David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘dougie freedman’

A Fine Mess

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

BWFC

After last Saturday’s humiliating defeat at Reading it leaves Bolton Wanderers supporters wondering what can be salvaged from a wreckage of a season. Bolton started the season as one of the bookmaker’s favourites for promotion and with good reason. A strong finish to the previous season saw Bolton just miss the play-offs on goal difference and the summer saw a supposedly strong squad strengthened with what looked like a few decent signings.

However after 26 games Bolton have only managed a meagre 28 points and currently sit 4 points above the bottom three. With confidence shattered after the mauling at Reading it could become a lot worse for Bolton as bigger clubs have dropped out of the championship in recent years.

The one hope to cling to is that the club can somehow shift some of the players who are earning Premier League wages, in return for sub-standard performances on the pitch, to make room for some new signings in the remainder of the transfer window and freshen up the squad. Following last Saturdays game Dougie Freedman was very critical of his players claiming a nucleus of them where not good enough for the championship. This echoes his comments after a heavy defeat at Blackburn Rovers earlier in the season. That time he claimed that players would be sold and big changes were about to happen, they didn’t. As hard as Dougie Freedman tries to move on players other clubs aren’t willing to touch them, as was the case back in August. This transfer window has been equally disappointing so far with the only business being an extension to Neil Danns’ loan and little rumour of new players being brought in.

One player I’m sure most Bolton supporters would like to see back at the club is Kevin McNaughton whose loan spell coincided with the some of the team’s best performance’s this season. It seems to be characters like this that the Bolton squad lacks, players who know how to win in the championship and are willing to work hard for it, although it would be nice to have any players who knew how to win at the moment. With only four fit ‘defenders’ this is an area that desperately needs strengthening, especially at full back and a proper centre half wouldn’t do any harm. Further forward with Jermaine Beckford injured and David N’gog looking likely to leave another striker is a must with Danny Graham so far the only player linked.

As for Bolton’s current managerial situation there seems to be a difference of opinion between supporters as to whether Dougie Freedman should be relieved of his duties or be given more time. I personally would give him a little more time to shift the big earners from the squad and bring in his own players. However with the size of the clubs debt’s that were recently in the news it may be a lot more difficult to bring players in than Freedman could have possibly imagined when he first took the job. He often speaks of developing young players and his plans for turning Bolton into a trading club but there hasn’t been much evidence of this so far. He has signed a number of young players for the development squad who have achieved some eye catching results but Freedman seems reluctant to blood them in the first team. I’m sure they could not do any worse than the current first team and with injury problems again hitting the squad now would be as good a time as any to get them involved. His record with permanent signings has been mixed so far but he does seem to have an eye for a player as shown from his time with Crystal Palace where he was able to build a solid efficient team.

In terms of his tactical approach to games Freedman seems to strongly favour a cautious style of play often with one striker and a player in the ‘hole’ just behind. This has not been successful so far this season and helps to explain why Bolton has won just two games at home. Visiting teams are happy to sit back and have often look comfortable whilst always looking a threat on the counter attack up against a Bolton defence that does not keep many clean sheets. Away from home Bolton have picked up a reasonable four wins but have also suffered heavy defeats at Blackburn, Leicester and Reading. Freedman seems to be trying to find a happy medium between defensive solidarity and attacking flair but it would seem his instincts will always favour a more cautious approach. Towards the end of last season when Bolton were making a play-off push the manager seemed a lot more flexible with his tactics and would pick the team depended on the opposition, with several different formations used. When Bolton adopted a more traditional 4-4-2 in the recent FA cup victory over Blackpool they looked more fluent and it was surprising that many of the stand out performers from that game were than left out of the following match. Freedman may find himself looked upon more favourably by the dissenters if he was willing to adopt a less cautious approach in home games and involve some of the younger players in the first team.

As for the rest of the season hopefully Bolton can avoid relegation and start to climb the league with the help of some new signings in the remainder of the transfer window. An FA cup run would also give the supporters a much needed boost and with Cardiff City at the Reebok Stadium this weekend a place in the last 16 is achievable.

With the eye watering debts that the club has managed to accumulate despite a sustained period in the Premier League, a return to the top flight looks to be a long way off and if the current players don’t knuckle down a drop into the third tier could be a real possibility.  For all of the Bolton squad’s supposed ability, “hard work will always beat talent if talent doesn’t work hard”.

Written by James O’Loughlin, We Are Going Up’s Bolton Wanderers blogger

James tweets at @james_O_L

Unrest at the Reebok

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

DougieFreedman“Big changes planned at Bolton Wanderers,”  “End of the road for some players,“  “No punches pulled,”  promised a local newspaper on Sunday a day after Bolton were thrashed 4-1 at Blackburn. Bolton fans no doubt tuned into the coverage of transfer deadline day with great interest hoping to see the under achievers moved on and two or three new faces brought in. However it was to be a massive anti climax, no-one left, no-one arrived.

