, a back four that had shown such signs of improvement at the end of last season and over the summer is suddenly looking suspect once more.
David Wheater endured a difficult night against his former club, while last season’s player of the year Tim Ream seems to be struggling after being moved over to left-back in Dean Moxey’s absence.
Freedman is bearing the full brunt of the criticism, and not for the first time in his 22-month tenure.
Even in the good times, as he pushed the club towards the play-offs in a remarkable late run in his first season, the Scot has never quite experienced the adulation he once got at Selhurst Park. The man who had famously saved the Eagles “three times” as manager and player was serenaded from the terraces on a regular basis in South London after taking the club through some stormy waters and towards the top of the Championship.
At Wanderers, he has arguably paid a price of being the public face of the most austere period in the club’s recent history.
The financial constraints are very real – but not an immediate consideration for a supporter trudging back out into the night on Tuesday after watching another frustrating 90 minutes of football.
Freedman has managed exactly the same number of games as he did at Palace, 92, and actually boasts a slightly better points record.
But he heads into Saturday’s game at Brighton under considerable pressure from his own club’s fans to put in a performance to raise the mood.
He is reluctant to criticise a squad now almost exclusively made up of players he signed or tied down to longer contracts.
“I’ve got no complaints about these players at all, they are giving everything for the football club,” he said. “The coaching staff, the medical staff, their team-mates, they are putting the lot in.
“But if you are not going to take your opportunities, you won’t win games of football. If you don’t concentrate – and I think Boro had one decent chance in that second half – that’s the difference.
“We need a bit of quality, every manager does, but some people have got the luxury of being able to go out there and get it. I can’t whinge about that.
“I can only ask for the players to give it their all. I can’t ask any more from them.”
Whether hard work and commitment will be enough to disperse the storm clouds gathering around the Macron Stadium only time will tell.
As Freedman inches towards a century of games in charge of the Whites, he could certainly do with something to celebrate.