FREEMAN CAN’T WAIT FOR DOSE OF CUP FEVER AGAINST ALBION
BRISTOL CITY star Luke Freeman says FA Cup heartbreak with Stevenage will spur him on to bounceWest Brom out of the FA Cup.
Freeman 23, was part of the Boro squad that heroically held Spurs to a 0-0 draw at BroadhallWay in February 2012, putting the Hertfordshire minnows in the hat for the quarter-finals.
But, while his team-mates did battle under the lights of White Hart Lane, a crocked Freeman could only watch powerless as the Premier League giants won 3-1.
“It was totally gutting,” recalls Freeman, who came through the ranks at Arsenal before making his name at Boro.
“That first game was brilliant because they had absolutely everyone playing – Jermaine Defoe, Gareth Bale, Scott Parker.They finished fourth in the Premier League that season and we more than matched them.
“I couldn’t wait to go to their place, but we had a league game before the replay and I took a knock. I couldn’t believe it. I worked like mad to get fit but I didn’t make it, which was devastating.
“As an ex-Arsenal boy, I would’ve loved to play at White Hart Lane.
“There’s nothing better than an FA Cup run for a smaller team.When you start to get known as a giant killer, the buzz around the club is almost like winning the league. After missing out last time, I’m desperate to taste that again.”
But for a last-gasp equaliser, City would already be through to a fourth-round tie at home to Peterborough.
Having come from behind to lead 2-1 at the Hawthorns, Steve Cotterill’s side were left shattered by a 95th-minute equaliser from James Morrison, despite the fourth official’s board showing only four to be played.
According to Freeman, it was typical of the luck that sees the Robins struggling in the Championship’s bottom three – and this week cost League One-winning gaffer Cotterill his job.
“It was the same old story,” says the winger, whose side were beaten 2-1 by Preston in Cotterill’s final match.“We played well, dominated the game.Then we got done by another last-minute goal.
“Pretty much every game we’ve played, we’ve been the better side. Looking back, I can only think of Burnley and Derby where you go ‘Fair play, they were a lot better than us’. It’s one of the most frustrating seasons I’ve known.
“If you look at the stats, we’ve regularly dominated possession, had more passes, more crosses, more finalthird entries. Nobody can put a finger on it.
“It’s like we used up all our luck tokens winning League One last year. Look at Preston’s winner on Tuesday night.Their striker tried to control the ball, handballed it, then fell over. But the referee misses the handball, gives a foul and they go and score from it. It’s annoying, but all we can really do is keep working hard and hope things turn around.”
Having failed with a £2m bid for Bolton wonder kid Zach Clough, City remain on the hunt for a new striker.
“It would be nice because we’ve got such a small squad,” adds Freeman.“It’s only 15 or 16 strong, which is tiny at this level. Hopefully we’ll get a few players through the door and give the place a bit of a lift.”
And, if the new man is anywhere near as successful as Jonathan Kodjia – signed from French Ligue 2 winners Angers for £2m in the summer – City could finally stop relying on luck.
“Jonathan’s done really well,” says Freeman.“I know a few teams were interested in him over the summer. Reading certainly were.
“But we were the ones who put the money up and got the deal done and it’s just as well we did.To score ten goals in a struggling side is impressive and you saw against West Brom the quality he has.
“It’s just a shame his English isn’t as good as his finishing!”