The fact that no club was willing to take any of our players speaks volumes. I have no doubt that Dougie Freedman worked overtime to get players out but the lack of interest should not be surprising after the displays they have served up so far this season. Late attempts to bring in Craig Ramage and Michael Kightly failed due to a lack of funds and they instead joined Barnsley and Burnley respectively.

Relegation from the Premier League is really starting to hit home when the money for a couple of loans is no longer available. What Freedman must be thinking now after leaving Crystal Palace for a club with supposedly better resources?

Throughout the summer Freedman has spoken of Financial Fair Play and the need to move players on before he can bring any in. Whilst Bolton kept spending to a minimum over the summer, only parting with small fees for Jay Spearing and Jermaine Beckford, their supposed promotion rivals have ignored these restrictions and continued to spend and heavily strengthen their squads. Bolton supporters could be forgiven for thinking that FFP is an excuse and that the chairman and owner have lost interest.

It appears the club has come full circle from when Sam Allardyce inherited a struggling mid table team in 1999 and its very disappointing to see Bolton’s debts continue to increase, despite receiving over ten years of Premier League TV money.

Certainly it seems some players have lost interest with the performances they have put in since the season started. Any pre season optimism has faded after a miserable August which has returned no league wins in five and elimination from the League Cup by old rivals Tranmere Rovers. It is true the fixture list has not been kind to Bolton with opening games against promotion contenders, Reading, QPR and Nottingham Forest and local rivals Burnley and Blackburn.

Furthermore, a small squad has been stretched once again by injuries to key players, but performances have been unacceptable - highlighted against Blackburn on Saturday who were able to overrun a lethargic and spineless Bolton team. The ease at which David Dunn and Jordan Rhodes were able to score Blackburn’s first two goals was nothing short of embarrassing.

It has become obvious so far that the defence that lacks pace especially in the middle also lacks organisation, the full backs are often exposed due to a very narrow midfield that neither creates nor protects and the forwards have so far failed to take the few chances that have come their way. If things to do not quickly improve it could easily be a season of mid table mediocrity or worse in front of 10,000 fans at the Reebok. Already this season it has been noticeable the dwindling attendances at home matches, no doubt not helped by the lack of investment in the team over the summer.

So how can Bolton go about rescuing this season after such a terrible start? Certainly the return of Chris Eagles should help after he limped out of the season opener at Burnley, he can bring a much needed spark to the midfield and in turn start to create a few more chances for Jermaine Beckford who has contributed next to nothing since arriving at the club. Despite the transfer window ‘slamming’ shut the loan window will soon open for Football League clubs and I’m sure Freedman will be looking to use it to freshen up the squad.

Hopefully those players who are no longer welcome will be moved on and at the very least an upgrade on our current centre backs can be brought in. Finally - and I’m sure something most supporters would like to see – would be a change in captaincy. The current captain Zat Knight has been extremely poor (to put it kindly) this season and does not seem to show any sort of leadership on the pitch. Possibly a reason for Freedman giving him the captaincy in the first place was to try and coax some better performances from the £4 million defender. This has backfired and some supporters made their feelings clear at Ewood Park on Saturday. A more suitable candidate would be Jay Spearing who actually appears to want to play for the club and takes some pride in his performances.

With two weeks now until Leeds visit the Reebok, Freedman has plenty of time to work with the team on the training ground. After his strong post match comments following the Blackburn game such as “certain players not pulling their weight,” it will be very interesting to see what sort of team is selected for the next fixture. Bolton supporters can only hope that the manager backs up his strong words with actions.

Written by James O’Loughlin, We Are Going Up’s Bolton Wanderers blogger

James tweets at @james_O_L

Challenge on the cheap

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

 

DF

After missing out on last seasons play-offs on goal difference, Bolton Wanderers will be expected to head into the 2013/14 Championship season as promotion challengers.

However, continued financial pressures off the pitch may make Bolton’s task all the more difficult. The chairman has spoken publicly of trying to stay in line with the new financial fair play rules and how Bolton still need to adjust to being a Championship club, this despite the wage bill being drastically cut the previous summer.

Pre-season results have been very poor, 4 games, 0 wins. Granted the results of pre season friendlies are not important, performances are and Bolton have looked decidedly mediocre. Sloppy in defence and possession, lacking in ideas when going forward with the only real bright spark being the performances of Rob Hall. This mirrors the pre season of 2012 when Bolton carried their poor form into the season, got off to a dreadful start that ultimately cost Owen Coyle his job. If promotion is to be a realistic target, the Wanderers cannot afford a slow start this time around.

