Date: 1st December 2013 at 3:29pm
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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.


27 Replies to “BWFC: No Mercy”

  • Seems we’ve sacrificed creativity for rigidness away from home and we never look like scoring. Given one vs Watford, no goal vs Boro

  • having looked at all 22 fixtures through to the end of March I envisage as many as 10 draws, 7 wins, 5 losses, killing off our season, of course its entirely hypothetical but the obvious outcome is attacking play, victory while risking defeat holds the key. Real progress relies on taking 3 points a game, a huge task and not realistic especially if we turn in results like yesterday.

  • I don’t think either the write-up or the comments are particularly fair. On another day, if everything had gone his way, Beckford could have had two penalties and five goals. We were certainly cagey in the first half, but in the second half we could have conceivably had three goals in the first 10 minutes and shut the game down. Defensively, apart from Ream’s moment of madness to give away the penalty and Lonergan’s awful punch early on, we were superb, we competed in the possession stakes and created far more meaningful chances than Middlesbrough did. Sometimes it just doesn’t run for you, and it didn’t run for us on Saturday. If we play like that in our next three games we’ll get three wins.

  • The run had to come to an end at some point, it’s hard to take when you miss a golden opportunity to secure a point but you have to move on. I would have taken a point before the game and can take some comfort in the fact we defended very well and it would have been another clean sheet apart from a penalty. J-Beck had a few chances and should have scored the penalty but what we need is a goal threat from other areas of the pitch. I think Moritz has done enough to get himself a start tomorrow night and would like to see Hall get a run of games. It seems if Beckford doesnt score then we are finding it hard to score. DF has sorted us out defensively but we now need to integrate a greater threat whilst maintaining the solidity but Beckford isnt going to score in every game and others need to take responsibility.

  • Rob – you are right in many respects but not wholly right, there are two pitfalls in what you say – it didn’t run for us – by that you mean missing chances and a penalty, well I guess that’s the difference between those at the top and bottom of the league – every game depends on putting the ball in the net more times than your opponents, or am I missing something. To say a repeat of Middlesbrough in the next 3 games is three wins in the bag defies logic, we lost the game. Everyone seems to cherry pick segments of reality, small parts of the facts refusing to look at the whole picture, the last few weeks it was all about the 8 game run, ignoring the previous 8 game run. Look at the league table it does not lie and forget all talk of making the play offs, as proved on Saturday supported by our position in the league we have a 50% chance of coming away with nothing from a game as opposed to anything else. On another note, Dave Whelan finds himself in a similar position to Gartside last season with a bad appointment to put right, Whelan knows with £90 million a year up for grabs he cannot afford a manager who gets it wrong and 14th in the table says he was getting it wrong. It remains to be seen if either club can make good and improve their worth, the parallels are interesting especially when nothing is guaranteed – I await our next 3 results

  • So what you are saying Mike, is that there is no way in which a team can play well if they do not win the game? That defies logic – you will see it countless times where the best team of the game doesn’t win. Didn’t go to the game on Saturday so I can’t really comment on how we played but from GMR it sounded fairly easy for us in the first half. I would be inclined to side on robmoss2k’s opinion it sounds like he might have seen it with his own eyes. On game lost = we’re awful. Eight games unbeaten = we’re not good enough. That seems to be what it is like with some people.

  • I did in fact see the whole 90 minutes with my own eyes. So what you’re saying, Mike, is that Leicester aren’t good enough because they lost 2-0 to Nottm Forest three games ago? Burnley and QPR aren’t good enough because they both lost 2-1, to Huddersfield and Doncaster respectively, this weekend? For the last 9 fixtures, we’re 4th in the form table, with the tightest defence in the league – conceding only 6, better than the 7 Burnley, Blackpool and Charlton have let in, Leicester’s, QPR’s and Wigan’s 8 or Blackburn’s and Brighton’s 9 – and we’ve scored 11, which puts us about half way between Derby’s 19 and Wigan’s 6, and in line with the majority of the league apart from the extremes those two occupy. Does it mean that because Beckford had a bad day today the rest of the recent turnaround is irrelevant? Hardly. He was in all the right positions, he just had a bad day at the office. Jordan Rhodes has those, too. So does Charlie Austin. And so did Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry and Pele. I’m not going to get too downbeat about losing our longest unbeaten run since 2006, it was going to end somewhere.

