Bolton Wanderers boss Dougie Freedman has learned a lesson from last year's slow start
DOUGIE Freedman has lifted the lid on why he is working this year’s Wanderers squad a lot harder this summer.
Fans will need little reminder that the club embarked on a 10-match winless run at the start of last season – a slow start from which they never recovered.
And that was a factor in the manager’s mind as he mapped out the schedule for this pre-season season, doubling the number of first-team games from four to eight and electing to kick things off with a formidable opponent in Danish giants Brondby.
“Last season we didn’t get off to a great start so I decided to take a look at myself and see what we could do about it,” he told The Bolton News.
“Last year we had a different kind of age in the squad and I felt that we needed to change the way we trained.
“That average has come right down to 24 or 25 now and I felt that they could cope with more games.
“You’ve seen the way we train – three times a day for the last 10 days. It enables certain players in the squad to really take maximum benefit from this pre-season.
“And I’m hoping that come August 9 that means we look a little sharper and a little more ready to make sure we start off better.”
Freedman was encouraged that his side had been able to cope comfortably with quality opposition in Brondby, earning a 1-1 draw thanks to Craig Davies’s second-half penalty.
There were concerns within the Wanderers camp that the pre-season opener against a side who will be embarking on a Europa League campaign in just over a week’s time could be a step too far.
But after matching the Copenhagen club stride for stride over 90 minutes, Freedman feels his side have got off to the perfect start.
Ex-Whites striker Johan Elmander opened the scoring for Brondby before Jermaine Beckford missed a penalty just before the break.
Half-time substitute Davies then showed him how it was done to level the scores immediately after the restart – sparking an entertaining second half that also saw Rob Hall handed a straight red card.
“When you choose to play a game at this level, it’s like going straight in at the deep end,” Freedman said.
“You come to a wonderful arena like this with great support, we brought some great fans with us as well, and you’ve got to respect the opposition.
“I thought in the first half we were strong, we were difficult to break down and in the last 15 minutes of that first half I thought we were coming on to a decent game. We got the penalty, we missed it, but it was okay.
“The players who came on in the second half were more experienced and they showed it in the way they played.
“In all, we’ve played a team who are about to start in the Europa League and we have given them a really good game. I’m so pleased I chose to do it this way and start with a higher opposition.”