Dougie Freedman has quietly gone about adding to the squad from last season and despite spending very little money over the summer, Jermaine Beckford, Andre Moritz, Rob Hall, Marc Tiernay and Alex Baptiste have all been recruited. In the other direction the main players ‘out of the door’ have been club legend Kevin Davies, Sam Ricketts Marcos Alonso and Marvin Sordell.

Unfortunately it is the loss of loan players Jay Spearing and Craig Dawson that may prove most damaging to Bolton’s hopes in the new season. Both were instrumental in the up turn in form from February onwards that almost saw Bolton earn a play-off place. Dougie Freedman has spoken of his admiration for the pair but a lack of spending power has, so far, made these players out of reach. It may be a case of having to sell before any potential signings can be pursued.

As well as additions to the first team squad Freedman has also been active in adding to the development squad at the Reebok with the signings of the highly rated trio, Connor Wilkinson, Gary Fraser and Hayden White. This is a refreshing change from previous managers at the club who have largely ignored the development squad, whereas Freedman has shown a willingness to involve younger players in his first team squads. Whether these young players are in fact of the required standard or are just making up the numbers, due to a lack of funds, remains to be seen. Although the new signings are not spectacular they should add depth to the Bolton squad that was lacking last season. Freedman has often spoken of the importance of having options off the bench and believes this is the reason Bolton just fell short of the play-offs last season.

After the departure of Marvin Sordell, Beckford will now likely lead the line and Moritz will provide creativity in the “number 10” position, while Mark Davies recovers from a injury.  The signings of Baptiste and Tiernay will fill the void left by Ricketts and Alonso in the full back positions.  Finally the addition of Rob Hall from West Ham will provide competition to Chung Yong Lee and Chris Eagles on the wing. If his pre season performances are anything to go by then Freedman may have landed the club a real bargain. Freedman’s eye for a player may be crucial this season with funds at a premium, and he showed last season with Crystal Palace that it is possible to build a successful team in this division on a shoestring budget.

As far as a promotion campaign is concerned the bookmakers have Bolton as one of the front runners just behind the relegated pair, QPR and Reading, who both visit the Reebok in August. Other rivals Wigan, Watford and Nottingham Forest have invested heavily in their squads and will surely challenge, not to mention last seasons play-off semi finalists Brighton and Leicester.

Certainly if Bolton can display the sort of form that they did in the final third of last season a title challenge is not out of the question. Despite not having a striker capable of scoring 20-25 goals Bolton have enough players in the squad capable of getting into double figures and spreading the goals around. If Bolton can tighten up away from home then a automatic spot may not be out of the question, hopefully this can start Saturday at Turf Moor against local rivals Burnley.

Written by James O’Loughlin, We Are Going Up’s Bolton Wanderers blogger

James tweets at @james_O_L

 

The Final Push

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

After Tuesdays 3-2 defeat at Leicester, Bolton lie one point and one place outside of the Championship play-off positions. The game itself, especially the second half, had a play-off feel to it. An end to end affair it was Leicester who came out on top thanks to Jeffrey Schlupp’s fine volley ten minutes from time. A spirited second half showing from Bolton was not enough to earn a crucial point. The damage was done 5 minutes before half time as two quick fire Leicester goals overturned the early lead from N’Gog’s penalty. Both goals will have to go down as Danny Butterfield errors as he brought down Lloyd Dyer for a penalty for the first then was sucked inside allowing Dyer the freedom of the area to smash in the second. It was a puzzling decision to start with Butterfield especially with regular right back Sam Ricketts on the bench. An error Freedman seemed to recognise by replacing Butterfield in the 59th minute.

With three games to go Bolton still have a very good chance of snatching one of the play-off berths with many of the teams above them still to play each other. Considering Bolton were languishing in 20th position at the start of the February the turn around has been remarkable. After an indifferent start it is fair to say Dougie Freedman has won over the doubters with this impressive surge up the table. Starting with Burnley at the Reebok, Bolton have been on a run that has seen them win 9 out of 14 games. The foundation of this run has been excellent home form, seven straight wins and only two goals conceded. With away form still a little patchy it comes as a bit of relief that two of the remaining three games are at the Reebok starting this Saturday against Middlesbrough. However with the unpredictable nature of the Championship nothing can be taken for granted.

