DOUGIE Freedman and his Wanderers side had plenty to think about while travelling the winding roads to Ipswich yesterday afternoon.
Off the pitch, the rush to bring finances into line for next season make these arguably the most troubled times since the end of Colin Todd’s tenure 15 years ago.
On it, you could make a case that Todd had a better squad at his disposal the last time Wanderers were trying to cut their cloth accordingly, and there was definitely less of a pronounced gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ in the second tier.
Frustration is evident around the terraces and both the manager and chairman Phil Gartside have come under fire. So too has a squad that despite all the cost-cutting attempts, is still clearly underperforming. Zat Knight – the player who has perhaps had to contend with most criticism from fans of late – admitted after Tuesday night’s defeat against QPR that he felt more concerned about a relegation battle than any chase for mid-table and beyond.
It was a notable statement from the club captain, who despite all the flak that has come his way, has rarely wavered in his belief that a top six place can still be achieved.
A year ago Wanderers lost at Watford and questions were being asked of Freedman about a potential relegation battle.
His response was sharp and unequivocal – the club would soon be travelling in the right direction.
On Thursday he was equally sure that fortunes would change.
His target of a top six place may have been shelved for now – but the Scot is adamant that spirit in the camp has not been affected by a six-game winless streak in the league.
“I’m not sure luck is the right word,” he said – anxious not to fall into the same traps as previous Wanderers managers had in the past. “But something has to change for us.
“We need to stick to what we are doing.
“If any fan went to QPR they saw which of the two sides were better on the night.
“There have been some disappointing moments and I’ve had my say on that. But I’ve never doubted the commitment they have. I’ve never doubted their spirit and the fact that I think they have performed well over the last couple of games makes me feel that their fortunes will change.
"Life can't keep being this unfair to this group of players. They have really stuck at it. If we go down to Ipswich and stick to our guns, create as many opportunities as we did at QPR then we will win the game.”
Freedman has been pleased by the reaction of his squad after the 7-1 thrashing at Reading but back-to-back defeats against Cardiff in the cup and QPR in midweek have done little to calm the feeling of unease among fans.
The Scot insists that confidence is not a problem within the camp.
“Having seen the consistent performances I don't think belief has been affected,” he told The Bolton News. “I felt we were good against Cardiff and it could have gone any way. “We went to QPR and really took the game to them and looked full of confidence. “If anything we’ve just lost that winning feeling. But I really don’t think it’s far away at all and I honestly mean that.”