Bolton Wanderers manager Dougie Freedman says Robert Hall has big potential
WANDERERS wing man Robert Hall has been a ray of sunshine in an otherwise cloudy picture at the start to the Championship season, according to manager Dougie Freedman.
Heading into their eighth game of the campaign at Brighton today, the Whites are still waiting for a win to lift them off the foot of the table.
But rather than feel downbeat about the situation, Freedman prefers to look long term and build for the future.
And while he is keen to break the winless streak, the Scot is also retaining faith in his rebuilding project at the Reebok which includes the likes of Hall.
The 19-year-old impressed on his first home league start of the season in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Derby County and is fast becoming a fans’ favourite since joining from West Ham in the close season for a fee set by a tribunal at an initial £450,000.
And Freedman is delighted with Hall’s impact after an injury-hit loan spell at the end of last season.
The Wanderers boss said: “I thought he was fantastic on Tuesday.
“I noticed something with Robert right away with the affection they (the fans) have for him, because he gives you that spark that is needed.
“People have got onside with that straight away.
“The situation has possibly forced my hand but so has his form. He has surprised me.
“The situation we find ourselves in and the lack of form of one or two players, along with his own good form, has meant he starts.
“He isn’t filled with any self-doubt. He isn’t about to let us down. He stood up and was counted against Derby and tried to make things happen for us. Maybe that’s where we need to be going?”
Hall is strong contender for a starting berth at Brighton today after his display in midweek.
And it is a ground he will have fond memories of.
Two years ago, he came off the bench to make his debut for England under-19s at the Amex Stadium and scored the only goal of the game as the young Lions beat Denmark.
Another goal in Sussex would certainly go down well with Wanderers fans this afternoon and with his manager who has put his trust in youth just as he did at Brighton’s rivals, Crystal Palace.
Freedman is a big advocate of blooding young talent after seeing players like Wilfried Zaha, Jonny Williams and Nathaniel Clyne come through the ranks to prosper at Selhurst Park.
And since day one at Wanderers he has promised to follow the same path.
The likes of Hall have spearheaded the new blood in the first-team squad that also includes youth graduate Sanmi Odelusi and Tom Eaves – now out on loan to gain more experience at Rotherham United. In the Whites Under-21 development side that lost out to Manchester United on Monday night, there were four youngsters – Hayden White, Cian Bolger, Jan Gregus and Conor Wilkinson – who have all been signed by Freedman for the future.
It is a vision he strongly believes in but he is not prepared to burn them out, no matter how much promise they show at a young age.
Freedman added: “I have had the great fortune to work with a lot of younger players since I started coaching five or six years ago and I see how they develop. It is not a quick fix.
“People think Jonny Williams just popped up in the Palace team – he didn’t – he worked his way in there and I know Robert Hall will be the same sort of case here.
“Williams and Zaha get the credit but we also had Nathaniel Clyne who we sold for a few quid to Southampton at Palace.
“There is certainly a path for younger players but you need to take them in and out. Young players certainly can’t play 40 games.
“They need to play four or five and then sit out for a couple to protect them. It keeps them hungry and keeps them fresh as well.”