  • once again your looking at the little bits that suit your own argument, forget the 8 game run and Saturday’s game, the season is made up of 46 games. We were the better team Saturday and lost, I never said that makes us awful and I never said the best team always wins, as illustrated the week before at Watford. What I am saying is after 17 games we sit 16th in the league on 19 points, we marginally have a little over half of the points we should have at this stage ( 34) if a promotion spot is to be realistic or credible. All the signs suggest a mid table finish is the more likely outcome. I am greatly relieved our form has picked up, taking us away from the bottom, but that is all it has achieved to date, we would have to go on an incredible winning streak if we were to accelerate up the table and get within touching distance of the play off spots,. For that to occur we need to find the net and win the games we dominate when our form is good, otherwise we will see a repeat of the last 2 games, one step forward and one step back. As for tomorrow night I sense a draw, of course I hope to be proved wrong but our failure to hit the net with regularity leaves us exposed to drawing more games than we should. Blind optimism bias should not overtake the reality or the facts, if we can continue to improve and grow in confidence far better results should follow, however, as highlighted by others the managers reluctance to change things on Saturday illustrates an approach that has not been reaping the returns we hope for, questions are asked about the lack of substitutions and not giving the new lad a start, maybe its just as well for Freedman that Whelan is not our Chairman.

  • The situation with Wigan is completely different to the one we are in. Their manager left them, he wasnt sacked, Coyle was then given a 1 year rolling contract by Whelan…this alone shows you that he wouldnt be given time to turn things around. What our club needs after periods of uncertainty and numerous managerial changes is STABILITY, if that means staying in this division for a few seasons so that we can build then so be it. As you mention Mike the season IS 46 games long so why not give DF that time and see where we end up-is there a guarantee that if we sacked him we will get promoted, if there is then i wouldnt complain if her was sacked on the spot but there isnt. You pick at others saying they are for only seeing the recent 8 game run and being blind or whatever but you are fixated on the 8 game run prior to that. We have had a bad run, we had a bad run last season, look where we ended up. My thoughts are you were made up when the run ended on Sat so you could post your doom and gloom on here. You cant win every game, you cant score every game, you cant play well every game, the reason for this is that two teams play a game of football and you cant control the other team, at some point they will have a chance, one chance, like Boro had with the penalty, could result in a goal. We didnt take a golden chance but thats life and we wont be talking about that after we have played Huddersfield and Doncaster this week.

  • moonpig -You fail to explain what you mean when you say we need stability and how do you measure your expectations ? reference to what DF achieved last season says what ? – we finished 7th but currently sit 16th suggesting we have underperformed or gone backwards, did the manager realise our potential last season ? should we have done better in the Blackpool game ?, this season should we be up alongside Leicester? I am not a doom and gloom person I am a realist, in football there are no guarantees, you measure progress against results and the ability to take the opportunities when they come around. I want the team to win, to be successful, personal affinity to any manager should not over rule the clubs objectives – 18 months ago we were a premiership club, getting back remains key to our finances and our survival, our chance of promotion this season has literally gone already, faced with the mountain of debt every season in the championship seriously weakens this club, there will soon be nothing to build on , quite the contrary, its already happening – we cannot afford the wages better players command and the annual interest charges are already crippling, once the parachute payments end and interest rates start to rise we are gone. Missing promotion last season was devastating, missing it this year will be a killer blow. We all know the ideal target is averaging 2 points a game, having such an horrendous start to the campaign means we now face a catch up that requires 2 points a game minimum here on in just to try and hit the play offs, given we average just over 1 point a game tells its own story. I don’t blame DF for any of this, the mistake was made in appointing him. Whelan at Wigan is not taking his eye of the overall objective, he made a similar mistake to Gartside in appointing OC , he cannot afford to repeat the mistake again which is where the parallels are drawn, I suspect he will go for an experienced man and that could prove to be the difference.

