Freedman's ploy to stop Eagles' star man
DOUGIE Freedman has hatched a plan to stop Crystal Palace whiz kid Wilfried Zaha in his tracks at Selhurst Park.
Nearly four months after leaving for the Reebok, the Wanderers boss heads back to his old stomping ground tomorrow looking to shackle one of English football's hottest properties.
All eyes will be on £12million-rated winger Zaha – currently in the middle of a tug-of-war between Manchester City and Manchester United – and a player whose talent Freedman helped nurture from the age of 12.
But while the Scot admits his former protegé is well worth the hype, he aims to starve the skilful winger of his chance to shine when the two sides meet tomorrow.
“I know exactly what he does so hopefully I will set up a team to stop certain balls getting to Wilfried,” he said. “Once he gets the ball he is very dangerous.
“He is a Premiership player no doubt. Can he go to the top four or five teams? Yes he can. I don’t know whether it is Man United or not, but he is capable of going to a top team.
“And once he has settled at that club, he can become one of the best players at that club as well.”
Freedman helped bring through a raft of young players at Palace, including Zaha, who has now gone on to receive international recognition with England.
But the Scot reckons there are other youngsters in the South East London club’s ranks who have even more potential.
“In a strange way, and I am going to let out a secret, he is probably not the top talent,” he said of Zaha. “There are two or three players there, if developed in the right way, in my eyes will be better than Wilfried.”
Freedman does not anticipate a negative reception on Saturday at a club to which he dedicated the majority of his playing and coaching career. Far from the vitriol that greeted Owen Coyle when he returned to Burnley, the Scot hopes he will be able to acknowledge the support he has had from Eagles fans down the years.
“I don’t know what his (Coyle’s) relationship was with the Burnley fans but speaking for myself I think I played my part in Crystal Palace’s history,” he said. “When I was leaving the club, the biggest pull back was the fans.
“I've sat there in administration and it was only the supporters who saved the club.
“I am not going to say one bad word about the fans there.
“We have got a special relationship that cannot be broken, so I think it will be a case of them showing their appreciation, just as I will be doing mine to them.”
Freedman hopes to have at least one new name in his squad by the time he heads to Palace but admits he is looking to add potential rather than star quality.
Barnsley full-back John Stones is understood to be a potential target, and while the manager did not name names, he revealed he was searching for talent that could improve within the club's ranks.
“I am looking for the right types,” he said. “If you think managers have got it easy getting players in, I have it doubly hard.
“Will I be bringing in players better than I have got? Probably not. But I will bring in players who will add to the squad in terms of their desire to try and show they should be better.
“That's hard to find. You are trying to sign potential, players who are undiscovered, trying to uncover them and hopefully by the weekend we might have two of them.”
Meanwhile it was confirmed yesterday by Wanderers that Martin Petrov has joined Espanyol on a 12-month contract.