Leeds United nostalgia: Freedman was right man at the right time

Dougie Freedman.
Dougie Freedman.
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Of the 77 players Leeds United have signed on loan since relegation from the Premier League, it would be fair to say that none have had as great an impact without signing permanently as Dougie Freedman.

Currently managing Bolton Wanderers, Freedman’s arrival served as a spark to ensure Leeds reached the play-offs during the club’s first season in League One.

The appointment of Neil Warnock as manager at Crystal Palace and the form of Clinton Morrison meant Freedman was deemed surplus to requirements at Selhurst Park. Palace’s loss was Leeds’ gain as Freedman scored six goals in only 14 games.

The importance of his strikes could not be denied either. His brace against Carlisle in April ensured the Whites came away from that tie with a priceless 3-2 win. His form was so impressive that in that month he was voted the division’s player of the month.

Despite Leeds’ 15-point deduction that season, they managed to reach the play-offs and once again Freedman’s contribution was telling. Two-nil down against Carlisle at home in the first leg of a memorable semi-final, Leeds looked out of the tie. Without Freedman’s injury-time goal, it’s arguable that United would not have approached the second leg with the same level of confidence and would not have found a way to Wembley.

Admittedly, Freedman’s contributions ended there with Jonny Howson’s one-man show in the second leg ensuring a place in the final. Leeds lost to Doncaster at Wembley, missing out on promotion at the first attempt.

Freedman was keen to join United for another concerted promotion push the following year and fans held the Scot in high regard after his exploits.

However, the arrival of Argentine Luciano Becchio meant there was no room for Freedman in United’s squad and the short love affair was over, Freedman is still the benchmark for short-term impact at the club.

Speaking to this paper in 2010, he clearly viewed being able to ply his trade at Elland Road as one of the highlights of his career.

He said: “It’s a proud and loyal place and I bought into their mentality straight away.

“When Leeds get going and the crowd get with them, they’ve got a fantastic knack of blowing teams away.

“It’s not easy – even as a Leeds player, there were periods in that stadium when I couldn’t hear myself think.”

Speaking about the semi-final itself, he said, “I’d pay good money to experience that again as a player.

“The difference between Elland Road and so many other stadiums is that, of the 40,000 fans in there, 30,000 of them are vocal and passionate for 90 minutes.

“It’s a proper football crowd and I’ve hardly ever experienced anything like it in my career.”

Upon departure from Leeds, Freedman had his testimonial at Palace and soon left them to join Southend.

In two seasons at The Shrimpers, Freedman scored six goals in 37 games before announcing his retirement from football.

He has since held the managerial positions at Crystal Palace and Bolton, with Palace’s form under him last season somewhat responsible for their promotion to the Premier League.

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