Not counting any of the time that Stu Holden spent on the sideline following the leg break that he suffered at the boots of Nigel De Jong, it's been 23 months since Stu Holden played in a league match for Bolton Wanderers. Since the 50/50 tackle in which Jonny Evans' studs caught Holden's knee, the Trotters have fallen from 7th in the Premier League to 17th in the Championship. Now, just a month (and a bit) off from two years to the day, Stu Holden is set to participate in his first league match since.
Since the knee injury, Holden had made three appearances in a pair of cup competitions over two seasons. The American midfielder made his first return attempt in September 2011, going 90 minutes in a Carling Cup tie with Aston Villa. Following that 2-0 win, Holden felt discomfort in his knee and was scheduled to go through routine surgery. The operation discovered that the screws in Holden's knee (a result of a break at the top of the knee and the ligament damage) had a harmful effect on the cartilage. This forced a further, extended layoff that is currently at 15 months and counting.
Stu made his reserve return this season just two months ago in mid-December. After a number of closed-door outings and U21 appearances, Holden played for the first team against Sunderland in the FA Cup Third Round, with Bolton leading the match 2-0. He went 15 minutes at the tail end of the match. A week-and-a-half later, he played ten minutes at the end of Bolton's Fourth Round loss to Everton. That one proved a greater test as the match was all level when Holden came on and it forced the midfielder to go in hard.
A few more reserve appearances (and one injury scare) followed with significant signs of Holden's performances ramping up. Dougie Freedman's team was determined not to rush Holden back into the fray. After going 90 minutes in a reserve outing earlier in the week, Bolton Wanderers are ready to test Stu Holden in the physical Championship.
Speaking at a press-match press conference, Dougie Freedman confirmed that Stu Holden, alongside David Wheater and Mark Davies (both also recovery from long-term injury layoffs), would feature at the weekend against Nottingham Forest.
This is Stu Holden's road to recovery:
March 2011: After the Manchester United match in March 2011, Bolton confirm Stu Holden will be out for six months
July 2011: We spoke to Stu in Houston as Bolton played the Dynamo in a friendly. Holden was a few weeks away from being able to run.
September 2011: Bolton Wanderers beat Aston Villa 2-0 in the Carling Cup, Holden goes the full 90 in his first match in over six months
September 2011: Holden feels discomfort in his knee, undergoes routine operation that will keep him out for six weeks
September 2011: Club confirms cartilage damage in Holden's knee that will keep him out for "six months"
December 2011: Holden returns to the Reebok after rehabilitation stint stateside
August 2012: Stu has routine cleanout operation and continues recovery efforts which had been relatively minimal to that point
September 2012: Club sends head physio to Delaware to check in on Holden's progress
October 2012: Holden finishes rehabilitation stint in Delaware
October 2012: Stu Holden returns to Bolton Wanderers training
November 2012: Holden begins training with Trotters first team
December 2012: Return to full training
December 2012: Reserve return scheduled for Stu
December 2012: Extended time in closed-door match, first real action
January 2013: Stu sees 65 minutes after starting reserve match against Oldham Athletic
January 2013: Holden plays 15 minutes in win at Sunderland
January 2013: 10 minutes for Stu in Everton loss
February 2013: Holden starts reserve match but leaves after 30 minutes following a harsh tackle
February 2013: Stu goes full 90 in closed-door match
February 2013: Stu goes whole game in reserve outing against Bury
February 2013: Dougie Freedman confirms Holden involvement in weekend's Nottingham Forest match