Dougie can learn a thing or two from the ultimate instructor
Daniel Larusso sits with his eyes closed as Mr Miyagi stands behind him, telling the young Jersey boy to imagine the perfect bonsai tree. Once Larusso has formed the picture in his mind, Miyagi turns Daniel`s chair towards the mini-tree and tells him to create the picture.
Fearful of ruining the already beautifully formed bonsai, Larusso asks Miyagi, ‘how do I know if it`s the right one?`
The Okinawa native simply replies, ‘if come from inside you, always right one.`
I would hazard a guess; Dougie Freeman doesn`t prune bonsai trees. But the Bolton boss has definitely formed the perfect picture in his mind of how he wants his football teams to look. This picture, Wanderers` fans are beginning to discover, is completely rigid.
Injuries, suspensions and player performances may force Dougie`s hand on occasion, but Freedman`s philosophy on team unit, regardless of opposition ability, is unwavering,
OK, that`s fine.
Once Dougie got all the right personalities singing off the same song-sheet, Freedman`s picture-perfect set-up worked, especially away from home in the Championship. The plan: frustrating, stubborn, efficient for the opposition to contend in the first 50-60 minutes of the match, leading to counter-attack after counter-attack and 3-points in a 4-2-3-1 set-up. Predictable for opposing managers to contradict? Of course. Easy for opposing managers to overcome such a game-plan? Definitely not.
Dougie`s personal ‘bonsai` philosophy was working yesterday at the Riverside Stadium. A 25,000 home crowd welcoming their new manager`s first home game did very little to intimidate the Wanderers` game-plan. A well-drilled Bolton side were coping with everything Boro could muster. At least 1-goal in every home game for the Boro boys this season, the Whites were forcing the home side- even with 25,000 fans behind them- to go without.
There was a problem with one aspect of the game-plan, though. The counter-attacking side of Dougie`s picture wasn`t firing and with the team set-up to play only one way during a game, a goal seemed very unlikely.
So, what do you do, as manager?
Do you try and hold on best you can for a point? Or, do you throw on some flair, energy and/or youth to snatch all 3 points?
If you are being bombarded from a home-side, well on top, you try and secure the well-earned point. But, if the home-side is tired, devoid of ideas with a jugular so exposed you can feel vibrations from its blood flow, you throw on the necessary incisors to administer the fatal puncture-mark.
Just like the attacking side of Dougie`s picture-perfect philosophy, his substitution policy is also counter-intuitive. Unfortunately yesterday, Freedman dallied in his decisions, Karanks played his hand first and you know the rest.
Our manager is still learning his trade. We are a half-decent Championship side with a gaffer who is showing flashes of brilliance and ineptitude in equal measures. Have we got a future David Moyes steering our ship? Or, have we got another manager who is going to continually bang his head on the Championship ceiling without ever breaking into the Premiership? None of us know just yet, but we`ll all have our predictions.
In the Karate Kid movie, no matter how daunting Daniel`s plight seems; no matter how much karate he can learn before the tournament or the quality in which he can execute it, unless he can find ‘balance`- literally or metaphorically- he may as well forget it- ‘walk before you can fly. Nature rule, Daniel-san, not mine.` Dougie Freedman`s tactical outlook needs more balance, especially during matches when clearly things need to change.
But there is one scene, just after the gauntlet is thrown down by the Kobra-Kai sensei; Miyagi asks Daniel if he`s ready to begin training.
‘Guess so,` Daniel states.
Miyagi places a hand on Daniel`s shoulder and invites him to crouch down, where he tells the teenager the safety of walking on the pavement on either sides of the road. But if you walk in the middle, you get squished like a grape.
‘Either you Karate do yes, or you karate do no; you karate do ‘guess so`? Squish, just like grape.`
Dougie chose ‘guess so` yesterday and his side unfortunately got squished. The mark of a good manager, like any success story in life, is how they react, respond and bounce back from such a hard lesson.
Bolton definitely seem more disciplined nowadays. Obviously a lot of fences have been painted, a lot of floors have been sanded and a lot of cars have been waxed. But if Dougie`s stubbornness towards his ideals and reluctance to change things continue to stifle Wanderers` progress, it won`t just be the Bolton campaigns which get squished.
Freedman`s reputation as a manager will go the way of the turkey sequel, Karate Kid part II.