Looking back on the defeat to Leicester, Bolton weren’t just left counting the cost of points dropped but also a season ending injury to David N’Gog. The French striker can be frustrating at times but is certainly the best Bolton have at the moment. His tally of 8 league goals is nothing spectacular but his hold up play and selfless running will be missed for the remainder of the season. This leaves Craig Davies and Marvin Sordell as Bolton’s main striking options for the run in. With Kevin Davies seemingly out of favour it will be up to C.Davies or Sordell to step up and spearhead the attack. N’Gog isn’t the only player who Bolton will miss for the remainder of the season, Jay Spearing will also play no part in the final three games due to a broken toe. This is arguably a bigger miss than N’Gog as Spearing has been Bolton’s most consistent performer this season adding bite to the midfield and a fine range of passing. Should Bolton make the play-offs then it is hoped Spearing would be available, in the mean time Darren Pratley, Medo and young Josh Vela are the midfield options at Freedman’s disposal. There is the option of recalling Stuart Holden from his loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday but he may better off taking the game time given to him as he continues his recovery from serious injury that has kept him on the sidelines for so long.

Other key performers in Bolton’s late season form have been defenders Marcos Alonso and Craig Dawson. After a poor start to his Bolton career Alonso has been in fine form since Christmas and begun to show why Owen Coyle parted with £2million to bring him to the Reebok. Unfortunately he is now out of contract in the summer and looks set to leave on a free transfer with Fiorentina strongly linked as his likely destination. Could it be a coincidence that the contract situation and the vastly improved performances are linked!?

On loan from West Brom, Craig Dawson like Alonso, has provided Bolton with a threat from set pieces and chipped in with a number of important goals. Interestingly Dawson’s loan will expire before the final game of the season after Freedman chose not to renew it before the loan window closed. Bolton have plenty of options to step in for Dawson when he returns to West Brom but whether David Wheater, Matt Mills or Tim Ream can provide the same level of performance remains to be seen.

With Watford looking the most likely to finish 3rd the remaining three places in the play-offs look like a fight between five teams, Brighton, Crystal Palace, Leicester, Bolton and Nottingham Forest. This Saturdays game see’s Middlesbrough visit the Reebok and they themselves are not mathematically out of the play-off picture, in fact a win would see them go just a point behind Bolton. The other two games left are Cardiff away and Blackpool at home on the final day. Hopefully two games that will see the opposition have ‘nothing to play for’ and increase Bolton’s chances of claiming vital points.

At the beginning of the season I fully expected Bolton to be amongst the front runners for the Championship title mainly due to the fact that the majority of the Premier League squad had been kept on. However after a shocking start and change of manager most Bolton fans were forced to reign in their expectations. Most fans accepted that a season of transition would be in store with a potential promotion bid next season. Expectations have since been raised again after such a strong final third of the season, and it would now be a major disappointment if Bolton failed to claim a top six finish. Ultimately it is the hope that kills you.

Written by James O’Loughlin, We Are Going Up’s Bolton Wanderers blogger

James tweets at @james_O_L

Onwards and Upwards

Monday, February 11th, 2013

 

As the boo’s and chants of “you don’t know what your doing” rained down on Dougie Freedman and his players at 1-0 down, I found myself checking the latest scores to see if Bolton were going to drop into the Championship bottom three. With Peterborough, Bristol City and Barnsley all picking up wins this was a crucial three points for the Whites. It really was desperate times at the Reebok but the introduction of Craig Davies and David N’gog on 58 minutes eventually turned the game in Bolton’s favour.

The first half was a tame affair, two well organised teams cancelled each other out with the best chances coming from set pieces. As the game entered the second half you could feel the frustration growing inside the stadium, groans as passes went astray and sarcastic cheering as Adam Bogdan collected crosses. It does appear to be a small minority of boo boys but they can be clearly heard when things are not going in Bolton’s favour. As the argument goes these fans pay good money and are entitled to an opinion however the already fragile confidence of some players isn’t going to be boosted by a negative crowd. If they feel the need to boo why not leave it until full time. This negativity reached a crescendo as Freedman responded to Burnley taking the lead by replacing the lively Steve De Ridder and Marvin Sordell with Craig Davies and N’gog. The ire of the fans, I believe, was not aimed at the subs coming on but the decision not to replace the hopelessly out of form Chris Eagles. It has to be said Eagles has been poor for some time now but he is capable of flashes of brilliance at Championship level. The fact Bolton were chasing a goal probably explains why he was not substituted, added to this de Ridder has not been playing regular football at Southampton. It should also be said that at the beginning of the season Eagles was Bolton’s best player and is still the top scorer with 7 league goals. Perhaps now is the time to give him a rest in order to help him rediscover his form.

