Don’t blame Dougie for bat­tered Bolton

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - Chris Dunlavy A FRESH TAKE ON FOOT­BALL

BOLTON is not the place to be at the mo­ment. Lit­er­ally. Against Bournemouth on Satur­day, the Ree­bok was so des­o­late I thought their fans had come dressed as plas­tic chairs. But no, it re­ally was that empty. Which is no sur­prise when you con­sider Dougie Freed­man’s men have won just twice at home all sea­son, the worst record this side of Yeovil and Birm­ing­ham.

Freed­man is tak­ing plenty of stick, as are his play­ers. Af­ter they squan­dered a 2-0 lead to scram­ble a ninth home draw of the cam­paign last weekend, boos cas­caded from the stands as frus­tra­tion turned to fury.

Such feel­ings also rum­ble through cy­berspace.You need only pe­ruse any mes­sage board – and Freed­man cer­tainly won’t – to wit­ness the al­most uni­form an­tipa­thy to­wards the Scot.

I do fear for him. As both Gary Meg­son and Owen Coyle dis­cov­ered to their cost, noth­ing twitches a chair­man’s trig­ger fin­ger like fall­ing gates and febrile ter­races.

Sense­less

But I also pity him. Be­cause when I watched that team on Satur­day, I saw him be­ing let down – as Coyle was – by a bunch of bot­tlers who re­acted to con­ced­ing a goal by wav­ing a white flag. Is that Freed­man’s fault?

Sure, he could be ac­cused of fail­ing to in­spire con­fi­dence. Per­haps he does lack the ebul­lience of a Harry Red­knapp or the su­per­nat­u­ral abil­ity of Jose Mour­inho to en­gen­der fight­ing spirit and de­vo­tion to the cause.

But then, Harry and Jose have never been tasked with lift­ing play­ers beaten sense­less for two years straight. The stats are stark – of the 114 league matches played since the start of the 2011-12 sea­son, Bolton have lost 49.

And too many play­ers – David Wheater, Zat Knight, Chris Ea­gles, Mark Davies, Chung Yong-Lee – have been there for ev­ery gru­elling one of them.

“When you lose,” said for­mer New York Jets coach Her­man Ed­wards, “there’s a go­rilla that jumps on your back. And ev­ery time you lose, it gets heav­ier and heav­ier.”

Right now, there a male sil­ver­back rid­ing merrily round on half the first team, putting lead in their legs and doubt in their minds. That’s not to say they are bad play­ers. But psy­cho­log­i­cally, they are shot to pieces.

Risks aren’t be­ing taken. Sense of ad­ven­ture is nil. Sim­ple tasks that should be in­stinc­tive are over-thought. And ad­ver­sity is met with a slump of the shoul­ders, a re­signed: “Here we go again.” It must sicken Freed­man, a Glaswe­gian grafter who, as a player, made up for any tech­ni­cal lim­i­ta­tions with en­ergy and com­mit­ment.

Me, I don’t for a minute be­lieve that Freed­man would keep a sin­gle one of them if he could af­ford to get rid.

Un­for­tu­nately, Bolton are skint and the play­ers are on Pre­mier League con­tracts; un­less some­body wants to buy them – which is a bit like try­ing to sell Kaoto Star in his cur­rent state – he is stuck.

It is a mis­er­able state of af­fairs for Bolton fans, who are cur­rently watch­ing play­ers they re­sent and a man­ager they dis­trust. No won­der they are voting with their feet.

But they must ask them­selves if sack­ing Freed­man is re­ally the an­swer. Per­haps he could be bolder. Per­haps he should have signed the cre­ative No10 type Bolton so des­per­ately need. These are valid crit­i­cisms.

But ul­ti­mately, a man­ager is only as good as his play­ers, and any new man would en­counter the same prob­lems.

Bolton need a com­plete over­haul and un­til Freed­man can take an axe to his side, he de­serves to be spared the chop.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

Un­der pres­sure: Bolton’s Lukas Jutkiewicz takes on Bournemouth’s Steve Cook watched by Dougie Freed­man

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