  • 10 years ago we were a strong Premiership team, I was a handsome, slim chap with a lovely head of hair. 10 years later we are a Championship team with ambition to get back to the top table. I am now not as handsome, a bit fatter with a retreating hairline. Times change and you need to play the cards you are dealt. There is nothing gain by wishing it was 10 years ago. It ain’t happening. Stop going on about the past – we can’t change that. The difference between the Wanderers and my faltering appearance is that given the right conditions they can actually turn back the clock but hopefully learn from previous mistakes and not get fat again

  • The mess that DF has taken on isnt his fault…he has a plan for the future of the club both financially and on the pitch. He took a risk by coming here, a lot of people dont realise that. Yes we should have won the Blackpool game but can you blame HIM for us not getting into the play offs?? I dont think you can, i think he did outstandingly to get us to the point he did and he should be given credit for that. Tell me Mike, if we go another 8 unbeaten after the Boro game should he still be sacked? If we finish 7th again should he be sacked? If we get to the playoffs but fall at the final hurdle should he go then?? If DF goes, a new man comes in and wants to build HIS team, so he wants money, he wants to move players on, he wants to change tactics and formations, coaching, backroom staff…This is what i mean about stability, you need to see the bigger picture. Half the reason we are in this mess is because we have hired and fired too frequently since BSA left and the reason we did so well with BSA was the fact that he had a vision and everyone backed his vision and allowed him to build, DF needs that same backing. If anyone is short sighted it is you. Do we get Holloway, get promoted, sack him midway through, get some other journeyman, get relegated anyway, replace said journeyman midway through the next season. Where do you draw the line, you cant keep going that way and that is why DF needs time to build and a year is nowhere near enough. You say getting to 7th means nothing because it is in the past, well 8 games without a win is also in the past so forget about that, along with the 8 games unbeaten, also in the past…lets look forward to the two home games, the game at Wigan and the Xmas period and see where we are going into January.

  • At no point in my comments of the last 6 weeks or so do I say DF should be replaced, I belief he will see out the 2 years remaining on his contract unless events unfold to the contrary. I do look forward to the upcoming games and agree with moonpig on viewing where we sit come January, I would extend that to late March after we play all the top teams. I do blame the managers inexperience and uncertainties on the Blackpool result last term and our failure to get promoted but that’s history. As for the whole picture I view his performance since the day he started, as for coming to the club he didn’t have a contract at Palace, Gartside gave him 3 years on £500,000 a year, that’s why he came. Gartside and ED dictate the road we go down DF simply deals with the players. I am not the doom merchant, I only comment on the facts, reality itself is the grim reaper. Whatever happens sits beyond our control, as true supporters to the club we will continue to wish for the best wherever we end up, I certainly don’t mind agreeing to disagree on many points, that’s the beauty of open debate and seeing issues from every individual opinion.

  • I can see both sides to a point. But one question remains and that is are we showing way too much respect to the opposition.?? Witness Watford 0 Yeovil 3. They had a go and won handsomely. We played it tight and got lucky with Almunia’s howler. No shocks if we play one up front against the two Yorkshire teams this week. Only when we go behind do we show intent to attack. Talent plus percentages will never win you leagues. Talent plus commitment, desire, drive, and a will to win at all costs will. Which is it to be for us?

  • If we had won the Blackpool game who’s to say we would have been promoted, there would still have been 3 games. We didnt reach the playoffs because we gave ourselves far too much to do earlier in the season, this season we have started a bit earlier! DF had around 8 months of his contract remaining, they were close to the top of the league, he had a choice to make, stay with a club that he loved and whos fans loved him and hope they give him an extention or go to a team who he has no affiliation with, moving a long way away from home? That is a risk, you talk about the £500k as it its £5m! £9.5k a week minus tax is a drop in the ocean compared to some, especially when the likes of Pulis are on treble that! You have said many times Mike that DF should be sacked, you confirmed that you thought he should have been sacked after the Blackpool game. If you cant see that this club needs a period of transition to sort out the finances in line with FFP, to bring the wage bill and average wage down, to work on the academy and integrate younger players – all of this takes time, as does building the team that HE wants, not getting stuck with players that are surplus to requirements – this takes time, contracts have to run down. Players adapting to tactics and game plans takes time, at the moment they are following things to the letter, not taking risks because the system and tactics arent second nature, once they are and players become more confident you then see them express themselves and play with more freedom, it all takes time

