Whites have the eye of the Tigers
SAM Ricketts sees a familiar hunger in Wanderers’ play-off push – and believes the club are in top shape to return to the big time.
Back in 2007, the Wales international helped Phil Brown’s Hull City to finish the season strongly and gain promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history.
And though the experienced defender is not making bold predictions about where a current eight-game unbeaten run may take Dougie Freedman’s men, he admits there is a similar look in the players’ eyes as there was six years ago at the KC Stadium.
Heading to Ipswich Town this weekend, Ricketts says the squad are concentrating on maintaining their forward momentum.
“We’ve got that belief in the side, we’ve spoken all season about winning mentalities and mindset; well, we’ve a great mindset at the minute,” he said.
“We know we’ll give our all physically but we do have the quality on top, which means we can score goals as well.
“There’s no points target, just a question of taking each game. Brighton was a big win but we know the next one at Ipswich will be just the same.
“We’ve left it late and we needed something special. Five wins on the bounce is something special.
“There’s nine more games and there’s still things we can improve on – we’ll strive to get better still and see where we end up.”
Ricketts believes that the appointment of Freedman with a third of the season gone has brought about a more organised and effective side on the pitch.
And though results took time to turn under the new boss, he feels the extra hours of training ordered by the Scot on his arrival at the club from Crystal Palace are now starting to pay dividends.
“There’s different types of training, physically we train hard at times for fitness, but also tactically, and you can see we’re much more aware now as a side,” he said.
“The way we defend, the way we attack, we have game plans for each individual game. That’s what the manager brought into the club.
“Under previous regimes it’s not always been the case, and it took a while for everyone to understand how the gaffer wanted to set up. Now the hard work is bearing fruit.
“It was important, it needed doing, and we’re reaping the rewards now.”
Wanderers have kept back-to-back clean sheets in the league for the first time since May 2009.
They kept three in a row in league and cup in early 2011, but have not put three shut-outs together in league competition since February 2008.
Ricketts reckons the credit for a more resilient-looking Whites should be shared out around the team.
“We’re defending as a team and attacking as a team,” he said.
“The last two games, two clean sheets – as a defender you take pride in your clean sheets but it’s not just down to us.
“Obviously Andy Lonergan has come in and played really well, but it’s the whole team – the forwards and midfield prevent the waves of attack.
“We know as players we are giving our all to defend that goal – we don’t want that ball going in the back of our net.”
Ricketts did reserve special praise for keeper Lonergan, however, who came in to replace the injured Adam Bogdan and has yet to concede a goal.
As The Bolton News revealed yesterday, Hungary international Bogdan hopes to be back in action against Ipswich, leaving Freedman with a big decision to make in goal.
And Ricketts has been impressed with the ex-Leeds United man.
“Lonners has huge experience, he’s played for years at this level,” he said. “He’s just slotted in. He’s not played all season but he’s come in and been fantastic.
“We’ve got a No2 keeper who I wouldn’t like to say how many first teams he’d get into in this league.”