DOUGIE Freedman has assured Tim Ream that he has got a future at the Reebok.
The American defender has not featured for the Whites since the 2-1 defeat at Watford in early February and has not even figured in the matchday squad since the 2-1 win over Burnley a week later.
The form of Zat Knight and Craig Dawson, plus the return to fitness of David Wheater and Matt Mills, has raised debate as to whether Freedman would look to move the 25-year-old on, a little over a year after his £2.3million arrival from New York Red Bulls.
But the Wanderers boss insists that Ream can make a first-team return, especially with a three-man defence being considered in today's clash with Ipswich Town.
“Tim’s a fantastic fella and he’s been really unlucky, as have one or two others, because of the form of certain individuals,” the manager said.
“He’s always round and about the squad, trains fantastically well and he’s definitely got a future.
“If we decided to go three at the back – and I’m not talking this Saturday necessarily – then he’s got as good a shot as anyone.
“He hasn’t been on the bench but that is only because of the position he plays.
“I’m not going to name two defenders on the bench because I’d rather have more attacking options. With them, we can always win a game.”
Ream has played in front of the back four for both Freedman and his predecessor Owen Coyle this season, and the Whites boss believes he could also fill in on the left side of defence.
And though he has started just 12 games in the Championship so far this term, Freedman reckons he would have no qualms about throwing him into the play-off chase.
“The fantastic thing about Tim is that he’'s an all-round good footballer,” he said. “He can play left-back, centre-back, centre-midfield and that’s why it’s easy to say that he has got a future here.
“The key to him is that he’s training very hard and I know if I called on him this weekend that he’d be ready to step straight into the team, just as he did six or eight games ago.
“That’s what you need at this stage of the season. Managers need to see a good professional who trains really hard and is ready to be called upon.”