Under Freedman Bolton have appeared much more organised than at any time under Owen Coyle. The introduction of two holding players in front of the back four has made Bolton much more difficult to break down (apart from the Peterborough debacle). However this has not been met with universal approval from Bolton fans. Results have been disappointing, but in my opinion, performances are slowly improving. Some good performances in the FA cup were followed by a narrow 2-1 defeat at Watford. By all accounts Bolton were unlucky not to take a point from this game, controlling possession for large periods but conceding two soft goals.

Having had a strong January transfer window and the returning injured players I still believe Bolton can finish the season strongly and reach a much more respectable league position. Certainly the new signings who featured against Burnley at the weekend were impressive. Craig Dawson was excellent in the air against the physical Charlie Austin and appeared to be organising those around him, a quality that Bolton have lacked for some time. As mentioned earlier Steve De Ridder was lively and looks to be able to go past a player but it was the introduction of the muscular Craig Davies that was the biggest positive from the weekend. From this showing he appears to be able to hold the ball up front as well as run in behind the defence this will be invaluable should Freedman persist with his favoured formation of 4-2-3-1. The signing of the highly rated central midfielder, Medo, from Partizan Belgrade further adds to the options at the managers disposal.

On Saturday at least, Freedman “did know what he was doing“.

Written by James O’Loughlin, We Are Going Up’s Bolton Wanderers blogger

James tweets at @james_O_L

Concentrate on the league

Monday, January 28th, 2013

After Saturday’s last gasp 2-1 defeat to Everton in the FA Cup there are plenty of positives for Bolton Wanderers to take into the remainder of their league campaign.

Bolton were certainly more than a match for a team hoping to be challenging for a Champions League spot come the end of the season. In the end it was a half cleared corner that cost Bolton the replay they deserved and as Dougie Freedman said post game, it is the small details that are holding Bolton back at the moment.

Similar lapses in concentration in recent league games at Leeds and at home to Millwall have resulted in penalties conceded and points dropped. However more recent back-to-back clean sheets against Sunderland, in the third round cup replay, and then at Crystal Palace are signs of progress.

Further reasons for Bolton fans to be optimistic for the remainder of the season include the return to fitness of several members of Freedman’s squad. Most noteworthy is fan favourite Stuart Holden, whose all-action displays were sorely missed as Bolton slipped out of the Premier League.

The reception he received as he entered the pitch as a late second half substitute was proof as to how popular he is with the Bolton fans. Another player who has suffered injury problems is Josh Vela. In my opinion he was outstanding in the middle of Bolton’s midfield until he was replaced by the Holden in the 81st minute. Up against Fellaini and Osman he more than held his own and looks to be the brightest prospect to come out of the Bolton youth academy since Kevin Nolan.

Looking at Dougie Freedman’s encouraging record of working with and improving younger players Vela looks to have a bright future at the Reebok Stadium. With David Wheater, Matt Mills and Mark Davies also due to return from injury and new signings Craigs Davies and Dawson adding further competition for places, the squad looks as strong as it has done for some time and should soon begin to climb the table.

In addition to squad members returning to fitness there has been encouraging signs of form from Marvin Sordell. Since signing from Watford on transfer deadline day last January the striker has had well documented troubles. However, when given an opportunity in the recent FA Cup games he has been excellent. The goal he scored on Saturday where he applied the finishing touch to a flowing team move was that of a confident striker.

Bolton have lacked a regular goal scorer so far this season with the favoured front pair of Kevin Davies and David Ngog only managing 10 goals between them. Hopefully Sordell can carry his FA Cup form into the upcoming league games. Also impressive in recent games has been Marcos Alonso and if the rumours are to be believed he has attracted the interest of Serie A team Fiorentina. Whether these much improved recent performances are to put himself in the ’shop window’ and secure a lucrative move when his contract expires in the summer remains to be seen!

With only a few days left before the January transfer window slams shut it would be good to see at least one more new signing to go with the arrivals of Davies and Dawson. Ideally that signing would be a winger to replace Martin Petrov and provide a different option from the often frustrating Chris Eagles. With Chung-Yong Lee also struggling to be able to play two games a week after his horrific leg break at the start of last season, another winger would be a welcome addition to the squad.

Optimistically Bolton could still claim a play off place this season as they currently sit 13 points adrift of sixth placed Middlesbrough. More realistically though a strong end to this season would set the team up nicely for a promotion challenge next year.

Bolton can definitely be heartened by Saturday’s FA Cup performance and now concentrate on the remaining league campaign, starting this coming weekend against the Championship’s form team Watford.

