Dougie Freedman is on a high heading into Bolton Wanderers' derby duel with Wigan
DERBY day presents no fear for Wanderers boss Dougie Freedman – who reckons his side are strong enough to pass their festive test this season.
After admitting his squad was not tough enough to cope with the demands of a Christmas and New Year schedule 12 months ago, the Scot heads to face local rivals Wigan at the DW Stadium in bullish mood.
Not only have his ranks been boosted by the return to fitness of Mark Davies and Josh Vela – both of whom are available for selection – but Freedman also feels the recent addition of Joe Mason on loan from Cardiff has given him more options than he has had at any stage of his 14-month Reebok tenure.
With more than 4,000 Whites fans expected to travel tomorrow afternoon and Stuart Holden also due to drop by after flying in from the States, Freedman recognises the importance of kicking off a busy time of year with three points.
“Considering where we came from at the start of the season when I had such a thin squad, I feel privileged to pick from 20 players in form,” he said.
“This is a test – six or seven games in a short period of time, with all the injuries and suspensions, the intensity of the games and the odd Christmas pudding that affects the players.
“We had to make sure we were stronger this year and we are stronger. We can cope with the Championship this year.
“I feel like I have got young players who are desperate to come in and play.
“You look at Rob Hall or Chung-Yong Lee, they might get rested one game but they come in firing on all cylinders. They are young players but they can handle the intensity of it.
“Now I look at the fact we’ve got 4,000-or-so fans due to come and support us and we need to make sure that we don’t let them down. We need to understand exactly what this game means to them.”
On the possible inclusion of Davies, who came through 70 minutes of his latest comeback game for the development squad against Liverpool on Monday, Freedman admitted he is desperate to see the midfielder return to the set-up.
“I’m not going to start composing poems but yes, it’s very, very tempting,” he said.
“He’s a wonderful football player and he’s looking in great shape but I have got to take advice from the medical staff as well and he’s due to play one more 90 minute match before he’s signed off from them."