One of my favourite football quirks (alongside the ball hitting both posts before going in) is how former players often manage in different styles expected. During his successful stint as manager of Arsenal George Graham was famous for defensive solidarity and grinding out results, but as a player he was nicknamed ‘stroller’ and known for his creativity. Paulo Di Canio, one of the most naturally gifted players to grace the Premier League era, was a maverick who often did what he wanted on the pitch, regardless of his manager’s instructions. As a manager though Paulo was incredibly hard-line on his players, instigating gruelling training regimes and casting out any who dared to question his methods. There’s no way Paulo the player would have survived under that kind of manager.
When Dougie Freedman was appointed as manager my reaction was ambivalence – partly due to his unsuccessful tenure at Bolton and the way he left Palace – but mostly, I’m a little ashamed to admit, because of my memories of him as a Forest player. Dougie (and I always, for no good reason, referred to him by his first name) played for Forest in 1998 through to 2000, clocking up 61 appearances and 23 goals according to data from Soccerbase. He played as a striker but a withdrawn one – not blessed with searing pace, he operated as a number 10, dropping deep and looking to create.
Dougie was a strange kind of player and neatly summed up by his stats for Forest – not a bad goals return from a creative-minded forward, but not exactly one to get excited about either. A newly promoted Forest signed Dougie in 1998 and he scored nine goals in that doomed season but it was the next year that he really frustrated under the tenure of Platt in the Championship. I had a season ticket and in a league where he should have been a force, he simply wasn’t. A normal game for Dougie would consist of being innocuous for 70 minutes before playing a clever little pass that almost resulted in a goal. He had a maddening tendency to drift in and out of games and would never take one by the scruff of its neck and really influence proceedings.
The Forest manager also once cost a friend of mine (In The Top One contributor and football commentator Matt Davies) £66 when he was a 16-year old earning less than £2.50 an hour stacking shelves. A bet had been placed on a 2-0 Forest and with the final whistle approaching Matt looked in the money until Dougie added a meaningless third. While it would be harsh to blame Dougie for this, he most certainly was, and for me the incident has always summed up Dougie’s time as a Forest player – even when he scored he pissed some people off.
Like the two examples listed in the opening paragraph though, Dougie the manager is a very different beast to the player. The order of business seems to be defensive, organised football with no aversion to playing the ball long. I’m actually fairly impressed with the way he has handled himself off the pitch with him mostly talking sense in interviews and his attempts to restore some sanity to the balance sheet welcome. For Dougie to be a success at Forest though we’ll need to see a better side of him than we ever witnessed on the lush green grass of the City Ground.
Dougie did score some goals for Forest...but not so many. Here's Dougie scoring loads for Crystal Palace though to the accompaniment of Big Country. Knock yourselves out.