SHEFFIELD Wednesday have something of a score to settle with Dougie Freedman at the Reebok Stadium today.
Not because Bolton, the team he currently manages, pulled off a 2-1 win at Hillsborough in September, but because he figured in one of the events that could be looked back upon as the turning point in the Owls’ season.
Freedman led Crystal Palace to victory in the game that ended Dave Jones’ brilliant start as Wednesday manager and brought to an end his 17-match unbeaten run.
That controversial 2-1 result at Selhurst Park on September 1 was to be the start of a long period of struggle for the Owls.
It was not just the scoreline but the manner in which it occurred that will always rankle with Jones and his players.
They bounced back after going behind in the first minute and after a Michail Antonio equaliser just after half time time looked on course for at least a point.
But the referee ridiculously gave a penalty to Palace for a perfectly good tackle by Mark Beevers; he changed his mind after talking to a linesman, but the lengthy furore caused by the incident ignited the atmosphere in the home team’s favour, and defensive frailty led to Glenn Murray poaching a match-winner and his second goal of the game, in the 83rd minute.
That was the start of a run of six defeats for Wednesday - among them the game against Bolton, then led by Owen Coyle, who was soon to be replaced by Freedman.
Jones cites Bolton as one of the teams who come down from the Premier League, with millions in parachute money and are expected to challenge to go straight back up but find that life is not that simple in the Championship.
“There’s no guarantee,” says the Owls manager. “People think that throwing money at it is the answer. But you still have to find the right players, as well.”
Palace, as it happens, seem to have gone from strength to strength under Freedman’s successor, Ian Holloway.
Says Jones: “No disrespect to Palace, but Dougie probably thought Bolton were a better club. I don’t know the circumstances. Palace are doing well. There’s a long way to go.”
Jones entered the spell of four games in 11 days expecting that changes may be required: “We’ll need the squad, It’s going to be important. You can’t have any slackers or moaners, and we haven’t. They know they’re all in it and will be needed at some stage. We might have to change it around a bit because of tired bodies or injuries.”
* Wednesday’s last win against Bolton was 5-0 in the Premier League on November 8, 1997. Andy Booth hit three; the others came from Paolo Di Canio and Guy Whittingham.