Bolton Wanderers boss Dougie Freedman is walking a transfer tightrope

Dougie Freedman

Dougie Freedman

First published in Sport The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , chief football writer

DOUGIE Freedman wastes no words as he sums up why Wanderers are currently treading a tight financial tightrope in the transfer market.

Diminished parachute payments and the spectre of Financial Fair Play rules have all taken their toll on the budget available to the Whites boss since he walked through the door – but the actual reason as to why the coffers are bare is actually much more simple.

“We are financially restricted,” he told The Bolton News. “Let’s be very honest – because the money has been blown.”

Looking back on the evidence it is hard to argue.

In the season Wanderers exited the Premier League, £11.7million was spent on transfer fees alone, not counting the expense of loaning the likes of Tuncay, Ryo Miyaichi, Dedryck Boyata or Gael Kakuta.

Some of that was recouped with the sale of England international Gary Cahill to Chelsea, although the deal only represented a £3m profit on the fee they had paid to Aston Villa four years earlier.

After relegation Owen Coyle brought in a few Championship specialists in Matt Mills, Andy Lonergan and Keith Andrews but was afforded the luxury of keeping hold of many of the big earners who had competed in the Premier League – a financial decision that accounted for some record losses announced at the turn of this year.

Since Freedman came to the club, the biggest single outlay has been the £1.5m spent on Jay Spearing, although cash fees of roughly half that size have also been paid for Medo Kamara and Rob Hall, at a tribunal.

Jermaine Beckford’s transfer fee from Leicester City could – if the Whites get out of the division – also amount to a seven-figure fee but currently stands much lower.

The wage bill has been brought into line with the demands of FFP but the margins would appear to be tight.

Freedman still has a budget that dwarfs a handful of other clubs in the Championship but that number has decreased significantly over the last two years.

The difficulty of his job is summed up in bringing strikers to the Macron Stadium this summer.

Lukas Jutkiewicz looked the obvious and ideal target but with Middlesbrough keen to milk every penny from the player who had transformed his career at Bolton the previous season, it was always going to be a risky auction to enter.

Whether Wanderers actually played their hand as Burnley whisked him to the Premier League is still up for debate but it left Freedman with a king-sized problem on his hands.

Joe Mason, who shared an impressive partnership with Jutkiewicz last time round, now looks like the next recruit. But even his arrival on loan from Cardiff is not straightforward. The 22-year-old is being asked to sign a new contract before he leaves – protecting his future value – and that process is stalling his exit.

“When you’re in the loan market it can be frustrating,” admitted Freedman. “You get dictated to about when you can sign a player.

“When Cardiff have finished talking to Joe, we would of course look at the situation because he’s a player I rate very highly.

“One or two have left in the summer, they didn’t perform, and they were on huge, huge wages. That has given us a little bit to spend and make the likes of Joe Mason affordable.”

Freedman’s available strike options have been a mixed bag this summer.

Jermaine Beckford has scored twice, the second a stunner at Port Vale, and looks most likely to start against Watford next weekend.

The more physical and robust Craig Davies scored from the spot in a memorable cameo against Brondby but has since struggled in front of goal.

Wildcard Conor Wilkinson is raw and untested but has scored a handful of goals to give himself every chance of getting involved at Vicarage Road.

“Craig Davies, Jermaine Beckford and young Conor Wilkinson have had a good pre-season,” Freedman agreed.

“They have had a lot of football to get through between them, a lot of games, and I think they have shared the load well.

“Jermaine is the kind of player who is valuable to the squad because he doesn’t necessarily have to start games to affect things. He’s great around the place, especially with the young players, and he pops up with goals.

“I think we need at least four strikers and at the moment I’ve got two-and-a-half because young Conor has got to develop.

“We need two more to help Craig and Jermaine.”

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