MARC Tierney is due back in the Wanderers fold this pre-season but will he have competition for a left-back berth?

The former Norwich City defender saw his season cut cruelly short when he broke his leg against Yeovil Town back in September.

And as if to add insult to injury, the 28-year-old’s absence denied Dougie Freedman his only specialist in that position.

Attempts to fill the gap were consistently frustrated, with the Wanderers boss coming under heavy fire from his own fans as stop gaps Alex Baptiste and Tim Ream both struggled to settle.

Goran Popov failed to get any international clearance from the Premier League to move on loan from West Brom, Crystal Palace put the skids on an offer for Freedman’s trusted lieutenant Dean Moxey, and a bid to sign Sweden international Mikael Dyrestam collapsed in dramatic fashion when the issue of compensation to his former club IFK Gothernbury was brought up.

Failing to plug the hole looked at one point like being Wanderers’ undoing as they continued to labour for form at the end of 2013.

But Freedman would get an unlikely bonus in the New Year as Ream started to grow into the role, to the stage where the American was no longer considered an emergency measure.

As David Wheater’s return to fitness saw him settle in alongside Matt Mills in the middle, Ream’s exile at left-back looked more and more convenient.

While Tierney’s expected return this summer will feel in some respects like a new signing at the club, it does present a whole new dilemma for the Wanderers boss.

Does he gamble on Tierney being his only recognised left-back again, or will he need to find some more cover?

Ream is unlikely to be viewed as back-up, with his distribution missed sorely in the middle.

Wanderers’ player of the year has probably earned a run at his favoured centre-half position, although he will have stiff competition from new boy Dorian Dervite, and established Wanderers Matt Mills and David Wheater.

Breaking up the partnership of Mills and Ream in the middle was one of the biggest factors in the Whites’ drop in form in the New Year.

Prompted by the return of Kevin McNaughton to Cardiff City, the reshuffle that Freedman was forced into at the back cost him dearly.

Had he been able to call in another specialist, perhaps Wanderers would have still been in touch when their consistency finally started to kick in once more.