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Freedman: Feel Good Factor

17 August 2012

With just 24 hours to go until the big Championship curtain raiser at home to Watford, manager Dougie Freedman has spoke to about how pre-season has gone so far, as well as his new recruits, any potential new faces and his excitement ahead of the opening game.

"Pre season has went very well. We went down to Exeter and unfortunately with the weather situation down there, we had to come back. We were disappointed with that but there was nothing we could have done about it. We spent another couple of weeks on the training ground then went to Spain for four days to surprise the lads.

"I went into the boardroom and asked for some more money, which was a fantastic gesture from them and I really think the trip brought the lads closer together. Six weeks is a long time to be spending day in, day out at the training ground so it did turn things around for us.

"The lads are in good conditions, there are not too many injuries which is great. I think Jonny Williams is the only one, and he is at 50/50 ahead of Saturday so apart from that, everyone is in good nick, mentaly and physically."

Darren Ambrose, Sean Scannell and Nathaniel Clyne have moved on to pastures new in the form of Birmingham City, Huddersfield Town and Premier League newcomers Southampton respectively, but Freedman hasn't messed around when it comes to replacing the departures.

Joel Ward arrives from cash struck Portsmouth while Aaron Wilbraham joins from Norwich City. Peter Ramage is back at Selhurst Park following his release from QPR and Aaron Martin will spend the season here on loan from Southampton.

"They have settled in very well" Declared Freedman. "It's always going to take time in terms of playing style and in terms of what we require at this club, but they are willing to learn and they want to listen. Aaron Wilbraham is a bit more experienced and he knows what to do so it is good to have someone like him around that you can rely on day in, day out.

"Aaron Martin and young Joel Ward are a little bit inexperienced, they are players that have experience in the Championship but will take time to bed it in. 

They have worked well over pre-season and they are getting better as every training session goes by so you will probably see them growing into the club more than Aaron [Wilbraham] will."

It's been three out and four in so far, but Dougie is refusing to rule out the posibility of any more new signings checking in at Selhurst Park.

"We are always looking to strengthen the squad" Said the Scotsman, "but what I will refuse to do is, and my track record as a manager shows that, is that I won't sign a player for the sake of signing a player. When a player comes along, that I feel is the right type of player, and at the right deal, then we will look at signing him.

"There has been one or two over the last few weeks that we have missed out on for different reasons, but we are hopeful that one or two will be coming in before the transfer window shuts.

"We can't always get every player that we had our eyes on. Sometimes it could be the financial side of things, sometimes it could be the facilities. There's no point getting upset about it, you just need to understand the position that we are in and understand what we are trying to do.

"The loan market is also an option for us, like a lot of Championship clubs that may find themselves not as well off financially as the teams that, for example, have been relegated from the Premier League with parachute money or some clubs with foreign investors. I hope the fans understand what we are trying to do and that we are trying to move the club forward. We have also given the younger players in the team a chance, so as much as we are prepared to go into the loan market, we also try to give the academy players a chance too."

The start of the season is one of the most exciting times of the whole season, and like the fans and players, Dougie is no different when it comes to counting down the days to go til the big kick off.

"I get very excited, I wouldn't be in this job if I didn't and this is the job for me and I love the competition. A lot of managers have a lot of pre-season games, where as I like to concentrate on the training and developing players on the training ground. We have done that very well in the last few months and when it comes to match time, I'm really looking forward to the competiton that we all miss, nothing beats the anticipation of the start of a new season and even if you lose, that buzz brings you back to the table.

The Eagles finished in 17th place last season with 56 points, and even though it goes without saying that he will be looking to push on from that this time around, Freedman isn't getting himself ahead of anything as the season kicks-off.

"I'm not a guy that looks at long term goals, I try to look at the short term goals and stretch them out if that makes sense. I tend to look at three or four games at a time rather than 46 or more. I believe that we still have some momentum from last season, there's a feel good factor around the camp and I think that if we can keep on producing a few good young players and buy one or two in the right areas, then there is a realistic chance for us to push up the league.

"We had a bit of a disappointing end to last season, but I do put that down to the size of the squad. I think we do have the quality in the squad, and the squad to beat anybody, but we do need to add numbers to the squad in case of any suspensions or injuries that we may pick up so we can still field a strong side, and that is what we are trying to achieve this year."

Over the summer period, Palace picked up pre-season wins at Lewes, Dulwich Hamlet, Aldershot Town, Cray Wanderers and Swindon Town, as well as defeats at Margate Town, Welling United and Premier League new boys Reading. A Capital One Cup win at Exeter City in midweek came on the back of this and Dougie thinks that if there is no competition involved, it is just another practice for his squad.

"I'm not too bothered about the pre-season results, the Exeter game of course I am bothered, I thought we were fantastic and we showed great character, it was really what I wanted to see in my team this season, sticking together. I have had promotions from this division before and I understand how you get promotions, with having that something extra in your team, having some quality in your squad and having great team spirit and a never say die attitude and I truly believe we showed all of that on Tuesday night.

"In terms of pre-season, that doesn't interest me at all. We try different systems and different tactics and of course different personel. It's just to gauge where I am fitness wise and to help me pick the team. The real football started on Tuesday night and it starts in the league on Saturday."

Of course the subject on the fans', players' and Dougie's mind is the game against Watford on Saturday. The gaffer isn't letting the numerous changes at Vicarage Road concern him and he wants to let the football do the talking.

"Obviously there is a new manager in the shape of Gianfranco Zola, also new owners and a good few new players at the club, It doesn't come as a surprise in this division at all because there seems to be a lot of managers changing and owners changing these days just as much as players, so I believe that if we concentrate on our own job, we can get it right and if we are bang on, then I think we can win this game.

"Of course the players are looking forward to the first game too because we have trained and prepared well and they are in good condition and I think we have a group of players that are very honest and willing to give everything that they have got and hopefully when it comes to 4:45 on Saturday and the cards come out on the table, we will come out as winners, and if we don't, we will turn up to training on Monday morning and we will go again."

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