JOHN McGINLAY: Dougie needs to find a gem in transfer window

First published in Sport

JANUARY could be make or break for Wanderers, make no mistake about it.

We said last month would be a huge one, when we played a lot of the teams around us in the table. It was meant to be the time we started picking up points but it certainly didn’t turn out that way.

Now we’re running out of time to get things going. If it doesn’t go right in the next few weeks that could be us done. Worse than that, we might end up looking over our shoulder at the bottom three.

Right now it is retrievable. Eight points can be clawed back and if you want a positive, there it is.

But if I’m being frank, the top two is out of reach now. Cardiff are 24 points ahead; Hull are 17.

The play-offs are all that is left to aim for now – but has the team got the mental strength to turn it round? That is a very difficult question to answer and it might depend on what Dougie Freedman can do in the transfer market this month.

We have a reputation for bringing in players at this time of year that provide us with a little spark.

Daniel Sturridge and Jack Wilshere did it, and if we can get Stephen Warnock back from Aston Villa, it would be a big plus for me.

Clubs know that we tend to send players back ready to come into their first team, so maybe there are a couple of Premier League gems out there ready to be polished?

I know Dougie has talked about bringing players in from the lower leagues. That might tell you a story. On the other hand, he might just be playing it all down.

There probably isn’t a lot of money around but maybe we need some experience at this level.

If he can get a couple of players in who know the scene, horses for courses, then he can worry about Premier League quality if and when that happens.

The season passes very quickly and before we know it, we’ll be counting down the games until the end, hopefully still with the play-offs in mind.

After so many false dawns, you just wonder where and when that change in fortune is going to materialise.

***

IT would be a crying shame to see us sacrifice progress in the FA Cup by putting out an under-strength side against Sunderland.

We need something, anything to get us going and mentally give us that kick start. Getting a kicking won’t do us any good at all.

In the past I think the cup has been good for us in that respect. Even when things haven’t been going so well in the league, the fans have had that little bit of hope on the horizon and something to cling on to.

One of the big mistakes I felt Gary Megson made was playing a scratch team in the third round. It did nothing for his popularity or for results at that time of year.

We have got to look at this game as a chance to start again at home.

The Reebok has been anything but a fortress and I don’t think sides are worried about playing there any more.

It used to be that a trip to Bolton would scare some sides. Now people are looking forward to it because they know the players are nervous. It is affecting their game.

I would much rather have played Sunderland a few weeks ago, when they were going badly.

Things seem to have improved over the last couple of weeks for Martin O’Neil, but it might be a case of seeing how seriously they take it too.

It only takes one result to make things turn. The question is, how long must we wait for it?

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TEAMS win promotion, individuals don’t.

I think Dougie Freedman is right when he says there is a problem with the mentality in the squad.

We are fragile. A goal goes against us and all of a sudden it seems the end of the world.

I thought we had turned a corner in that respect against Birmingham when we got ourselves back into that game but the same problems seemed to be evident against Leeds and it has become a major worry.

When something goes against us, we seem to go into an individual shell so as not to make another mistake.

You look down the team-sheet and it still seems something is missing. We have not gelled.

Individuals will win you the odd game here or there, but, over the course of a season, you need that team mentality and that is where the problem lies.

You can see it in the body language. The shoulders go down, heads drop, you are beaten when there is still plenty of the game to go.

We need to be better than that, and quickly.

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IT’S hard to pin down just one position that I feel Dougie Freedman needs to improve this month, but both full-back slots still look up for grabs for me.

If we manage to bring Stephen Warnock back from Aston Villa, that would be a big bonus, because he had looked very solid up to the Peterborough game when he had a bit of a stinker.

On the other side, Tyrone Mears still looks a bit shaky and it surprises me that we haven’t seen anything of young Joe Riley. Maybe his chance will come against Sunderland in the cup?

I don’t know what to read into Marcos Alonso being linked with Swansea, but, with the club going well in the Premier League, they might see it as a chance to add to their squad and try and bring him on a bit.

I’ve said before that I can see him playing further forward because he can be hard to stop once he gets going and has a good turn of pace.

I also think the centre-halves would benefit from better defending in those wider positions.

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IT doesn’t please me to say it, but there is pressure on Stuart Holden’s return now.

I said last month that we could help him along by getting a few good results but that hasn’t happened.

It looks like he is getting ready to come back into the team now but the onus is on him to spark something.

I think he will naturally help the dressing room because he comes over as that type of guy but the fans might well be expecting him to be man of the match every week, and that is a lot of expectation after being out for so long.

People are pinning their hopes on him because of just how good he was before.

And let’s face it, if he can get back to anywhere near that level, then Stu might just be the best signing we make this January.

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