At the time of Freedman’s surprise departure his Palace side were flying high, caressing the voluptuous curves of the promotion zone, whereas Bolton were desperately pursuing the stragglers at the less appealing end of the Championship table.
My suggestion that Freedman’s exit, and Bolton’s subsequent appointment, made little sense drew intense criticism from a small contingent of Trotters followers. I manfully took those sporadically harsh comments on the small ginger hairs that annoyingly appear on my chin. Wisely pointing out that only time will tell whether indeed I am a “deluded burke” or correctly observant with my claims.
A few weeks on and I feel that it is time to throw a carefully sliced piece of smug pie into the faces of those that frantically mocked me. Since taking over at Bolton Freedman is yet to experience the putrid taste of defeat.
His honeymoon period has been satisfactory but not astonishing. Against good opposition, in Championship promotion hopefuls Leicester, Blackpool and Cardiff, Freedman oversaw a win and two draws. Yet at the weekend his side struggled at the Reebok Stadium against an equally low dwelling Barnsley, with the match finishing a rather uninspiring 1-1. Bolton veteran Kevin Davies, who recently surpassed the 600 career appearances milestone, appears impressed by the start made by Freedman,
“I’ve been impressed with what’s happened so far.”
“He seems very passionate, the trainings been great and we can’t help but be impressed by what he’s come in and done so far.”
“He’s very impressive, he’s done all his homework – I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”
In comparison Crystal Palace have gone from strength to strength. Filling the boots emptied by Freedman’s departure, the Eagles notably secured the services of the highly sought after Ian Holloway.
This is a man that had been linked to the QPR job as a possible replacement for the under pressure Hughes. Blackburn also displayed keen interest in acquiring the man from the West Country, and no doubt the name ‘Holloway’ also passed the lips of the Bolton board before the arrival of Freedman. Holloway is a man of extreme experience at this level of football management and a charismatic one at that. He has already stated that he aims to get Palace playing like Barcelona, having shrewdly noticed that they already play in the red and blue of the Catalan giants. It’s a rather ambitious light hearted claim but Holloway has made an imposing start to life at Selhurst Park.
Under his control Palace have won every game and, fitting of the nickname the Eagles, have perched themselves at the lofty heights of the Championship summit. Since Holloway’s arrival Palace can also boast the rare accolade of possessing a Championship England international in Wilfred Zaha. Post Freedman Palace have also increased their already healthy lead over Bolton. They sit 16 places higher in the league and 15 points better off. At Bolton Freedman has a 25% win rate, with Palace Holloway holds a 100% record.
I am savvy enough to be aware that much can change in the future. The Championship is an unforgiving competitive division, where positions can hyperactively change in an instant. 15 points in this division is by no means unattainable, and Bolton still have plenty of time to shove my slice of smug pie back down my throat.
By the time that the two teams meet on January 19th more will be fascinatingly clearer. I have no doubts that Bolton will be fine and expect them to soon ease their way into the top half of the division, but I think a promotion challenge may be a little beyond them this campaign.
Palace on the other hand had already looked impressive this season but, the enviable coup of attracting Holloway to steer the south London ship has almost cemented a realistic promotion push. As things stand in the Freedman aftermath it seems that it will be Palace that are the more likely to be laughing all the way to the Premier League.
To be resumed…
image: © OliverN5