DOUGIE Freedman is sticking to his guns when it comes to predicting big things for his pocket dynamo Rob Hall.
By his own admission, Freedman has not given the former West Ham prodigy as many games in a Wanderers shirt as he would have liked this season.
But the Whites boss is adamant the diminutive winger is destined to become a big hitter in the future.
“I was quoted a couple of years ago – and I stand by it – that in the next couple of years he’ll be the best player outside the Premier League,” said the Scot.
“You see what Rob has got, he just needs time to build. That’s what my job is right now, to build a team that will take us right up the division.
“We bought in a player at 19 years of age for £400,000 from West Ham and I thought, I still think, he’s a fantastic talent. Hopefully the fans agree.
“But he’s not anywhere near the finished article.”
Hall has made 22 appearances this season, half of which have been as a substitute. He has completed 90 minutes only twice, but Freedman believes the protection he is offering the youngster will aid his development in the long term.
“I’d like to have given him more games,” the manager admitted. “But circumstances at certain times when he was ready to play just weren’t right.
“I didn’t want to put him into the firing line for too long. I needed to make sure he was coming along at the right pace.
“He just needs to keep building his strength, his stamina, and he’ll get there.”
Freedman predicted Hall can become more than a traditional winger, and be a regular source of goals for the club.
“He’s learned his trade on the wing but I think Robert is a goalscorer,” he said.
“He’s not someone who’ll just be a crosser of the ball, he’s shown already that he has an eye for goal and has got a couple for us.
“He did the same at Birmingham and in his West Ham youth team days, and I do see him as one of those players who can drift inside and get shots in.”
Hall will be one of several younger players on show at Hillsborough this afternoon, as Freedman turns to the next generation of Wanderers to ease his injury problems.
The Scot is encouraged at the backing his youngsters got from the terraces despite defeat against champions Leicester on Tuesday night.
And if Wanderers are to follow the Foxes to the bright lights of the Premier League, Freedman feels a patient approach from the supporters is a must to allow his side to develop.
“I think our fans the other night against Leicester were absolutely fantastic because they realised Nigel Pearson has built that team over two or three years,” he said. “It hasn’t happened overnight.
“The quality players he bought like Danny Drinkwater, Matty James, were a couple of million pounds, the French lads (Riyad Mahrez and Anthony Knockaert) were a couple of million, David Nugent the same. That’s what I’m trying to do here.
“Players like Robert Hall are only going to get better and over the last six months he’s developed as a player with his understanding of the game.
“There needs to be that little bit of patience and then, hopefully, you can build a squad like Nigel has done at Leicester that is capable of getting to where we want to be.”