Written by James O’Loughlin, We Are Going Up’s Bolton Wanderers blogger

James tweets at @james_O_L

Freedman Flies The Eyrie

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Devastated. Angry. Betrayed. Palace fans are current experiencing a whole raft of emotions following manager Dougie Freedman’s somewhat surprising departure to Bolton Wanderers. The overriding emotion though is one of disappointment. Disappointment that the man who saved the club from oblivion (or League 1 as it is more commonly known) three times, has jumped ship the first time another team has come knocking.

It is hard to judge Freedman’s actions while little is known about the full circumstances around his departure. Co-chairman Steve Parish has already indicated to Sky Sports News that the move was seemingly more to do with ambition than money. Although that raises the question why a team currently languishing in the lower reaches of the Championship can be considered more ambitious than one in its upper echelons?

One thing is for sure though; Freedman’s departure is another death knell for loyalty in football. Freedman has red and blue blood coursing through his veins. Over the last two decades, Freedman spent 13 years at Palace; first as a player, then assistant manager before his promotion to manager midway through the 2010-11 season. For many fans, he will forever be remembered for his last minute winner against Stockport County in the final game of the 2000/01 season to keep Palace up. Others will never forget the loyalty he showed the club in its darkest days during administration three years ago, when he assisted Paul Hart in steering the club to safety. Yet, these memories may now forever be tainted by the cloud under which he has left.

A lot has been made of Freedman’s recent column in the Croydon Advertiser, in which he stated, ‘I think I’m halfway there in getting the club the way I want it to be, and I’m not the sort of guy to leave jobs half done.’ His words ring somewhat hollow now and perhaps bring Freedman’s integrity into question. Without being in possession of the full facts behind the scenes though, it is not clear whether Freedman jumped or has spent the last few months being edged towards the exit door anyway.

After all, it is only a few months since Palace fans were calling for Freedman’s head, following a particularly sluggish start to the season. Three losses in the first three league games and only four wins in 28 games dating back to last season meant that many fans were questioning whether Freedman was the right man to take the club forward. It is only since Palace’s recent eight game unbeaten run that Freedman’s vision appeared to be coming to fruition.

It makes Bolton’s appointment of Freedman seem all the more bizarre. If they are looking for a quick fix to get them back up to the Premiership at the first time of asking, Freedman is probably not the man for the job. It has taken him three years to get Palace where they are now and he is a young manager, still very much learning his trade. Lennie Lawrence is likely to follow Freedman up north, where he can continue to impart knowledge gleaned from his century (or so) spent in football. Whether Bolton’s fans will have the patience for Freedman learning from his mistakes as he goes along remains to be seen.

Freedman is one of a handful of former Palace players or managers considered a club legend. Another that is likely to have his name thrown around in the coming weeks in relation to the vacant manager’s position is Steve Coppell. In times of crisis, Palace have frequently turned to the quietly spoken Liverpudlian  but his involvement with the club has been limited since he was shown the door in 2000 by the shy and retiring former chairman, Simon Jordan. Palace fans would likely welcome Coppell back, although perhaps the owners need to be a little bolder in their appointment to show they are serious about a long awaited return to the Premier League.

Whoever does come in will inherit a squad high on confidence (the manager’s recent departure excepted). It is well documented that Wilfried Zaha has been playing like a man possessed so far this season. However, that does an injustice to the rest of the squad, who have been playing some of the most exciting football SE25 has seen for many years. The key for the new manager will be to keep recent momentum going so that Palace are still there or thereabouts at the end of the season. Hopefully the owners have not forgotten the effect Trevor Francis’s appointment had on the club, after Steve Bruce left at the turn of the century, in similar circumstances to Freedman’s departure.

So what of Freedman’s legacy? Regardless of the circumstances in which he has left, he will forever be written into Palace’s history books; whether it be as the man who saved the club three times or as the man who masterminded Palace’s win at the Amex Stadium (a feat that will also be written into Brighton’s history books under the sub-heading: ‘First league loss at new stadium’). He has seen the club at its worst and steered it through to brighter days, leaving the fans with many fond memories along the way. It would be entirely unsurprising if one day, further down the line, he adds another chapter or two to the rich history of this vibrant club.

Written by Martin Fitzgerald, We Are Going Up’s Crystal Palace blogger   

Martin tweets at @martinfitzgeral

Comings and goings cause for concern at the Palace

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

The new Championship season may not have even started yet but there are already a few murmurs of discontent rumbling around SE25. Much of this has to do with Palace manager Dougie Freedman’s wheelings and dealings in the transfer market over the close season. This has seen many of the club’s high profile and technically gifted players leaving and being replaced by others that are unlikely to set the Championship alight.

