Chris Eagles is back in business, says Bolton Wanderers boss Dougie Freedman
ONCE billed as the jewel in Dougie Freedman’s crown, it looked as if Chris Eagles had lost some of his shine until Saturday’s match-winning display.
Several weeks in exile set tongues wagging around the Reebok, and with the winger’s contract up for tender at the end of the season, the future looked bleak for last season’s top scorer.
Freedman announced shortly after walking through the doors last October that he intended to “build a team around” the former Manchester United man.
But since picking up an injury on the opening day of the campaign at his former club Burnley, plenty of doubt has been cast on whether he would ever command a regular starting place again.
Yet Eagles looked as sharp as ever on his return to the side in the 3-0 victory over Doncaster, six games since his last appearance as a substitute against Ipswich Town.
Freedman may have put contract talks on hold across the board, meaning Eagles and five other members of his first team will be free to negotiate elsewhere come the end of the month, but he is still adamant there is room for the talented playmaker in his plans.
“People know what I think of Chris – I love the guy because he is a real diamond of a fella,” he said.
“He went through one of those moments a lot of players have when they find themselves out of the team. “But he has good qualities and is very chirpy so even if he is down, you never really see that side of him. He knew he had to work hard to get back into the team but the quality he has, and the amount of games coming up... then watch this space. “It is set up for a big Chris Eagles contribution.”
After playing a starring role on Saturday, Eagles could return to the scene of one of his stand-out Wanderers performances this weekend.
On the Whites’ last trip to the DW Stadium in October 2011, Eagles illuminated a then-Premier League derby to arrest a run of 11 defeats in 12 games for Owen Coyle’s team.
He scored in injury time to cap a 3-1 win and leave Latics fans questioning the future of a certain Roberto Martinez.
It is not only Freedman who is happy to have a fit-again Eagles in the team; defender Tim Ream was also pleased to see the 28-year-old return in style. Both he and Matt Mills have blazed a trail for those in the wilderness this season, and Ream is happy to see another player return to form.
“Chris Eagles has been out of favour for a little bit now, but comes in and looks like the Chris Eagles of old going at guys and passing the ball around,” he added.
“It says a lot about the mental strength of the team when you get guys who haven’t played for however long coming back in like that. “It goes back to Millsy and I being out there and coming in to realise you have to do well for the team and not yourselves.”