Bolton Wanderers duo want to return and haunt former club
LEICESTER City fans shed few tears when Wanderers offered Matt Mills and Jermaine Beckford an escape route from the King Power Stadium – but Dougie Freedman hopes that their misery in the Midlands could now work in his favour.
At a combined cost of £8million, Mills and Beckford exemplified the short-lived but big spending era of Sven-Goran Eriksson and as such paid for his failures when the former England boss was sacked just over a year into the job.
Both found themselves exiled by Pearson, who quickly found himself under orders to cut costs after a gamble on Premier League promotion failed.
But after finding a new home at the Reebok, Freedman is now banking on two of his most experienced players putting on a show against their former club tomorrow.
“When players go back to previous clubs it can go either of two ways,” he said. “They can stand up and show why they shouldn’t have been released or they can go into their shell and be in awe of what is happening.
“Knowing Jermaine Beckford, he is always a confident lad and he’ll be desperate to get on the pitch, just like Matt. But it can work both ways and I suppose we won’t know that until the end of the match.”
Mills was taken out of the firing line in the win over Barnsley because he is currently on four yellow cards but is expected to move straight back into a re-jigged back four, now missing Kevin McNaughton’s considerable presence on the right.
Beckford has been on the bench for the last four games but still leads the club’s scoring charts with six goals.
“Before young Joe Mason came in Jermaine was in better form but I felt like he looked a little tired so I rotated things,” said Freedman, explaining his absence.
Leicester have recovered from a wobble at the start of December to register back-to-back wins over QPR and Reading.
They now lead Burnley by two points at the top and, in Freedman’s estimation, are reaping the rewards for a long-term transfer strategy.
“What happened with Leicester is that Nigel Pearson recruited young, hungry players for the Championship,” he said. “He’s developed a young and hungry side with great legs in it, and they all want that success.
“It wasn’t to be last year in the play-offs but it looks as if they have learned from that.
“They have got goals in the team and it’s no surprise to me to see them where they are. They’ve even got some young players coming through, like Liam Moore, so as a club I think they are going nicely.
“What a lot of people don’t touch on when they look at what Leicester have spent is that they did it on assets.
“Yes, they spent a lot of money and their weekly wage bill will be right up there. But they also spent money buying players, banking them, and that goes on and on.
“That would be beyond a lot of clubs in this division but it’s certainly what I’m trying to do. You’ve got to get it right with Financial Fair Play – you don’t want one deal to catch up with the club. I don’t want that to happen because I’ve been in that position with another club.”
Jeffrey Schlupp earned a priceless three points for the Foxes in the corresponding fixture in April, denting what looked like an unstoppable charge for the play-offs.
Things have not panned out as expected this season for Freedman but he feels his team are going to meet the league leaders at a good time.
“Leicester are top of the pile and they are a very good side but I thought we gave them a good game last year. It was close,” he said.
“I believe these players are bobbing along with decent confidence and I think a top of the league clash will be quite good for us right now.”