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Time for Stu Holden to repay Bolton Wanderers' faith in him

Chris Brunskill

Stu Holden is well on his way back to a full Bolton Wanderers return. The American midfielder has played over 60 minutes in a closed-door match recently and manager Dougie Freedman believes he can be ready for a mid-to-late January playing return.

We all know Holden's story by now but for those of you that have been in a cave, under a rock, or living in a submarine over the last three years, this is a brief recap of Stu Holden's time at Bolton Wanderers:

  • January 25, 2010: Owen Coyle signs Stu Holden for Bolton Wanderers
  • February 27, 2010: Holden makes full Bolton Wanderers debut
  • March 3, 2010: Nigel De Jong breaks Holden's leg in a friendly between the United States and the Netherlands. The injury ends Holden's season.
  • September 30, 2010: Holden signs contract extension at Bolton until end of 2012/2013 season
  • March 19, 2011: Holden suffers knee ligament & bone damage in the Jonny Evans incident.
  • September 20, 2011: Holden returns and goes the whole 90 minutes against Aston Villa in a League Cup clash
  • September 28, 2011: Tests on Holden's knee reveal that screws from the initial Evans injury have caused further damage in his knee cartilage. Still out from this injury to this day.

One of the most important dates in the Stu Holden saga for Bolton Wanderers is March 3, 2010. That is the date that solidified Bolton's recognition of Holden's talents. Despite the fact that he had played a grand total of 245 minutes in a Bolton shirt, despite the fact that he had just suffered a broken leg, Bolton Wanderers offered holden a three year contract extension.

If that doesn't scream "showing faith" then I don't know what does.

What that contract extensions means is that Holden's time at Bolton is over after this season.

Well, it's over unless he signs a new contract. We don't know if the Trotters' brass have offered Holden a new deal or if he is waiting to play his current deal out like he did with MLS, as illustrated in Josh Dean's excellent Howler Magazine piece on Holden:

...Holden became one of M.L.S.'s top attacking midfielders and turned down numerous offers to renegotiate his four-year contract for a fairer sum. "I wanted to play out the deal and go to Europe and make it where people said I wouldn't be good enough." So he just kept cashing those small checks and renting out rooms in his townhouse to teammates who were even broker than him - one of them was making $11,000 a year ("I felt bad asking him for rent.") - while waiting for someone in England to come calling...

Like the quote says, the reason he held out in Major League Soccer was to move abroad and get a chance to prove himself in a bigger league than MLS. We certainly hope that isn't the case here but those of us that have watched and waited for Stu Holden the last few years know that he is certainly good enough to play his trade at most of, if not all of the clubs in the Premier League.

To date, Holden has been under contract at Bolton wanderers for 2 years, 11 months, and 6 days. That's 1,071 days total. For more than half of that (over 1 year and 9 months), Holden was physically unable to lend Bolton Wanderers a helping hand (or foot). The thing is though, that Holden isn't injury prone. Both the leg break and knee injuries (and subsequent complication) were not his fault. It was not his body failing him in any way.

Many football fans, specifically American fans, will remember Oguchi Onyewu's injury. After an impressive season with Standard Liege and a good World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign with the US, Onyewu signed for AC Milan. While away on international duty, he landed awkwardly and ruptured his patellar tendon. The injury forced him to miss the rest of the qualifying campaign and the 2009/2010 season. Upon his return, Onyewu signed a one year extension with Milan and, at his request, took no salary for that season.

No one is expecting Holden to play for free. What the fans want is to see Stu Holden healthy and playing again. After showing so much promise and quality in the relatively little time he's had in a Bolton shirt, all the fans want to see is more of the American midfield dynamo.