Date: 30th September 2013 at 4:04pm
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Barney nips in with a guest article. He asks the question many are wondering about themselves

Thanks for the article, Barney. Always welcome and always a pleasure…

I don`t think there is much question at the moment, that Dougie Freedman is somewhat fortunate, to still be in charge of Bolton Wanderers. When you note that an experienced coach like Nigel Clough, has been sacked recently for losing four games on the trot, then our manager is surely treading on very thin ice!

However, before we condemn him to the ranks of the unemployed, we should mull over a few pertinent questions.
Let`s try and get one bone of contention out of the way immediately. There are plenty of fans who argue that Dougie got us out of the mess that Coyle left us with last October, and should be allowed to continue doing the job he started. Well, for a start, is that really true? Certainly, we didn`t lose matches after his tenure began, but neither did we win many.

Remember, by January of this year, we were 20th in the league and it was only the introduction of Craig Dawson, that saw the team eventually go on a run of eight winning matches and consequently flirt with a top-six position. Arguably, a position we would have attained with him still in the ranks. Simply put then, is the reality that Dougie merely got lucky with the Dawson signing and it was the latter who really orchestrated any improvement and not the manager!

The jury`s still out on that one.
Possibly, it was a case of a mixture of the two. Certainly, on the field Dawson marshalled the defence admirably. He had the talent and expertise to do so. But, on the whole, I am going to give the manager the benefit of the doubt and say that the improvements we saw in the team`s display, were down to Dougie Freedman!
Having said that, again credit where it`s due. Freedman was able to persuade Dawson to come to the Reebok, in the first place. He possibly didn`t need much persuading, but nevertheless he must have had other suitors as well. It was our manager`s ‘silver tongue` that persuaded Steve Clarke in the first place to let him go and Dawson, along with a number of others later on, to eventually sign.

Indeed, when it comes to oratory, our manager is pre-eminent! He can be very persuasive in his arguments and comes across as being full of knowledge, experience and self-confidence, even for someone of his tender years. And that is how it should be! But actions inevitably speak louder than words. We must ask ourselves, is it all just empty rhetoric?

As an illustration, this is where I took issue on occasions with Dougie last season, over what I believed to be fatuous comments. Either that, or I`m slowly losing my marbles! He argued on one occasion, (Brighton at home) that we dominated a game without possession. And at the time, I seem to remember any number of commentators and fans agreeing with him in a rather sycophant-like manner (or were they just clutching at straws?)

That, I will never understand! Not from so-called football people! Don`t tell me that we want to see Bolton Wanderers playing at the Reebok, without the ball!….No way!……Although I do admire Freedman in many respects, that sort of post-game comment made me more than a little suspicious.

Some ‘pre-Freedman problems`, don`t seem to have disappeared or improved any, after twelve months. Any number of players, still don`t give 100% for ninety-minutes and heads drop quickly, after set-backs during a match. The team never boss a game for more than one half. Strikers don`t score enough (any) goals! To some extent, we still lack creativity in mid-field, and defenders don`t defend properly. And, while we are on the subject, I don`t think it`s good enough just to trot out the old cliché, about it being a team game and we all need to defend! We need a good defence, full-stop! And with cards on the table, our central defenders simply lack the necessary quality!

However, is it really the manager`s fault (other than picking them), when players make individual mistakes. This is indeed always contentious, but can be indicative of a variety of problems, from indifferent coaching to a lack of confidence and ability. Bogdan`s howler against Yeovil was one such example. Very unfortunate, but also very expensive in terms of points lost! But as the saying goes, ‘once they cross the white line`, there`s not a lot the boss can do! It`s literally out of his hands!….Or is it?

Without a change of players, I cannot see how this situation will radically alter. The manager swears that he and his staff work their socks off trying to put these glaring inadequacies right. But, the question is, are Dougie and the rest of them on the right lines? Are they up to scratch? Have they really got the answers?

It`s true that most of Bolton`s players were signed by Owen Coyle. Therefore, it`s difficult to severely criticise the present coach, for not producing a successful team with someone else`s players. But, Dougie does have a smattering of his own lads in there, and there`s plenty of evidence from the past of others who have done it! People with the talent, experience and expertise, that is!
No doubt, empathy is a great teacher, and if we put ourselves in his shoes, we should try to understand some of the constraints he works under. For me, the £500,000+ salary, is almost an irrelevance! Contentious I know, and it will ruffle a few feathers, but I can`t see him being any the less motivated, if he were on a quarter of that. I believe he is a fully committed and proud professional, no matter what!

