DOUGIE Freedman admits he has been forced to sacrifice talent in the Wanderers squad to find the commitment he is looking for from his players.
Despite a strong finish to his first full season with the Whites, the Scot is disappointed the club never looked like troubling the play-off positions.
But he is confident the large scale rebuilding job he has undertaken since coming in from Crystal Palace in October 2012 will pay dividends.
Freedman has shed several players who turned out for Wanderers in the Premier League days – from Martin Petrov and David Ngog to recent departures such as Zat Knight and Chris Eagles.
And though the Whites squad may lack the star names it once did, the manager believes it is better equipped to fight for promotion.
“I’m 20 months or so into the job and I am getting to the point now where the lads in the group are possibly not as talented footballers but are definitely bringing better attitudes to work every day,” he said.
“They have not got agendas that suit them, it’s about the club. And that’s the proudest thing I can say to the fans.
“You have got players who want to play for this football club now, and will give everything they have got.
“Are we disappointed with how the season started? Yes, absolutely. Has it cost us? Again, yes.
“But the squad that has finished the season is a lot stronger than the one that started it, and if we can bring a few more of the right types in this summer we’ll be okay.”
Freedman held up his first summer signing Neil Danns as an example of the attitude he is now seeking from his players.
“Neil Danns underlines all that five or 10 times over,” he said. “He was terrific with his desire and hunger and he’s a pleasure to work with,” he said. “And I think that has rubbed off on one or two other players.
“Some of the lads possibly didn’t have as much professionalism as they should have had, so Neil coming in has had a great impact.”
Danns found success with the Whites after two loan spells from Leicester City either side of Christmas and Freedman believes his arrival in October was a pivotal stage of the season.
The midfielder made his debut in a goal-less draw against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road with the club second bottom of the table.
A week later he scored a winner against former club Birmingham City – which ended a dismal run of 10 games without victory.
Freedman worried at the time that without an influx of fresh signings, that the club’s worst start for more than a century could have been irretrievable.
“I didn’t want to be a manager who gave up on the job. I wanted to still drive the place forward,” he recalled.
“I felt like most of the lads had picked up the ideas I had but I still needed one or two players to bring it all together.
“The board have been so supportive but this is not a money problem. You can’t just throw money at it.
“You’ve seen at QPR or Nottingham Forest, some teams have just splashed money out and it doesn’t guarantee anything.
“To be successful in this league you need the right characters. In this case I needed people who wanted to be at this football club and fight for the cause.
“Dannsy has been exactly that, and in fairness, Kevin McNaughton and Liam Feeney were too while they were here, they had the attitude I wanted and brought it to the group of players.”