DOUGIE Freedman is quite prepared to play ‘the bad guy’ and bear the brunt of criticism for Wanderers’ poor start – but he has asked the boo-boys to lay-off his players.

Frustration is building after four winless games at the start of the Championship season and many fans are holding the manager accountable for his side’s failures on the pitch.

The likes of Jermaine Beckford and Liam Trotter have come in for stick at times on the terraces too – prompting Freedman to send out a message ahead of today’s clash with Leeds United.

“Being the kind of striker that I was, people would boo me one week and cheer me the next,” he said. “I learned to have a thick skin and cope with it.

“But I’m not okay with unfair criticism, people saying things just for the sake of it, or getting on the back of players.

“If younger players see that, they think ‘that could be me’ and it doesn’t do them any good at all.”

Today’s game could be a defining one for Freedman, who will desperately want to avoid going into the international break with his side still in the bottom three.

Victory at Elland Road should give the Scot some breathing space and a chance to ease a growing injury list.

Mark Davies, Dean Moxey and Kevin McNaughton were ruled out by the Whites boss yesterday, alongside Trotter, whose hamstring injury is worse than first feared and will now mean he misses at least two months of action.

Freedman spoke to The Bolton News exclusively on Friday to try and answer some of the growing concerns readers have about the direction the club is heading.

“I’m not saying I enjoy the situation we’re in,” he said. “I don’t want to be asked the questions you’re asking me each week about whether I’ll still be here – but you’ve got a job to do.

“And the fans are entitled to their say because they pay money into the football club. But if you sit back and have a little look at the big picture, 10-15 years in the Premier League and the money spent on huge, huge wages, and they are still getting paid. So it’s very difficult for me to wheel and deal.

“I do think I have got an eye for a player and if you look at the loan players who’ve worn a Bolton shirt in the last couple of years, there are quite a few now playing in the Premier League.

“When you’re the manager, that’s the way it goes. I’ve been in football a long, long time. I took charge of a football club at 35 and I have experienced a lot of flak and learned to understand the frustrations.

“But what you won’t see here is anyone giving up or throwing in the towel.

“This place will be run professionally, on the pitch, on the training ground, and that will never change while I am here.

“The players are giving it all they have got, so I can’t do anything more.

“This is hard on everyone and sometimes you don’t get the rewards of working as hard as the staff are at the moment. But we can’t do any more."