Having reiterated that he has to pick mostly Coyle`s players, some of them are good and some are not! Some try and some don`t! But has Dougie himself, bought well?…..
“Yes and no”, is the answer! To his credit, he has brought in some good players, for next to nothing – Hall, Medo, Tierney, Baptiste and hopefully Moritz, to name a few. On the other hand, some of his loanees have been less than impressive. As a striker, Jermaine Beckford has been an unmitigated disaster! And a complete waste of precious funds! I suspect most fans could readily have told him that in June!

Dougie has no money to spend and if he had, then he is still constrained by the ‘Financial Fair Payments` league! Even though, it appears that others are not, such as OPR and Nottingham Forest! But, could this be another huge ‘con` to deflect criticism from the powers that be at the Reebok! Personally, I think not! I`m prepared to believe that we are stoney-broke! However, how we got into that predicament in the first place, is another matter entirely!

Perhaps then, the only way forward is a coherent youth policy. In the past, both Freedman and Coyle, have protested that they have put an effective youth programme in place, that will serve the club well in the future. They put their complete faith in this conveyor belt, with the promise that it will lead to success in ‘X years` time`! They are to be heartily applauded for this, but of course, we`ll have to wait to see it reach fruition. I have to say that I am sceptical! But if anyone can do it, I believe Freedman is the man to succeed here.

In the meantime, what do we do?….Do we need a quick fix?

To some extent, you have to say that we do. In the same way that Dawson filled the bill last season. The alternative may be relegation! We do need two or three quality players in key positions, at the back and up front, to get results and raise confidence. Maybe Dougie signed them last week in Feeney, Danns and McNaughton! You never know! Certainly, Feeney did himself no harm and showed decent ability and bags of energy and commitment. And we now know he can take a throw in! What a plus that could be (particularly with Knight at centre-forward…ho! ho! ho!)……Or with hindsight, should we have kept SKD!

On a more serious note, some will vigorously argue that the manager should go now. That he just doesn`t possess the nous to move Bolton forward. That he is a bag of wind, basically and should be replaced. But even if there was someone out there and available (other than Nigel Clough), that policy would be very expensive (as I`m sure Sunderland are about to find out). If we have any spare cash at the moment, I`d rather see it spent on the team, than paying off present staff and purchasing new!
So, after all that, does Dougie Freedman pass the ‘acid test`? In other words, does he possess the attitude, charisma, intellect and determination to succeed at the Reebok?

Well, despite our obvious problems, I am going to say that he does, and I`m in favour of retaining his services. We must take into account his past record at Crystal Palace and also the second-half of last season, when we were almost unbeatable. He did make mistakes, particularly in the match against Blackpool, but he has a wealth of experience in the Championship and understands its vagaries better than most.

I do worry that his teams don`t seem to score enough goals, but arguably, he has had to concentrate on improving the defences at both clubs for survival. At the Reebok that has not been an easy task, with no transfer money to help and is obviously still a work in progress.

I am also critically aware that both Zaha and Dawson have played a big part in his ‘success` so far and to some extent may have masked his real ability. But the reverse also applies.

Finally, we need him to stay for the duration. I like him as a person and have faith in his commitment and ability to turn the club around, sooner rather than later. Certainly, his utterances connect with the average supporter. He will of course, have to do it without sufficient funds, in the immediacy. But, he will come out the other side, all the better for it and develop into a good manager for this club in the future. Indeed, we may be arguing two or three years down the line, how we are going to keep him!


8 Replies to “BWFC Guest Article: Is It Time For A Change?”

  • Well, we are living in, as both the mythical Chinese saying and the Terry Pratchett novel go, Interesting Times. And in true Pratchett style, The Luggage is following our every step, having been gifted to DF by OC. Fortress Reebok may as well be perched atop four elephants standing astride a giant tortoise swimming through space. It’s all gone to pot. DF is being forced to try to build a team with string, pieces of shredded paper, sticky-back plastic and washing-up liquid bottles, whilst the gold and silver sits in the corner being lazy and polishes itself. If things carry on as they are, what are our chances of promotion? Nil. What are our chances of relegation? I’d like to say slim, but I’m not convinced I’m right. If we sack the manager, what are our chances of promotion? Nil. What are our chances of relegation? Put simply, we don’t know because we can’t know. The risk is that we get a manager who loses even more often than we do now. We can’t do much about the fact that we have a set of players who don’t care about winning; only the end of this season and next can do anything about that for us.

