A fantastic guest post from Barney Grumble discussing just about eveything.
There seems to be a growing impatience with those in power at the Macron, to relieve Dougie Freedman of his duties. The sooner the better, for some! Fans everywhere appear disgruntled with his performance. A funny word that, ‘disgruntled`. I`ve never heard the antithesis – that is, of anyone being ‘gruntled` before! But that`s bye the bye.
For two years now, opinions and arguments about the manager have yo-yoed back and forth, albeit fully mindful of the enormous task in hand. Initially, some considered that we had seen the second coming and that the messiah was alive and kicking at the Reebok Stadium. Hallelujah!
This rather brash young man had that winning swagger about him. He could talk the hind legs off a donkey. Spoke enthusiastically about his ability, either to bring youngsters through or spot a bargain when he saw one. He could improve the players` fitness, motivation, knowledge and ability. All they had to do was listen and inwardly digest. He would do the rest. After all, look at Crystal Palace. Hadn`t he done it all before!
So, for some of us, it was just a matter of time. He would deliver. Strap yourself in and get ready for the rollercoaster! He and we were going places! Yes, he had some issues to deal with first. He had to get rid of the expensive dead wood. No easy task! But, within eighteen months they were gone. Rooted out! He had saved the club millions in extravagant wages. A job well done.
He replaced them initially with players on loan, who it must be said did sterling work. People like Dawson, McNaughton, Danns, Mason and the Juke. Yet, one was reminded that of necessity, a number of signings were merely cast-offs from other Championship clubs. And unsuccessful clubs at that, such as Millwall, Charlton, and Barnsley. Surplus to THEIR requirements! Players like Beckford who hadn`t ‘cut the mustard` for years! But, this wasn`t just expediency, it was the new realism, promoted from the highest echelons of the club. This was the future, however unpalatable!
Speaking personally, that was always at the forefront of my mind. When, I asked myself, would the newness and excitement of a new club wear off and these lads lose some enthusiasm and revert to being yesterday`s men. Let`s face it, to some extent, a good attitude can make up for a certain lack of ability. But for how long? Sooner or later you will be found out, or quite possibly dragged down by the poor ability/lack of effort shown by your colleagues. Or simply, when exasperation sets in! We are at this latter point now with a number of Dougie`s signings, both on and off the field!
This scenario then, has proved to be the new reality at ‘The Macron` under the Freedman regime – a team of second-raters, cheaply acquired, drunk on hype and quite possibly going nowhere except downwards! His tenure has proved to be no ‘rainbow`s end`. That`s for certain!
However, the alarm bells began to ring for me quite early on, when I heard some of his post-match comments after team reverses. This was new thinking! Different! No doubt, FA inspired! (bring back the old farts!) I was bewildered, even speechless and that takes a lot! Some of these nuggets are indelibly printed on my brain! Never to be forgotten. Stored away for occasions such as this! At best, they were nonsensical! At worst, downright insulting to the intelligence of the fans. But, I don`t believe for one minute that he was merely trying to placate or pull the wool over our eyes. I think he believes every word.
Significantly, he has persisted with some of them to this day eg. Controlling a game without the ball! That`s got to be against every notion of what the game is about! But, he is a naturally defensive character and it shows in his methods and signings to a large extent. It appears that safety-first is a pre-requisite.
He has chopped and changed the team for the sake of it, telling us that young men can`t play football regularly without burn out. They have to be nurtured, unless of course, it`s expedient. He has stuck with very unproductive/defensive formations. He has put round pegs in square holes. He has miss-used his bench. He has indicated that playing well is no pre-cursor to staying in the team (what a thoroughly stupid notion that is!). He has signed some poor quality players for me. And championed their poor contribution. People like Trotter and Moxey to the exclusion of lads like Vela and Kellett. And not got the best out of what he has by a long chalk. You have to cut your cloth accordingly.
How is it that people like Spearing, Feeney or Danns have rarely hit the heights of their loan seasons? Why do heads go down at the slightest set-back during a game? What`s wrong with Chungy and Mavies? They are both pale shadows of their former selves? The whole demeanour of the team at times seems to be one of despondency and bewilderment. Rabbits startled in the headlights – unsure; frightened of making mistakes; of playing football in the opposition`s half; even shooting or producing quick exciting play. The ‘we might get caught on the break`, syndrome.
Where are the leaders on the pitch? There is no one for the fans and players alike to latch onto – to look up to and expect great things from. Why? And don`t come up with it`s simply a lack of money! The real answer is a lack of ability and flexibility on behalf of the manager and coaching staff to get these lads with their heads up, playing a decent standard of football. Something to get the fans` pulses racing, a bit of attacking flair for a change and less of the laborious and pedestrian. In other words, a bit of Dougie`s swagger!
Basically, this is how and why Freedman has failed.
But the Board isn`t entirely blameless. How on earth did they not allow him to sign the Juke during the close season. Apparently, he wanted to come. The fans wanted him to come. Dougie wanted him to come. Surely, those upstairs could have used some of the parachute money to clinch a deal! However, they didn`t and that was a huge mistake, and one that will come back to haunt them! We would not be where we are now if he had signed. It would have been a marvellous fillip for the team. We/they expected great things from him and he delivered. Along with Mason. It was a no risk policy! However, we can`t blame Dougie for that one!
So, what are we to do?
As we are at the moment, we are going down. No question! Even at this early stage. The team has lost all confidence, either in themselves or the coaching staff – or both! The system hasn`t worked. No one is happy with it. Performances on the field have been nothing short of abysmal, both in the Championship and the Capital Cup.
I have to say that for me the team has been on a downward spiral ever since Holden was injured at Old Trafford. We have never recovered from that. And this present manager, like his predecessor, has not taken the team forward one jot. Despite his obvious claims, he is apparently hapless, impotent to reverse this dire situation. Jimmy Philips would have had more success. I truly believe that.
For all his clever answers and ready wit, Freedman has proved by his results that his methods are unsuitable for the players at his disposal and unpalatable to the majority of fans! At Bolton, we don`t have a Zaha to win the game for us! In fact, I suspect that the team has only had success since Freedman arrived, when certain outstanding individuals like Dawson and Juke have consistently performed, organised and led by example. In other words, Dougie just got lucky.
The depression at the Macron is palpable. Fan and player enjoyment is at rock bottom and expectation not much better. This is our 21st century nadir and it must not continue! Everyone knows the financial score. It doesn`t need the manager to tell us to ‘get real`! HE needs to get real and either be sacked, resign or change course (if he can) before we end up in League one.
Over to you, Phil. Your move!