After the Reading post-mortem Bolton Wanderers must stand up and be counted
IT has been a week of difficult questions for Dougie Freedman and his squad as they pore over the wreckage of Saturday’s Madejski massacre.
Just how will the side respond to their worst result in 32 years? What will the “nucleus” of the squad make of strong criticism from the manager after the 7-1 defeat? And how can Freedman realistically attempt to change it?
The Glaswegian will speak publically for the first time after that demoralising defeat at a press conference this afternoon – but behind the scenes there are signs the healing process has already begun.
Players, many of whom like fans had endured a rather sleepless night, reported to Euxton early on Sunday morning for a full and frank debrief from the staff.
Though Freedman’s condemnation of a particular group of his squad had grabbed the headlines, he also insisted after the game that “efforts would be doubled” and that approach seems to have been implemented on the training ground.
While the hard word has been laid down by staff, there has also been an aspect of self-governance with players meeting together for a separate meeting to discuss what went wrong at Reading, and why Wanderers continue to under-achieve in the Championship. On Tuesday night, club captain Zat Knight and Jay Spearing fronted up to a large group of fans at the BWSA social and should the Whites show similar honesty and resolve against Cardiff this weekend, there will be few complaints at the Reebok Stadium.
While the exact contents of the question and answer session will, at present, remain the ownership of those in the room, both the captain and vice-captain left supporters in no doubt as to their commitment or their accountability.
Words at this point appear rather hollow until any of the Wanderers players have a chance to get back out on to the pitch and start to make amends.
But the fact both Knight and Spearing were willing to give an account of the feeling of hurt felt throughout the dressing room must be construed as a positive sign.
Freedman is also working hard to give himself more selection options against the Premier League Bluebirds, particularly up front where, it seems, he will be without Jermaine Beckford for another few weeks.
A lot will hang on whether Swansea, French club Evian, or anyone else makes firm their interest in David Ngog, with funds likely to be diverted to Freedman’s efforts to land Danny Graham from Sunderland on loan.
Should that plan fall short, another option may have to be quickly secured.
Young Luxembourg winger Yannick Bastos is likely to go through a settling period with the Development Squad before he makes in impression on the first team. But there are also moves afoot to bring in two more defenders, although they are unlikely to arrive in time to feature in the cup.
One, Kevin McNaughton, could line up against the Whites on Saturday, with the Scot currently filling in on the left of defence for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.