Freedman starting to re-shape squad after bringing in key men and trimming wage bill
11:00am Saturday 2nd February 2013 in Sport
MARC Iles takes a look at what Dougie Freedman’s activity in the transfer window told us about where Wanders are now and which direction they are going
IF Wanderers fans wanted a clue as to Dougie Freedman’s plans for the future, then his business over the course of the January transfer window would be a good place to start.
Two major factors were at work as the Whites boss added six fresh faces to his squad, and sent two familiar ones on their way.
Freedman has made great play of putting a structure in place on the pitch since his arrival in October, and his tactical revolution has had mixed results with the personnel he inherited from Owen Coyle.
January would be his one chance to bring in players to suit the system, and in FK Partizan midfielder Medo Kamara, the Scot feels he has found a player around whom he could potentially build his team.
Improvements have been made defensively but with David Wheater and Matt Mills still well behind in the high fitness demands placed on the squad at present, Craig Dawson’s arrival on loan from West Brom was also viewed as a vital capture by Freedman.
Craig Davies became his first permanent signing, and the Wales international has been forced to wait to make his impact while he, too, gets up to speed on the training pitch. Full-back was a position that Wanderers also wanted to strengthen during the last month, and had one of Marcos Alonso’s many suitors raised the stakes with a serious bid, then they would have been forced into action. A loan arrival is still a distinct possibility.
Davies is viewed as a player who can play across the front three positions in Freedman’s system, so it was perhaps not a huge surprise to see Benik Afobe’s season-long loan cut short – particular when winger Steve de Ridder was brought in short-term from Southampton.
The Belgian plugs the gap vacated by Martin Petrov and will be looking to give the Whites food for thought with his chances on the South Coast limited so far in the Premier League.
Freedman’s other captures – and indeed Petrov’s departure – hint at the opposite side of the manager’s job.
Viewed realistically, Wanderers could be facing a second season outside the top flight and will have to continue trimming their costs to accommodate the incoming Financial Fair Play rules.
It is thought some £18million was taken off the wage bill in the last 12 months, and recent contract offers to Marcos Alonso and the incoming signings reflect the level the club are playing at, rather than the excesses of the past.
The Whites still have a budget that exceeds many clubs around them but the signing of Jan Gregus and Cian Bolger suggests that an even greater emphasis is being put on the club becoming more self-sufficient.
Jamie Fullarton’s recruitment to the development squad has enabled Freedman to install his “system” at a lower level, and the continued success of the Under-18s this season suggests the conveyor belt of talent could now be ready to stir once more.
Josh Vela, Joe Riley, Tom Eaves, Chris Lester, Rob Lainton, Jay Lynch, Sami Odelusi and Zach Clough are among the youngsters now drafted into first-team training on a regular basis, and in Vela’s case, the team itself.
It now remains to be seen whether Freedman can succeed on both fronts – honing his first team whilst still bringing down costs to a more realistic level.