NO sooner had Dougie Freedman returned home from last weekend’s mauling at Watford than his mood was improved considerably by a phone call from club secretary Simon Marland.

After a desperately disappointing afternoon at Vicarage Road, the Wanderers boss got a perfect pick-me-up with the news that Cardiff City were finally ready to send striker Joe Mason out on loan.

It had been a long wait, complicated by the fact that the Bluebirds wanted to tie the 23-year-old down to an extended contract before allowing him the pick of several interested clubs.

But after getting the green light, all Mason wanted to know before committing to Bolton was: Would he be getting some company?

“By 9am the next morning we’d pretty much convinced Joe, his agent and Cardiff that it was best to come back,” Freedman explained on the eve of today’s clash with Nottingham Forest.

“He didn’t need much convincing because he’d been around the place but he did need some assurances, like what we’re doing, is anyone else coming in?

“I think he’d spoken seriously to one other club but he chose to come to us and I’m delighted he did.”

Nerves had been building among Wanderers fans anxious to see Freedman delve into the transfer market to find a goalscorer.

Mason had two spells at the club last season, the second of which was much more lucrative in a scoring sense.

The former Republic of Ireland Under-21 international finished with a record of six goals in 16 appearances, five of which were scored in his second spell – but Freedman disputes the assertion that he struggled early on in his time at Wanderers in a lone striker’s role.

“I could see signs in that first spell, and that is why I wanted him back,” he said.

“In the first month he was here, the movement and the interaction with other players was great. I thought ‘what a player’ and I had no hesitation bringing him back.

“There were a few people who had doubts about him but that’s the way it goes.

“In the second spell he proved to absolutely everyone how good a player he is, and I think he’ll be just as good this time as well.

“He knows the place, he’ll be settled right away and knows where he is living, knows how I work and how his team-mates work – all I have to do is get him out on the football pitch and let his talent do the talking.”

Freedman has come under fire for Wanderers’ no-show at Watford, and a victory in midweek against Bury failed to win over his doubters.

But the Whites boss is happy to take frustration on the chin, so long as fans continue to back the younger players he is bringing into the team. He said: “I felt the crowd the other night recognised we had one or two younger players out there, like Conor Wilkinson, and that they had to stick by him a bit.

“I’m alright getting a bit of stick – I’ve been getting it for 20 years the number of chances I missed as a player.

“But when you know where this football club is at, you need to give these younger guys a chance. We can’t go and spend £8million like Forest.

“The Championship is getting like a league within a league again. It’s not only the Premiership boys spending money, it’s clubs like Forest as well.

“There’s no use us dressing it up any other way. I want to build a hungry team who play with fight and desire and hopefully along the way we can pick up and develop young players with potential.”