Despite struggling for defensive bodies, the Wanderers boss was forced to withdraw the centre-half from the squad altogether in December to enable him to undergo surgery and then undertake a fitness programme with the club’s medical staff.
Wheater produced an encouraging display on his return against Burnley in midweek, leading the manager to feel he made the right choice to take him out of the firing line.
“Wheats let himself down at the start of the season, he underperformed,” he told The Bolton News. “His knee wasn’t right and I didn’t know that through the summer.
“When we put him into the team, because of the intensity I train the players, his knee just would not stand up to it and it was swelling up all the time.
“I had to make a very difficult decision in December. We really needed defenders, so I couldn’t take that lightly.
“But he has worked so, so hard and I think we are seeing that by the way he played against Burnley.
“He hadn’t played a single minute for four months and yet he lasted 90 minutes and played really well.”
Freedman hopes the patient approach shown with Wheater can now help convince some of the Wanderers fans that things will improve in the long-term for the club under his tutelage.
“I think because of everything we did with David, we are now seeing the sort of player he is, and that gives me confidence,” he said.
“I had a plan for him – and if I can get time to put my plan in place for all my players, I know I can get each and every one of them to a level.
“It will take time – and I know people are going to say we need results in the short term. I know that is the case and have no problem taking the criticism if it isn’t happening – but once all my players can actually do my training, I’m confident this plan will work.”