Dougie Freedman is focusing on his own Bolton Wanderers side, not former protege Wilfried Zaha
DOUGIE Freedman has 99 problems right now... but Wilfried Zaha ain’t one.
His former Crystal Palace protégé may be standing by to make his debut for Cardiff at the Reebok tomorrow, assuming his proposed loan move from Manchester United goes through on time, but the Wanderers boss insists he has plenty of other things to occupy his mind.
Freedman might be forgiven for thinking the footballing gods are conspiring against him as the boy he helped through the Selhurst Park ranks to become one of the brightest young talents in the English game prepares to sabotage his chances of progression in the FA Cup.
But the Scot’s thoughts have been much closer to home this week, and in the aftermath of the club’s worst result in more than three decades there has been plenty of issues to address.
“It’s funny how things work out, though especially with the timing (of the move),” he said.
“I think someone up there doesn’t like me.
“But Wilfried is the least of my concerns right now. I haven’t really had to consider much about Cardiff this week because I’ve been working on what we are going to do, how we set up.
“Too many players didn’t play well against Reading but they have a responsibility to the football club to dust themselves down and go again.
“We have not got enough players to change things round. We have got four or five young lads on the bench but it would be very unfair to them to put them into a game of such importance.
“Also, I think some of those players deserve to be put back out there.
“They will play, they will get on with it, and hopefully they will show exactly what they are about and what kind of character they are.
“I’m quietly confident because they have done it in the past. They have bounced back – maybe too many times.”
Things have hardly been going swimmingly for Cardiff just recently, with last weekend’s defeat at Manchester City causing them to slip to the bottom of the Premier League for the first time this season.
Freedman seemed to be relishing the idea of being the underdog, however, and reckons the pressure to win the fourth-round tie is largely on his opposite number Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
“Being the Premier League side and playing week-in, week-out at that level is tough,” he said.
“But coming down to a Championship side, they should be looking at this as a game they are confident of winning.”
While he may not be making any special provisions for his former golden boy Zaha, he does believe a spell of regular top-flight football away from Old Trafford will be better for him and United in the longer term.
“He was in the Palace team from a very young age, 16, and so all he really understands is first-team football,” he said.
“He only knows Saturday afternoons.
“If he goes to Cardiff, he’ll slip straight back into that. You are not getting a player who’s been used to kicking around in the reserves every week. This is a first-team player who’s comfortable in that environment.
“I’ve known him since a very young age. He’s come up to Manchester, a huge club, and not had the first-team opportunities he or anyone else would like.
“He’s never been tested in this way; this last six months will be a massive test for him but he’s a strong character and he’ll come through it.
“I still think it was the right move for him – you don’t ignore Manchester United rapping on your door.
“Maybe David (Moyes) thinks with results being difficult right now, it’s tough to put two young wingers in but there’s no doubt he’ll be a success.
“It takes time to adapt – Cristiano Ronaldo was the same. But this move to Cardiff is a great one for him, it will get him some Premier League football and he’ll be stronger for it.”