Bolton Wanderers loan stars can be the lead for the future
DOUGIE Freedman is urging his side to surf the wave of good form to the end of the season – when the next stage of his grand plan will begin.
Wanderers head to Leeds United tomorrow on the back of two encouraging home wins, with fears they could be dragged into a relegation scrap starting to ease. There is still work to do on that front, but with 13 games to go they hold a comfortable nine-point cushion on the bottom three with most fans now looking hopefully up, rather than anxiously down.
Much of the recent improvement has been spearheaded by Freedman’s collection of loan players – most notably in-form strike duo Joe Mason and Lukas Jutkiewicz.
While Liam Trotter and Neil Danns are expected to make their moves permanent in the summer, there are still question marks over whether Wanderers have the financial muscle to convince Cardiff or Middlesbrough to part with their men once their loan spell expires.
For now, Freedman just wants to concentrate on the here and now. But the Scot feels the success of his loanees should give fans a degree of optimism for the future, with another summer of change on the horizon.
“We’re riding a wave right now,” he said. “I promised the fans I’d try to find a certain type that wanted to play for this football club and players like Joe Mason and Lukas Jutkiewicz are very much of that profile.
“In the longer term the names might be different, but they will have the same desire and hunger that those two players have.
“Everyone is talking about those two right now but I’d like to think all the players I have brought in have shown they really want to fight for this club, and that’s testament to the scouting system we have in place.
“I have had to make some difficult decisions and I’ll have more to make in the months to come too – but I just hope ans can see we are building towards something now.”
Should the Whites climb further into the safety of mid-table, Freedman should get a chance to fulfil his own prophecy and begin to blood younger players into his first team.
Winger Rob Hall and midfielder Josh Vela are just two of the players the manager name-checked as he outlined his plans for the next couple of months.
But the immediate priority is a trip to one of Freedman’s former clubs, Leeds, and what will also be an emotional trip back to Elland Road for Jermaine Beckford, now back fit after two months on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.
“I’ve been back there a few times and it’s a fantastic environment to ply your trade, Elland Road. The fans are something else,” Freedman said.
“Jermaine clearly had a great time there. He scored plenty of goals.
“But as professionals we’ve got our eyes on one prize, and that’s taking three points.”
For all the discontent at the Reebok this year, it has paled into insignificance compared with the takeover problems at Elland Road.
Order has only just been restored after a ridiculous situation that saw manager Brian McDermott sacked for 24 hours at the end of January by incoming new owners before being reinstated.
Leeds have somehow remained on the fringes of the play-off picture despite having won just twice in 13 games.
And Freedman admits the situation at his former club has been tough to watch at times.
“I don’t know the ins and outs of it, so I can’t say too much,” Freedman said.
“But what I will say is that Brian has coped with it very, very well, with a tremendous amount of dignity. He has made sure everything that has happened does not affect the guys on the pitch.
“Whatever you say, the guy at the top has given his manager the finances to go and sign two top, top players in (Jack) Butland and (Connor) Wickham.
“On top of that he’s brought in (Jimmy) Kebe, (Luke) Murphy and (Cameron) Stewart, so whatever way you dress it up there has been money well spent on some key players there.
“That’s the thing in this division – you don’t get a chance to hold on to a strong squad of 20-odd players. You need to use the loans.
“You need them for many different reasons but it’s working well for Brian right now and for us too.”