We are much better now: Dougie Freedman reflects on a year at Bolton Wanderers
DOUGIE Freedman insists Wanderers are in better health now than when he took over as manager a year ago today.
In an exclusive interview with The Bolton News, the Whites boss has dismissed critics who claim the club has not progressed since Owen Coyle was sacked.
Wanderers were 18th in the table on 15 points from 13 games when Freedman took the reins from caretaker team Jimmy Phillips and Sammy Lee against Cardiff City.
As they head into tomorrow’s home game with Ipswich, they are now 21st on nine points from 12 games – but the manager maintains the league table tells only a fraction of the story of his huge rebuilding job.
The wage bill has been trimmed of big names such as Kevin Davies, Martin Petrov and Sam Ricketts, with the likes of Keith Andrews and Marvin Sordell allowed to leave on loan, while there has also been a huge restructuring of the scouting, analysis and medical departments.
But Freedman admits to some regrets in his first 12 months in charge – most notably allowing Spanish full-back Marcos Alonso to leave in the summer for Fiorentina and not moving on more senior players in the second half of last season.
On the eve of his first anniversary, Freedman spoke candidly about criticism from un-named ex-players and supporters who he feels are not in possession of the full facts.
“Nine times out of 10 the people who say these things are looking at a big picture and won’t be realistic in where we are as a club,” he said. “These so-called experts or ex-players sometimes feel they have the right to work here and call the shots but that shouldn’t be the case.
“I did my apprenticeship at Crystal Palace, I took my coaching badges, I made my way in the game, and I am every determined to take the Bolton fans where they belong and that’s up the table and into the next league.
“Yes, people will look at the league position and say we’re in the same place as when I got here, there or thereabouts. But if you look behind the scenes or the vision we have, we’re more mobile, we have got younger players, more energy and we’re only going to get better.
“From a financial point of view we’re in much better position and looking to the future we look much better.
“Results will change within time, I’m determined to do that, but you cannot do that in one year these days. It will take longer than that to get to where we want to be.
“The majority of the fans who know what they are talking about will see we are not too far away and will see behind the scenes what we are trying to create.”
Ironically, on the eve of his first year at Bolton, his former club Crystal Palace are also seeking a new manager after sacking Ian Holloway.
“It is a funny old game and it has happened to a lot of managers,” Freedman said of the Eagles, who went on to gain promotion after he left Selhurst Park. “Ian Holloway is one of many but he’s very unfortunate to lose his job.”
Last season’s near miss on the play-offs – where the Whites were denied on the last day of the season for their failure to beat Blackpool at the Reebok – remains a sore point with the manager.
“I still think we deserved more in the end,” he said. “I look at it now and we paid the price for not taking our chances and, to be honest, that is how this season has been as well.
“I’m the first to admit that results this season need to be better.
“I’d concur it has been a very up and down time but we needed to put in place foundations and from there we can build.
“I take it for granted that I will be here for the long term, so I put in place everything that a good football club should have - training, recruitment, medical - which unfortunately was not set up when I got here. It wasn’t running as smoothly as it should have been.”
Of his regrets, the failure to tie up an extended deal for Alonso before he left on a free transfer to Serie A was perhaps a surprising admission on the Glaswegian’s part.
“I feel I could have worked a bit harder on that one,” he said. “Maybe I could have persuaded him more.
“Along the line maybe we’ve missed one or two targets we shouldn’t have and I think when we went on that fantastic run last season, that was the time I should have moved on some players.
“But you can’t always look back – I always try to look forward. And hand on heart I am very determined to move things forward.”