DON’T rule us out – that’s the message from the top as Dougie Freedman stirs up his troops for one late push towards the play-offs.
With Mark Davies, Stuart Holden and David Wheater all set to return to action in time for this weekend’s clash at Nottingham Forest, the Wanderers boss believes his now fully-fit squad is now capable of gaining some forward momentum and climbing the table.
The task of closing a 13-point gap on Middlesbrough, who currently occupy the final position in the top six, over the course of 16 remaining games would seem a formidable one.
But fresh from victory over Burnley in last weekend’s derby, Freedman has laid down a challenge to his players to start making their class count.
“You can never say too late because that is not the right approach at all,” he told The Bolton News. “I just feel that the way we have been playing, and with the individuals we’ve got coming back, then you can never, ever say that you are not trying to get promotion.
“It is difficult right now because of where we are. But if you look at the next seven or eight games in a short period of time and how strong our squad is, then I won’t suggest for one minute that we will win every game, but I would suggest we are capable of winning every one of those games.”
Matt Mills and Keith Andrews are the only first teamers now currently sidelined, although both should be welcomed back into the fold in the next couple of weeks.
That leaves Freedman in a rare position as a Bolton manager – one with an empty treatment room.
Davies, Wheater and Holden have all had their comeback carefully timed to make sure there are no injury setbacks, while new signing Medo also came through 90 minutes for the development squad to underline his own claim for a spot in tomorrow’s squad destined for the City Ground.
Freedman, who faces one of the clubs he represented in his own playing career, knows full well that he is yet to fully win over some supporters since his arrival in October.
But the Whites boss is determined to do things his own way – and feels encouraged that his players are now showing real signs of adopting the standards he has set for them on and off the field.
Asked whether the next concentrated spell of fixtures before the international break at the end of March would be a fairer measure of his progress, the Scot insisted he was sticking to his principles in order to turn the club around.
“People judged me from the moment I walked in the door,” he said. “I don’t get controlled or put pressure on myself according to what people are thinking about me – I think you could see that from Saturday’s decision making.
“I don’t let anyone decide what I am going to do. I will do what is best for the club, for the group, and get in positions to win games. That’s the pressure I put on myself.
“If people on the outside or the inside want to suggest things then that is their business. I can’t control it.
“All I can control is how we go about our business and I don’t think for one moment since I came through the door that my players’ commitment has been lacking.”