DOUGIE Freedman admits he may cast an envious eye on the squad at Billy Davies’s disposal this afternoon – not least two players he wanted to sign.

Midfielders Nathaniel Chalobah and David Vaughan were on Wanderers’ radar before they moved to the City Ground from Chelsea and Sunderland respectively.

Forest come to the Reebok sitting fifth and with a squad that Freedman rates as one of the strongest in the division.

But the key to Davies’s success this season, says the Whites boss, was that he did not inherit a large squad of players when he arrived back at the club for a second spell in February last year.

“Sometimes you can be very fortunate as a manager and get a completely clean slate,” he told The Bolton News. “I had that in my time at Palace. You can bring in players without having to move people out.

“Billy had that when he went in there. He has managed to bring in good quality – and in midfield he’s got Nathaniel Chalobah and David Vaughan, two lads who we were very interested in. But when you heard their demands, it just put them in a different ball park.

“He has built up a very strong squad and it doesn’t surprise me at all where they are right now.

“The centre-back (Jack) Hobbs is very decent and Andy Reid is always there, so with him in midfield alongside Chalobah and Vaughan it is a really strong unit. Jamie Mackie is a good player up front too.

“You need good players coming off your bench in this division and Billy’s got players like Matt Derbyshire, who came off and scored the winner in the game against Leeds the other day.”

Freedman has had anything but a clean slate to work with since succeeding Owen Coyle but finds himself unable to make the changes he would like because of the lack of options in certain positions, most notably in defence.

“I’ve been here over a year and found it very difficult to move players on,” he said. “Naturally it happens when maybe a player comes in who plays in the same position, for example Tyrone Mears’ situation.

“But we don’t have the squad size everyone seems to think where we can just move players on. We can’t move defenders on because we simply don’t have enough of them.”

While quite prepared to talk up his opponents’ quality, Freedman also feels his own side have learned a few lessons since being dismantled at the City Ground back in August.

“We were at a different stage back then,” he said. “They caught us very cold.

“In truth, I thought that game was done for us in the first 10-15 minutes and that was very disappointing.

“It isn’t something I’m going to talk about this week but it is something we have to learn from. We need to be on the front foot.

“I think we have turned a corner in that respect at the start of games.

“We were giving a lot away at the start of the season and we look more confident now.

“We can put ourselves up against a top-six side and see where we are at the halfway stage and see if we can’t springboard up the division, and if the gap is too big on a matchday.”