DOUGIE Freedman seems caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place when it comes to dealing with Wanderers’ problematic balance between youth and experience.
On one hand, he is acutely aware the spectre of Financial Fair Play has made development of home-grown talent more important than ever; imperative, in fact.
Freedman was brought to the Reebok on the premise of his impressive youth development at Crystal Palace, and his passion for giving young players their chance comes over when he discusses the subject.
He has a studious view on giving players some exposure to first-team duties, bringing players on at the right time and, if necessary, getting them experience elsewhere via loan deals.
The only problem is that, despite all the assurances, there is still little evidence of his plan actually coming to fruition.
Freedman was unwilling to risk sinking deeper into trouble when Wanderers made a poor start to the season, reaching out for loanees such as Kevin McNaughton, Neil Danns and Liam Feeney to steady the ship.
And now that he feels the club are heading in the right direction, there seems a similar hesitation in putting faith in the kids.
The manager has openly questioned the quality of the players coming through from the development squad, comments that have not gone down well in other areas of the club.
Some success has been had in the past by importing youngsters at the right age – as he appears to have done with Rob Hall from West Ham – Kevin Nolan (Liverpool), Nicky Hunt (Manchester United) and Danny Ward (Leeds United) shown the way on that front over the last decade or so. Sanmi Odelusi’s all-too-temporary rise to prominence in the Capital One Cup was a highlight in a season of few such joyous moments.
But what the Wanderers fans crave more than anything else is a real local lad – a Joe Riley or Josh Vela – to break into the team and stay there.
Were Freedman to manage that, it could prove more important than any signing he makes this month.