DOUGIE Freedman launched an impassioned defence of the FA Cup – claiming it would be a slight to Wanderers’ proud history to write off the competition as a distraction.
As the Whites prepare to host local rivals Blackpool in today’s third round clash, the magnitude of the fixture was not lost on the manager who insists he will be going all out to progress as far as he can.
Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert courted controversy in the last few days by claiming the FA Cup had lost its relevance in the modern game.
But Freedman need only look towards the grounds of the Reebok Stadium to see why the four-time winners of this trophy need be on their game against the side that beat them in the famous 1953 final.
“Everyone has got their opinion on it,” said the Wanderers boss.
“But I’m working at a club with Nat Lofthouse’s statue outside. How can I disrespect the FA Cup? I love the day, I personally need it and I think this club needs it at the moment.
“I look forward to this day every single year. It is the smallest things – the music changes, the channel is different on a Saturday night, who will you get in the next round? I could go on and on about it.
“Where did you start? What was your first game? Have you been to Wembley? There is so much to talk about – and for a young Bolton fan, a game against Blackpool, how can that not be something you would want to see?
“I have sat my players down and told them exactly what is expected. I want to win this game.”
In a week when Wanderers’ financial issues have been laid bare, there is perhaps an extra incentive to make their way through to the latter stages of the competition.
But cash was far from the manager’s mind as he spoke at his weekly press conference at Euxton.
“When it comes to the FA Cup, the history of this club, this fixture, it isn’t anything to do with money,” he said. “I would be doing a disservice to the football club and this competition.
“There’s no financial element to this at all, no wishing for cash, this is football and wanting to win a game.”
Freedman remembers well his first FA Cup encounter. And he believes that the different buzz created by cup competition could have a positive effect on his side, who have endured a poor run of results over Christmas to fall to 18th position in the Championship.
“I always looked forward to the cup because you’d play against different leagues – you’d go to Chesterfield and score, then Arsenal and not score,” he said.
“I do remember my first FA Cup match – it was against Woking. It was 4-4, and I probably scored.
“Being Scottish as well I used to look at those games, Liverpool, Everton and I could talk about them all day long. I love it.
“The cup can alter your mindset. We maybe need to bring our mindset up at home right now. Sometimes players need bringing down a peg or two, so playing against a lower club can help.
“I look at the table right now and I have told the players that we’re the wrong side of a very fine line right now. We’re coming in just underneath it.
“I know that defensively we have got to get better. We have got to stop conceding early goals and give ourselves a chance.
“That is putting us the wrong side of the line right now but I honestly don’t think we’re playing that badly.
“We need to start these games better. And I want this game to help with the mentality change for one or two of my players.”