Now don’t get me wrong, comparing Dougie Freedman to Phil Parkinson isn’t fair. They’re like chalk & cheese.
Dougie took over a side capable of being promoted back to the Premier League, but ultimately missed out on the play-offs on the final day of the season..
Meanwhile, Parky took over in the midst of a transfer embargo and somehow managed to drag the club out of League One and into The Championship without any kind of budget.
Freedman alienated fans and players, whilst Parky’s man motivation gave some players the chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of the fans.
Their respective accomplishments as Bolton manager may drastically differ, but they share similarities tactically. Both set their teams up to defend, with the aim of trying to get the clean sheet whilst soaking up pressure, then trying to score on the counter.
It’s a style that initially worked for Gary Megson and almost worked perfectly for Freedman in the 2012/13 season. Wanderers were grinding out narrow wins until the Blackpool game derailed the season on the final day. Parky has had two years of success with that system, but problems arise when Wanderers don’t score first. Bolton have always found it harder to score when behind as opposed to defending an early lead.
That style lends itself to playing better away from home, as you’re not expected or trying to dominate a game. For the first time in five years, Wanderers have won more points away from home than at the UNIBOL. The 2013/14 season, with Freedman at the helm, saw Bolton claim 51% of their points away from home.
This season, it currently stands at 56%. Now when you think about Dougie Freedman and away form, the horrific 7-1 thrashing against Reading probably springs immediately to mind. What may surprise you is that result fell slap bang in the middle of Bolton’s best away campaign in The Championship.
That season, Bolton had the 9th best away form in the league, winning 8 of their 23 away games. Some of the wins included the famous 5-1 victory against Leeds United, as well as victories at Huddersfield, Watford and AFC Bournemouth. In comparison, they had the 18th best home form. The season prior, Wanderers had the 20th best away form, with the 2nd best home form.
Under Parky in The Championship last season, Wanderers had 72% of their points come from home games. That proved vital in staying up, as they had the worst away form in the league.
Ultimately, the point I’m trying to make is that Bolton need to make sure that their home form doesn’t continue to suffer. Sunderland, Burton Albion and Barnsley all went down last year due to poor home records.
It’s brilliant that Bolton have improved their away form massively since last year (they really needed to), but there needs to be a level of consistency at home. Look back at how Dougie suffered all those years back. Going from having the 2nd best home record to the 18th meant Wanderers went from just missing out on the play-offs to mid table mediocrity.
These days, survival is the sole aim. To achieve that, Wanderers really need to step it up at home.
And let me be abundantly clear. If anyone is capable of keeping Wanderers up again, it's Parky.