With Bolton Wanderers leading Sunderland by two goals after 73 minutes, you would have expected Stuart Holden to take it easy. You would have expected him to jog around a little bit, maybe play a couple of easy passes, and, at the end of his short 16 minute shift, to call it a successful comeback. That's not how it happened though.
When Stu Holden stepped onto the field for what was only his second competitive appearance in the last 22 months, he made it known that he was back. Stu's first involvement wasn't a snazzy through-ball or a shot in the general direction of goal. No, it was a foul and it wasn't Stu on the receiving end.
Upon entering the field of play, Holden immediately tussled with Sunderland's Phil Bardsley. It was a "push-come-trip," as described by Charlie Howe (who was one of the 280 or so Bolton fans that made the trip) on Twitter. Bardsley went down and the whistle was blown with a foul called against Stu Holden.
It wasn't so much what the action was as it was more a statement of intent, a statement that Holden was not scared and that he was going to be giving it his all.
Apart from a general fear that Stu Holden wasn't going to be fit, Bolton Wanderers and United States Men's National Team had genuine worry about what the American's return to match action would be like. He very easily could have skirted around challenges and let Sunderland work their way through the midfield. Had that happened, the potential for the Black Cats to get a goal directly rather than through the errant crosses and set pieces they were restricted to was very real.
Yes, Stu Holden looked a bit off the pace. What would you expect from such a long lay-off though? 16 months without a single competitive match and a lot of lonely hours in the gym will do that. There's still some distance for Holden to go before he is Premier League-sharp again. His 16 minutes against Sunderland was a big stepping stone near the end of what has been a long journey