Dougie Freedman, Aime Jacquet & Broken Ping-Pong Balls

  • November 18, 2012 | By Largehat
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After Dougie Freedman's mixed start to life as Bolton boss, Largehat compares the current situation with that of the 1998 French World Cup winners.

This post reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Burnden Aces as a website.

Following on from this weekend's disappointing draw against struggling Barnsley, Wanderers fans have started airing gripes and grumbles about new manager Dougie Freedman's team selection and tactical choices, before the ink has even dried on his contract.

Chief among these has been the selection of Jacob Butterfield, who is clearly not fully match fit, ahead of one or two of our 'own' players - and some of my fellow fans are asking why we're doing Norwich City a favour.

Permit me to state the glaringly obvious, but Dougie Freedman is Bolton Wanderers manager and he has brought Butterfield to the Reebok to benefit Bolton Wanderers. That the move is beneficial to Norwich, who are keen for the 22-year-old midfield general to gain match practice, is surely incidental in Freedman's planning.

The comments have a familiar ring to them. Wanderers fans criticised Owen Coyle for selecting on-loan Arsenal striker Benik Afobe ahead of Marvin Sordell. Coyle was accused of doing Arsene Wenger a favour rather than selecting what he felt was the best team available.

Those critics have gone quiet. Clearly there are issues with Sordell's application and frame of mind at the moment, and there are no complaints about his ongoing absence under Freedman. Coyle's decision has been vindicated - both managers have selected Afobe ahead of Sordell for footballing reasons. As has England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce.

For Coyle and now for Freedman, the need to achieve promotion for Wanderers this season is a heavy cross to bear. Personally, I don't care how they do it - be it via the utilitarian methods employed by Sam Allardyce at West Ham United last season, with an army of loan players and short term signings, or with our 'own' players.

All that matters is promotion. Everything else is largely irrelevant.

In all this, I'm vaguely reminded of the bitter criticism and abuse aimed at French national coach Aimé Jacquet in the mid 1990s.

Jacquet refused to select Eric Cantona, David Ginola and Jean-Pierre Papin. The French media and public - renowned champions of flair players - put Jacquet under sustained pressure to reinstate the trio of artisans, but he resisted. By the time Jacquet led his nation in to the World Cup in 1998, the wolves were at the door, expectant of failure and ready to lament Jacquet's intransigence.

The outcome was that France were the best team in the tournament, destroying holders Brazil in the final, and Jacquet was completely vindicated.

Dougie Freedman is still figuring out his options. Although 6 points from 4 games is a modest return, Freedman's Bolton Wanderers are unbeaten - and deservedly so, having played some of the top teams, and it is not difficult to imagine Coyle's side would have capitulated to defeat in at least one of these games. There has been an improvement.

If Freedman wants to bring Darren Pratley in from the cold, or employ David Ngog in a wider role, or integrate a loan player he thinks will benefit the team, then that's fine with me. I'm not even going to formulate an opinion on Freedman's performance until February when he has had a couple of months to get his feet under the table and make his mark on the squad.

Following Bolton Wanderers has been wholeheartedly miserable for approaching two years now and we are all desperate to be proud of our team and club again.

The demise of Owen Coyle was the first step in the club moving forward on the pitch, but any new manager needs time - and fans' patience - to lift fragile confidence, reorganise the side and inculcate new methods.

Imagine playing table tennis at work every day for two years, until one day when a new boss comes along and stamps on your ping pong ball. That's going to annoy you, even if playing table tennis was never an appropriate way to be whiling away your working day.

There's a team in the Championship that Dougie Freedman has already built. That team was relegation haunted when he took over. He assembled it on a shoestring budget. He organised it from the back. He brought in a few bargain signings and young players from the youth team. Then he got it playing football his way. It is the only away side to win at the Reebok this season and sitting pretty at the top of the league.

I know how important it is to for Wanderers to climb the Championship table, but we can't expect the new manager to impose his ideas to achieve that without some element of trial and error, and I would encourage Wanderers fans to exercise circumspection for a little while yet. And perhaps to think of Aimé Jacquet and a trio of superstars who never played for France again. Happy Wandering.

Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
11 Ipswich Town 20 27
12 Cheltenham Town 19 27
13 Bolton Wanderers 20 26
14 Accrington Stanley 19 24
15 Charlton Athletic 20 23
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