WANDERERS are lining up a replacement for Alex Baptiste after he completed a season-long loan move to Blackburn Rovers today.
The versatile defender, who scored four times in 43 appearances in his first season with the club in the last campaign, jetted back from the pre-season training camp in Sweden to complete his move to Ewood Park, leaving question marks over the right-back slot in Dougie Freedman’s side.
It is understood the Wanderers boss is looking to recruit, and that the deal will most likely be a loan.
In the short term, Freedman is keen to give youngsters Oscar Threlkeld and Joe Riley a chance in the forthcoming friendlies, starting with FC Vestsjaelland on Sunday afternoon.
Although the deal has been mooted for some time, Wanderers had initially resisted Rovers’ offer to take the former Blackpool man on loan, stating they would only do business on a permanent basis.
But that all changed today in a swift turn of events that saw the 28-year-old leave less than 24 hours after turning out for the Whites in their 1-1 draw with Brondby.
Speaking after that game, Freedman admitted he would have to manage Riley’s comeback from long-term injury carefully but said both he and fellow home-grown defender Threlkeld were challenging for Baptiste’s position.
“Joe has had a really tough time,” he said.
“He was thrown into the Premier League and did well but then had these injuries, his cruciate, it is very, very tough mentally speaking for the lad.
“We have taken our time with him but he played 45 minutes against Brondby and I think he looked really good.
“We’re strong on the right at the moment – we’ve got Joe and young Oscar Threlkeld who have been pushing Alex Baptiste.
“I said that when I got here two years ago now, I want a young team pushing the older ones for places.
“I don’t want a team who think they can just turn up and get a game. I don’t like that.
“The fans who are over here will see Oscar, Joe, young Rob Hall, Josh Vela and Georg Iliev in there – four or five players who hand on heart are not quite ready yet, but who are showing good signs for the future.”
Another right-back option at Freedman’s disposal is Hayden White, the 19-year-old former Sheffield Wednesday academy graduate signed last summer.