  • I’m not really looking at little bits. I’m looking the latest 20% of the season, which is quite a lot. If we carry on defending the way we have done for the last 9 games – conceding at a rate of 2 goals per 3 games – we’ll only let in about another 20 goals all season and we’ll come away with about 18 clean sheets. That defence, to me, looks better now than it did when Dawson was here. We’re conceding very few shots on goal, very few goals are hitting the back of the net and the whole team is organised around conceding as little as possible. I know some people prefer the Kevin Keegan “all-out-attack-always-finish-second” style of football, but I’ve always respected a good defence more than a good attack (because a team that concedes fewer goals and scores fewer goals almost always finishes above one that scores more goals and concedes more goals with the same goal difference). You’re right to suggest we’d need a ridiculous winning run to finish in an automatic promotion spot, but to suggest we’d need such a run to finish in a play-off spot when we’re only 9 points off the play-off places seems a little silly. It’s only three more wins than the sides above us over the course of the next 29 matches, that’s hardly an incredible winning streak. And in what sense was Freedman reluctant to change things? We were in control of the game, with 20 minutes remaining he brought a tiring Pratley off for Moritz who showed some flashes of brilliance, as soon as we conceded he brought N’Gog and Mason on for Lee and Medo and went for it, we got a penalty but unfortunately Beckford put it over – what more do you want him to change? Do you want him to “try something just in case” when we’re in control of the game after 12 minutes? What will you say when it goes wrong? And what are these signs that you can see which nobody else can which point to a mid-table finish? It’s entirely possible that we might only be 4 or 5 points shy of the play-offs come Saturday evening, considering who has to play who. And watch what happens to Burnley, QPR and Leicester in January when the struggling Premiership clubs come knocking for Ings, Austin and Nugent… Just because you’ve made your mind up about DF doesn’t mean the season ends in December, Mike.

  • In terms of playing with freedom – that will probably happen once one of Moritz, Mavies or Holden gets fit enough to be a regular starter. In terms of playing with only one up front, that will probably happen until Mason stakes his claim for a regular starting place or Craig Davies regains his fitness. What do you want him to do with the forward line – play Beckford plus someone crap/unfit/unproven when we’ve been doing well with just him up front?

  • Percentages it is then. Very poor and very prdictable. One pace no momentum concede then chase the game with an unbalanced line up including Zathaniel up front. Just terrible. Avoid victory vs Donny and I think a Whelanesque Ghost Of Christmas Past will be appearing to show Doogster the errors of his ways.

  • Surely nobody who was at the game tonight can be happy with the way the team played? After about ten minutes they lost all direction, impetus and even will to win. They cant string two passes together. Most worryingly the newer players are now looking as bad as the rest. Maybe with the exception of Danns. I don’t totally blame Dougie. The players looked for large parts of the game like they don’t care. There were 4 or 5 who looked half decent, the rest were an embarrassment. MY ratings for tonight are Lonergan 7, Ream 7, Knight 9, Mills 6, McNaughton 2, Hall 7, Medo 5, Spearing 3, Moritz 5, Danns 8, Beckford 8, Subs Chungy 7, Mason 5, Ngog 1. The only players who deserve to start the next game are Knight who despite a couple of errors was constantly working,blocking,running and geeing up the rest of them. Danns who had another industrious game although without much success. Ream who is not only solid at the back but ventures forward well. Beckford who looked dangerous all night but did waste some decent chances. Finally, Hall he looked tricky and difficult to play against and at points there were 4 marking him!! Unfortunately we couldn’t take advantage of that. Now the bad, Mills is totally unable to go forward or even start an attack its just lump it forward time and again. Medo, how anybody was going to pay £10m for him is a mystery, he just seems to run in circles and lose the ball then foul an opponent. Moritz was poor and deserved to be replaced, he seemed to have lost the guile that was evident only two games ago. Finally the ugly, Spearing…he is supposed to be captain but looks disinterested for large parts of the game. Like Medo, he runs around alot and loses the ball. I would like to see him marshaling the team but he seems unable to do so. McNaughton was awful tonight, I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt though as he has played well in every other game I have seen so I hope it was a one off. Ngog… the hell does the guy keep getting any time on the pitch? He is AWFUL the most lazy wasteful disinterested player I have ever seen and thats just watching him warm up!!! As soon as he came on I knew the game was lost. Lonergan, Chungy and Mason didnt either have enough to do or time to do it. I do however come back to the point I made a couple of weeks ago. Dougie appears to struggle to change things when it isnt working Plan A didnt work tonight, nor did plan B and plan C wasnt really a plan at all more a case of throwing the kitchen sink at them which almost worked but well you know. I have to say finally that when we got a corner in injury time and Lonergan was looking to the bench to see if he should go forward I was stunned to see Dougie looking at the floor then doing his hair and having a chat with his assistant while not watching either play or his keepers attempts to get some direction which ended with him coming to the halfway line then retreating!!! All in all I am not a happy wanderer.

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