Saturday the 27th of February, 2010. 21,261 people made the trip to the Reebok Stadium to watch Bolton Wanderers defeat Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0. Zat Knight scored the winning goal, of all people. But that is not why we remember that day.
We remember that day because, for the first, last, and only time, Stuart Holden and Jack Wilshere took the field together for Bolton. Holden was 24, Wilshere 18, and both had signed with the Lancashire side a month before, joining what was thought at the time to be a revolution under Owen Coyle. Though undersized, both players were extremely strong in the tackle and able to run for miles. But when they really shone was when they had the ball. The movement, the passing, the technical ability. Holden hit an absolute thunderbolt from 30 yards that tore the paint off the outside of the post.
At 24, Holden was the oldest member of the midfield that day. Chung-Yong Lee provided his own technical wizardry on the right wing, and Fabrice Muamba provided a size and strength that the other three were lacking with his crunching tackles and tireless effort. What a midfield this was! Just thinking about it... Seriously, I just had to take a break for a minute.
Of course, this being Bolton, it all fell apart just a few days later. In a friendly for the USA against Holland, Nigel de Jong broke Holden's leg. He went in high, hard, and late. Wilshire continued to play for Bolton, and was a huge reason why they stayed up that season. Supporters were salivating at the prospect of our young midfield returning the next season to take the Premier League by storm.
Alas, it was not to be. Bolton supporters were not the only eyes to see Wilshere's talent. Arsene Wenger kept him at the Emirates, where he had won a starting spot by week 3, and outplayed Xavi in a Champions League match against mighty Barcelona. Wilshere worked his way into the starting XI for England as well, giving them a level of technical ability and class on the ball not seen in years. He won several Young Player of the Year awards, and looked destined for stardom. But he was injured in the summer of 2011, then re-injured in January. He has not played a competitive match in well over a year. This probably sounds familiar.
Stuart Holden came into the 2010-2011 season on fire. Bolton roared up the table, and as late as January they were in the top 6. Holden was a huge reason for that. He led the league in tackles. He completed an incredibly high percentage of passes. He dominated every match he played. He was in talk about the Premier League player of the year. Bolton were in the FA Cup semifinal. Then, the Jonny Evans challenge. Holden has played one match in the last 18 months.
And now, they are linked once again. Wilshere has returned to first team training with Arsenal. Holden will return to first team training with Bolton in another two weeks. Hopefully, a year from now, they will both be back at the top of their games, facing each other in a premier league match between Bolton Wanderers and Arsenal.