Why have Wanderers fans fallen out of love with Eagles?
HE leads the club’s scoring chart, has created more goals and had more shots than anyone else in the Championship.
And he has been trusted as a game-changer by consecutive managers.
So why then have Wanderers fans seemingly fallen out of love with Chris Eagles?
In a season lacking consistency of any kind whatsoever, the mercurial number seven stood for a long time as the club’s only shining light.
After scoring six goals in his first 12 starts, supporters voted the former Manchester United man as their player of the month on three consecutive occasions.
Although Wanderers were labouring after relegation, Eagles seemed to be buzzing with confidence at a level on which he had already excelled in his days at Burnley.
If the Whites were to get out of their malaise, then the smart money was on him to be the catalyst.
How then, if we fast-forward four months, have we got to the stage where a decision to substitute the 27-year-old is being celebrated with cynical cheers from the some sections of the stands?
Some speculate that Eagles’ association with former boss Owen Coyle has made him an easier target – something that could also apply to full-back Tyrone Mears, who arrived in a joint £3million deal from Turf Moor two summers back.
Both have suffered for form at varying stages but it is unfair to label either player “Coyle’s man” as both have also found important roles under his successor.
Freedman made little secret of his desire to work with Eagles, who would be the only player name-checked in his first press conference after taking over the reins.
“I think he’s still young enough, he’s got a spark in his eye that says he wants to do well,” said the Scot. “And I mention him because I believe if we can get him firing the right way then he will be a key to our success. He’s one of many names that I look forward to working with.”
Freedman has stayed true to his word and has named Eagles in every league game since. Only Adam Bogdan has started more times in the Championship this season but those who speculate that physical fatigue is the issue may well under-estimate the meticulous degree to which players’ fitness is measured at Euxton these days.
Very little gets through the net in that respect.
Eagles made an impressive 57 appearances in all competitions in the 2008-9 season, so history suggests he can handle the workload.
Confidence does not show up in the statistics, however, and it is clear the swagger that Eagles possessed earlier in the campaign has all-but gone from his game, even if his attitude remains desperate to put things right.
Freedman has stayed loyal to his man but may well have had his hand forced because of the continued absence of Mark Davies.
If anyone else in the team possesses the kind of game-changing ability that Eagles has at his best, then it is the fleet-footed Midlander, who has been out since December with shoulder ligament damage. His recent return to full training may well be a watershed moment, and an opportunity for the manager to give Eagles a few moments out of the spotlight.
It has been a very public fall from grace, but is it a fair one? The numbers continue to back up his inclusion in the team, and at time of writing, his 12 assists and 118 shots at goal were still a high in the division.
No-one has yet surpassed Eagles’ seven goals despite his three-month dry spell, and in the build-up to games, his name crops up in opposition interviews more often than any other.
Should Wanderers’ fans be showing him a little more love?
Championship Stat Attack ASSISTS Chris Eagles (Wanderers) 12 Thomas Ince (Blackpool) 10 Bakary Sagno (Wolves) 9 Craig Noone (Cardiff City) 9 SHOTS ON GOAL (on target, off target, hit woodwork) On Off H/W Chris Eagles (Wanderers) 66 52 4 Thomas Ince (Blackpool) 58 35 3 Charlie Austin (Burnley) 53 31 2 Bakary Sagno (Wolves) 39 36 1 Robert Koren (Hull City) 45 21 2