Tuesday 23 January 2018

Freedman desperate to lead Bolton back to big time

Bolton begin a new era today, although new manager Dougie Freedman could have had easier baptisms than a trip to in-form Middlesbrough.

The Scot swapped Crystal Palace for Wanderers on Thursday, replacing fellow countryman Owen Coyle in the dugout after impressing in his 22-month stint in charge at Selhurst Park, although the club say he will have a watching brief at the Riverside Stadium.

He inherits a Bolton side labouring in 16th in the Championship table, 13 places behind today's opponents, but he is warming to the challenge lying ahead of him.

"I am delighted to join Bolton," said the 38-year-old. "The club is geared up to getting back into the Premier League. There is an impressive set-up and structure in place, and a first-team squad of undoubted quality. I am excited about the challenge ahead of us."

Freedman's appointment fills one of the vacancies in the Championship, but four remain open heading into the weekend's fixtures.

Palace, Blackburn and Burnley are still without a boss -- Steve Coppell, Billy McKinlay and Sean Dyche lead the betting to take those jobs respectively -- while Ipswich are looking for a replacement for Paul Jewell, whose underwhelming reign at Portman Road ended on Wednesday.

His long-standing right-hand man Chris Hutchings will take care of the side for today's home game with Sheffield Wednesday, and he has the full backing of the players, according to defender Carlos Edwards.

"It's sad to see Paul leave because he's a nice guy, but unfortunately things haven't quite worked out for us," the Town skipper said.

"But life goes on and the guys are just going to roll their sleeves up for Hutch now in preparation for the game against Sheffield Wednesday.

"We will give him all the support he needs and everybody is rallying together at this sad time. We are going out there to play for him and hopefully we can get a good result."

Palace will begin the post-Freedman era with a tough-looking trip to league leaders Leicester City, while Blackburn are at home to Watford and Burnley head to Cardiff.

Nottingham Forest take their four-game unbeaten run to Barnsley, having impressed over the last week with a win over Cardiff and a draw at Blackpool.

Manager Sean O'Driscoll, though, thinks the mid-table Tykes represent their toughest assignment. "We've tried to prepare for all three games together rather than individually and this is arguably the most difficult of the three," he said.

"People may think that's a strange thing to say but after watching DVDs of Cardiff, DVDs of Blackpool and DVDs of Barnsley, I believe that to be the case.

"I'm not just saying that because it's our next game and it's easy for me to say. I'm saying it because they've got a bit of both organisation and flair."

Elsewhere, Leeds will look to extend their unbeaten run to seven games against a Birmingham City side who salvaged a draw after being 3-0 down against Millwall on Tuesday thanks to Marlon King's hat-trick.

"Birmingham are a quality side," said Leeds' stand-in captain Jason Pearce.

"Marlon King got a hat-trick in midweek and he's a tough player to play against.

"Nathan Redmond is another one, and they have some good players, but you want to play against players like that and teams like this."

Blackpool will put their current inconsistencies to the test against Brighton in one of the day's other appetising games, while Huddersfield head to Millwall looking to put right the wrongs of their horror show at Peterborough on Tuesday.

Wolves are at home to Charlton Athletic on the back of midweek draws for both, Hull are at Bristol City in the late fixture and Peterborough welcome Derby to London Road.

Irish Independent

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