  • I agree with a large amount ofwhat Barney has to say above and by the way its a great piece Barney. However Iam slightly at odds not only with Barney but I fear many of you with regard to where improvements need to be made. It looks to me that the defence we had until the second half on Saturday were finally doing well with Ream and Mills in the centre there seems to be some much needed solidity. Obviously the injury to Teirney is yet another bitter blow but I hope McNaughton will help to negate the impact that might have. With the exception of Chungy the midfield looked pretty good too. The problem is that for all their good work in the first two thirds nothing is happening in the third that really matters. Beckford looked much much better when he came on this week than he did in his last game, however compared to the disinterested Ngog anything would be an improvement. Therefore I firmly believe all efforts should be on finding a striker, or trying one we have in the squad, I do think two up front is the way to go maybe Beckford and Knight!!! After all Knight made one and nearly scored another in the last three minutes and that is more than we can say about any of the strikers at the club so far this season!

  • On the subject of Knight, whilst we all know his failings he looked like a man who really cared when he came on. I don’t believe the booing was in any way justified, for one thing what else could DF do? For another he chased everything down including the cross that led to the goal. We need more of that as it is lacking in the first team.

  • The final three minutes on staurday we looked like a team (for the first time this season) who wanted to win and could win. I rolled my eyes when Feeney signed in the week, but his wing play highlighted exactly what we have been missing. Chungy and Eagles are two guys who would rather hang around the half way line and then attack down the centre, which usually results in a crowded penalty area and a broken down attack. Feeney was beating the man on the touchline and whipping crosses in to players who found themselves in space – space that had been created by defenders coming across to mark the wide man! It seems to have been a problem all season – we have never looked like a football team, instead we have been a collection of players with a lot of talent who cant play together. When we play guys who can do the job that is required we can get results and I think this is exactly what DF was doing when he brought the three new guys in this week. Get some journeymen in to do the job that is required and allow the talented players to flourish. If it means dropping Chungy, Eagles, Medo etc then so be it.

  • Good Article Barney.

    A couple of things to note though. Fair enough that he tried to sign a goal scorer in Beckford, who I think will come good eventually and in fact showed glimpses of that when Feeney came on. He must have thought thank god I’ve got some service around here.

    However rather than Spearing surely our priority was CD after Dawson had left, not another midfielder.

    Perhaps the goal Boggers conceded helped to galvanise the side and perhaps was the kick up the backside the team needs. Hopefully we might see the effects tomorrow night – here’s hoping. Then again having played Odelussi in the cup against Shrewsbury and the lad gets a brace why did Dougie drop him straight away. I’m sure that worked wonders for his confidence – not. Surely the manager knows the two players who are definitely not interested in the fight and should go Lee and Ngog. I don’t know what’s going on in their heads but they both look disinterested and out of form and right now we don’t need that kind of player in the side.

    So unfortunately Blackpool is going to bring about inevitable changes. If we can’t get a striker on loan and obviously a left back, then let’s utilise some of the youth. Get Odelussi on along with Zac Clough and suppoerters, give the lads a chance instead of writing them of after 90 mins

  • Chungy is coming in for plenty criticism at the moment, because he didnt shoot?? His all round game has been decent, he is also low on confidence hence his fear of shooting and indecision but up to that oint he has been one of the better players. I think its unfair on him, why is Eagles not coming in for the same criticism? Spearing has been no where near the player he was last season, Medo was better on Sat but hasnt been great…Chungy works very hard and IS trying but lacking in confidence like most of them, we need to get behind the team and take some of the pressure off them

  • I’d much rather Chungy and Eagles were sat on the bench and Hall and Odelusi were hugging the touchlines. Just because something is expensive doesn’t make it good – Berahino, the hero of the hour at Old Trafford for West Brom, earns £850 a week. That’s approximately £44k/year, or what some of our players earn in less than a month. Does that mean Chungy or Eagles should start, because they earn more than an Old Trafford match winner? Not exactly. They should only start if they’re playing well enough to justify their selection.

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