One of the many players to leave was England under-21 right-back, Nathaniel Clyne. Palace fans were resigned to losing Clyne almost from the day he first set foot on the Selhurst Park pitch, back in October 2008. In that debut performance against Barnsley, the teenager showed maturity beyond his years and outshone many of the more seasoned pros on the pitch. It was inevitable he would go on to bigger and better things one day but somewhat miraculously, Palace managed to squeeze four seasons out of him before he finally stepped up to the Premier League.

Clyne’s eventual move to Southampton this summer might not have been where many envisaged he would end up; especially after originally being linked to slightly more illustrious teams such as Manchester United and Newcastle United. However, being able to perform week in week out in the Premier League should give Clyne the platform to push on with his career over the coming years. Very few at Palace will begrudge him that opportunity.

Probably the most surprising departure though was that of Darren Ambrose to Birmingham City. Ambrose, possessor of a foot like a traction engine, had scored many of Palace’s greatest and most important goals in recent seasons. When he wasn’t scoring 25/35/45 yard (depending on amount of hyperbole applied) screamers against Manchester United, he was scoring crucial goals against Sheffield Wednesday on the last day of the 2009/10 season to keep Palace in the Championship. Since Freedman took up the reigns at Palace though, Ambrose never quite fitted into the system the manager opted to play. Despite this, he was one of the few players that could conjure something from nothing and his technical skill will be sorely missed this coming season.

Others to depart included injury-prone man mountain Anthony Gardner and local lad Sean Scannell, leaving the Eagles’ squad somewhat threadbare. Freedman has tried to plug the gaps with players that will do a decent job but would struggle to find their way into the squads of many other Championship clubs. A trio of defenders in the form of Joel Ward, Aaron Martin and Peter Ramage will shore up a defence that kept 17 clean sheets in the league last term. At the opposite end of the pitch, Aaron Wilbraham has been brought in, in the hope that he will score the goals to propel Palace up the league. Wilbraham’s return of two goals from 22 appearances at Norwich City last season will need to be improved on if this is to be the case though.

Palace have as good a backbone to the team as any of their fellow Championship rivals. Goalkeeping stalwart Julian Speroni and club captain Paddy McCarthy form the rock upon which the rest of the team is built. With the ever improving Mile Jedinak marshalling the midfield and Glenn Murray leading the line upfront, Freedman can fill in the gaps with a mixture of some older heads and a few of the club’s plethora of youth players.

Some of the younger members of the squad, such as Wilfred Zaha and Jonathan Williams, have been playing regular first team football for so long now, it’s easy to forget they’re still in their teens. There’s plenty more where they came from though, with the likes of promising centre back Ryan Innis and midfield whiz kid Reise Allassani among those that will be breaking into the squad this coming season.

Palace should realistically steer well clear of trouble this season, even though, as is often the case with the Championship, it’s ridiculously hard to call the promotion and relegation contenders at this early stage. Freedman has already learnt much in his season and a half in management. Last term, Palace were clear from safety about two months earlier than in previous seasons, which was a somewhat alien experience for all involved at the club. Slightly alarming though was how much the results tailed off once safety appeared on the cards. One win and two draws from the last ten games was relegation form and fans will be hoping this does not carry on into the new season.

The lack of any major signings may be a slight concern for some supporters but they would do well to repeat the unofficial fans’ mantra, ‘in Dougie we trust’ over the coming weeks. For, in the shape of the amiable Scot, Palace have a man in charge that seemingly thrives on adversity and the loss of a few key players is small fry compared to saving the club from oblivion three times.

Life’s rarely dull at Selhurst Park and with the new season fast approaching, Palace fans will be once again bracing themselves to expect the unexpected. Besides, it wouldn’t be half as fun any other way.

Written by Martin Fitzgerald, We Are Going Up’s Crystal Palace blogger   

Martin tweets at @martinfitzgeral

Dougie Freedman and The Eagles – two wins from glory

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

It’s impossibly hard to believe that we’ve gotten this far. Crystal Palace were supposed to be in an incredibly down year. After almost losing the team altogether a couple of years ago through administration and narrowly avoiding relegation by a single point two years running, Dougie Freedman wasn’t supposed to take the Eagles to anything resembling glory this quickly.

Yet, here we are. Two wins away from the first ever trophy in the long and sometimes painful history of Crystal Palace Football Club.

Once again, this dream season for the Eagles has plugged another notch into its proverbial belt. Even as Palace were ravaged by a viral infection across the team that knocked them swiftly out of the FA Cup with a 1-0 loss to Derby County, the team managed to sneak off their sickbeds and defeat a far more talented Cardiff City side 1-0 in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-finals.

Paddy McCarthy in particular played a heroic role despite being clearly ill, the way that a true captain should. Other players like Nathaniel Clyne were forced to miss the match completely, which seemed to spell an unfortunate end to the Eagles’ cup hopes. Just like they’ve done all year though, Dougie Freedman has driven Palace to something they by all accounts shouldn’t have done.

