Dougie Freedman hails Bolton Wanderers standard bearers Matt Mills and Tim Ream
WANDERERS manager Dougie Freedman believes having the right attitude can pay dividends and earn players a regular place in his side.
The Scot revealed last week prior to the first Championship win at Birmingham that some stern dressing room words had delivered a few home truths to some of his players.
He called for a response and there can be no greater example at present to those currently out of the side than the holders of the two central defensive first-team shirts, Tim Ream and Matt Mills.
The pair began the season on the fringe of the boss’s plans – in Mills’ case seemingly out of the picture altogether.
But both have reasserted their claims to a starting spot and the manager could not be happier with their professionalism in recent weeks.
It is not just the mentality in games but their commitment in training which Freedman believes has earned their rewards of selection.
The Whites boss said: “I’d say that Tim does look a different player and it’s full credit to him because it is entirely down to sheer hard work.
“He is really in top condition. In the afternoons when one or two of the lads will be on their way home, he is out there with the coaches working on his heading and on his technique.
“Don’t think he has just walked into the team and got lucky with a bit of form. He has worked hard to get to the position he’s in right now.
“Tim has adjusted and taken on board that this division is a bit more physical.
“He hasn’t bulked up but he has become more mobile in his strength.
“He is stronger but he has kept that flexibility. And that is even harder to do.
“I think he is probably one of the best technical defenders in the division, very comfortable and composed on the ball and he reads situations very well.
“Matt has also worked hard.
“If you ask him what has changed, he’d probably tell you his whole training programme.
“He is recovering better and he looks even more agile when you see him play.
“When he wasn’t in the team at the start of the season he was forever doing extra strength and conditioning work.
“I have never doubted his defensive qualities but right now he’s aggressive, he’s organised, and I think he’s playing the best I have seen him play in the last four or five years.”
The proof has certainly been in the pudding in recent matches with Wanderers getting that first win at Birmingham and unbeaten in three outings.
The pair have both played in the last six matches, though Ream began that run in a midfield holding role.
Since being reunited as a centre-back pairing, they have yet to be on the losing side – just like the in three matches they teamed up there last season.
And boss Freedman says as a coach, he likes to see players getting the rewards for the work they put in just like Ream and Mills and players who do not rise to the challenge may find themselves out of the side.
He added: “As a manager when you have got people out of the team the last thing you want is for those players to be sat around blaming everyone else.
“You need people who are willing to look at their own game and what can be improved.
“I’m proud to say that me and my coaches can provide that service.
“First and foremost I like to think of myself as a coach. I like to go on the training ground and work with my players.
“Some players you can improve but others just don’t have that mindset and you can’t change that.
“Tim Ream and Darren Pratley are two that spring to mind that have worked so hard on their game and then taken their opportunity when it came along.
“I will only put players back in the team if they are working hard on the training ground and if you see players sat on the bench for any great length of time then it is probably because they are not working hard enough.”