Dougie Freedman whips Bolton Wanderers into shape on tour

The Bolton News: Rob Hall in action in the final match of the pre-season tour Rob Hall in action in the final match of the pre-season tour

LENNIE Lawrence’s broad Cockney brogue barks out over the Southern Swedish countryside, as he orders the Wanderers players back to the start of another training drill.

“If it sounds complicated it’s because I’m a complicated person,” he booms, allowing a little smirk before going through the details of the exercise once again.

At one end of an immaculately-groomed pitch, Curtis Fleming presides over the defenders, making notes, throwing out the odd order for Matt Mills and Tim Ream to “move your feet.”

At the other, Dougie Freedman stands studiously, watching every detail.

The Scot only rarely interjects into the session vocally. When he does, it is succinct, words are not wasted.

Wanderers have been in Scandinavia for a week, and this particular patch of land has been their classroom for up to three sessions a day.

This particular session is geared towards team shape and the levels of concentration required mean you can hear a pin drop in between the roars of instruction and encouragement from the old hand Lawrence.

I have been lucky enough to sit in on training sessions by the last three Wanderers managers at this time of year, and each had a very different style.

Gary Megson split the sergeant major duties with Steve Wigley back in the intense sun of Athens, Greece, or the rolling fields of Venlo, Holland.

The workload was intense. There was a similar emphasis on organisation and shape but no disguising how direct the football would be when the real business started.

Under Owen Coyle the mood was more convivial. Be it park pitches in Toronto or university facilities in North Carolina, the onus was on ball skills, small-sided games. That reflected in the football his side played too.

Very few “outsiders” get to sit in on Freedman’s training sessions, let alone write about them for the folks back home. But these rare glances gave a little insight into how the Whites boss wants to mould his side – make it more dynamic - and perhaps what is missing for the plan to work.

With three sets of prying eyes on each outfield player there was no hiding place to be found but as each man was also fitted with a GPS monitor to allow their output to be scrutinised by an analyst and a computer too, even a five per cent drop in effort would be picked up eventually.

This may be the modern way – but in Lawrence you have someone who has soaked up all the fads and trends and who lends a pleasantly old-fashioned commentary to proceedings.

The hard work continues in this mode for a good 40 minutes before the players are grouped together for a de-brief and sent back to the adjoining fitness complex for the next stage of the session.

And it is here that I throw you a curve ball.

While the training sessions have been exhausting work, this is no boot camp.

From day one of the Scandinavian tour the players were grouped into teams, competing in a daily activity to win points.

Mountain biking, volleyball, kayaking, rugby – even a quiz – had been organised to keep the competitive juices flowing.

This was the penultimate day, swimming, and after all the serious stuff, this was now the opportunity for the banter to really flow.

Fitness coach Chris Short acted as referee, organising relays, first freestyle, then as a human motor aboard a giant flat blue float.

For some of the shorter members of the squad the latter activity proved more difficulty than anything out of the pitch. Medo Kamara’s technique, for example, was rather unique.

Darren Pratley, David Wheater, Kevin McNaughton and Andy Lonergan coasted through the water like pond-skaters.

By close of play The Misfits, led by captain Jay Spearing, were ahead by one point going into the crucial penalty shootout. Reports from the camp tell me they held on to their lead too.

The next day I travelled up to watch the team play against Mjallby and within two minutes of kick-off, saw an exact replica of the work done on the training ground executed on the pitch in Burlov.

I also saw the team tire visibly after letting their opponents back into the game and eventually fall to a 3-2 defeat. In that respect the exertions on the training pitch had worked for them, and against them.

The result will be inconsequential by the time Wanderers kick their season off at Watford in three weeks. But how successful Freedman’s side are at Vicarage Road and beyond is likely to be shaped by what they do back behind closed doors at Euxton.

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