This season has been dotted with ‘I can’t believe it’ moments for Palace. The 2-1 comeback win in stoppage time over Coventry City. The 3-1 comeback win at the Amex to hand fierce rivals Brighton and Hove Albion their first ever league loss at their new stadium. Darren Ambrose’s heart-stopping goal to lead Palace over Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford. This almost seems like a team of destiny, the team that the Palace faithful have been craving since the all too short dominance of the early 1990′s faded away.

It seems too good to be true, and truthfully it might just be. Palace legend Dougie Freedman comes into the club for his first ever managerial gig with the team hanging by a thread, makes a couple of brilliant transfers in the offseason and suddenly is fending off a team-wide virus but still up a goal in the Carling Cup semi-finals? And among all of this, the playoff race is not out of hand either with Palace a mere three points from fifth in the table? If you believe in any supernatural deities, you have to think that at this point they’re simply toying with the fans. It’s impossible yet it’s happening before our very eyes.

And now, Palace are left with two more games to go. With a 1-0 lead going into Wales, a win or draw will take them through. Even a 2-1 loss in extra time will carry the Eagles through thanks to away goals. Palace in fact have been quite proficient in recent years at getting 0-0 draws away to Cardiff, so perhaps it’s not quite a pipe dream. After that, it’s Liverpool or Manchester City at Wembley.

It’s too hard to get excited about Palace after the past few years have force fed supporters agonizing loss after agonizing loss. Even this season there has been a fair share of heartbreakers. The FA Cup loss so recently still stings even as we celebrate the 1-0 success over Cardiff. Palace have looked simply lost in games this season during league play. The attack is simply not there sometimes, with Palace scoring fewer goals in the Calendar year of 2011 than any other Championship side.

To see those let-downs combined with the last few years of futility and then to see this year’s victories is almost impossible to comprehend. Two wins away from the first major trophy in club history, in a year when relegation was supposed to be knocking on our door. Two wins away from a cup that the Eagles were knocked out of before they could even blink in 2010.  Two wins away from being able to change the chants of Freedman saving the Eagles from absolute loss into chants of him leading them to glory. It’s all so hard to believe.

But again, here we are. Dougie Freedman is already a legend in the eyes of Crystal Palace’s supporters. He is two wins away from becoming absolutely the greatest Eagle that there ever was.

Written by Chris White, We Are Going Up’s Crystal Palace blogger

Chris tweets at @uzworm

Formidable Freedman Lays Palace Foundations

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

After three unwelcome years of relegation scraps and desperate performances, a quarter of the way through the 2011/12 campaign can give Crystal Palace fans reason to be cheerful. As a Palace fan, I’d forgotten what it’s like to look up the league table rather than endlessly working out how many points we need to beat the drop. But in his rather matter of fact, efficient manner Dougie Freedman has assembled a team playing with confidence, picking up some impressive results and performances and getting the best out of 3 impressive youngsters in particular; Sean Scannell, Wilfried Zaha and Jonathan Williams.

The recent Palace turnaround has been assembled with the minimum of fuss and for the Championship at least, a small outlay. No big earners, no significant transfer fees, but we still find ourselves above Leicester City, Leeds United and Birmingham City. The key difference between Palace of today, compared with the last few years appears to be a new found confidence. In matches where the team has fallen behind, or been pegged back like Coventry City (home), notably against rivals Brighton & Hove Albion (away) or at home against West Ham, previous Palace teams would have surrendered and left empty handed. But on each occasion, the team has fought back to take at least 1 point from the match, and aside from an unlucky defeat against Middlesbrough in the league, are unbeaten at home, as well as three away wins in succession which has taken their points tally away from home to more than they managed to secure all last season.

But looking to the future, Freedman’s foundations have been laid on the talent of three promising players in particular. These talented youngsters, already securing the attention of scouts from a host of Premier League teams will almost certainly mean Crystal Palace have to fend off bids in the January transfer window. Whereas in the past Palace have tended to cash in, with the likes of Routledge, Watson and Moses all leaving for sizeable transfer fees (and wage packets) but rarely enhanced careers, the current trio of previously mentioned youngsters at Selhurst Park would be well served to further their development in south London.

This is a division where consistency rather than out and out quality is often the key to climbing the league and ultimately promotion as the likes of Swansea, Norwich and Blackpool have shown in recent years. And with a Premier League which has an astonishing 7 Scottish managers already, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that they could be joined by another come next year.

Written by Aaron Porter, We Are Going Up’s Crystal Palace Blogger

Aaron tweets at @Aaronporter