Ahead of Bolton's last match of the (regular) season, we had the chance to ask Wanderers' american midfielder Stu Holden about his recovery efforts, working his way back into the first team, a bit of nostalgia, and goals for the near future. Holden has recently returned from a month-long loan at Sheffield Wednesday where he played in five matches for the Owls.
Upon his return to the Trotters, Stu was instantly back on Bolton's bench and saw a few minutes at the end of the 1-1 draw at Cardiff City. The midfield dynamo is constantly working to get back to full fitness and told us that the last thing he wants is a break, which is understandable given his very long injury lay-off.
Lion of Vienna Suite: What is it like working your way up from being a trialist to one of the first names selected week in and week out?
Stuart Holden: When I came over as a trialist, it was a good opportunity for me to prove that I could play in the Premier League. I had a two week trial and was giving an opportunity an opportunity by Owen Coyle on a six month contract. It gave me a chance to prove myself and after taking that chance, I wanted to build on that.
The last couple years have been all positive in that respect until the injury. You don't take it for granted, you know, where you've come from and playing in the MLS gave me a good foundation and a good base to then come over and test myself against the best players in the world in the best league in the world.
I feel like I stood up to that and I'm hoping to get back to that level again soon and hopefully Bolton Wanderers will be there next year.
LoVS: As you work back from the injury, is it comparable to working your way up from being a trialist or is it entirely different?
SH: It's different because when you're injured, you're not even playing football at all. You're battling your body as opposed to battling your ability or battling your talent. When you're coming back from injury, there's things sometimes you can't control so it's a different type of fight in that respect.
You never know what that fight is going to be that next day but you always have to remain positive and listen to those around you, do the work that you're supposed to do and control the things that you can control and hopefully the rest takes care of itself.
LoVS: How does it feel being back on the pitch week in and week out again?
SH: Playing football week in, week out was the best feeling for me because waking up on a Sunday morning feeling stiff again, all of your muscles hurting but not your knee was a sign that I was back.
Playing games in front of 30,000 fans at that intensity and at that level is what you want to do and why you play this sport.
LoVS: How do you feel after playing two matches so close together (away to Leeds United on April 13 and away to Blackpool on April 16)?
SH: Playing two games in a week was going to be a big test for me. Especially on the pitch at Blackpool, which wasn't the best, to get through 60 minutes in the second game in a week was another check on the board for me.
LoVS: How close would you say you are to 100%?
SH: In terms of being 100%: I feel 100%. It's just going to be getting better, getting fitter and stronger and sharpening up in terms of on the pitch and putting more and more minutes and games into my legs.
LoVS: Going back in time a little bit, your partnership with Fabrice Muamba was one of the best central midfield pairings in England. What was it that made the two of you work so well together?
SH: Fab and I had a good understanding because in that type of team, we were both able to get around the pitch pretty well. We were encouraged by Owen Coyle to play a high-pressing game and I don't think we gave any other midfielders enough time to play and always gave them something to think about.
Fab was able to really mark people and get around and make some good tackles. It gave me an opportunity to get on the ball and create some stuff for the team going forward. We had a good balance in that respect, in that we were both able to do both jobs but Fab preferred to smash a few people and get on the ball.
LoVS: Is there anyone in the squad now that you're specifically looking forward to playing alongside?
SH: I see similar qualities in Jay Spearing and I'm obviously looking forward to playing alongside him, Medo, Pratley, and all the good center midfielders. It's a good thing that we have so many in the team in that it creates a lot of good competition.
LoVS: Finally, do you have one major goal that you'd like to reach before this season ends?
SH: Personally, I want to try to break back into the Bolton team. I think my loan will have helped, going out and getting five games with Sheffield Wednesday and I hope that now I've shown the manager that I'm in a better position to contribute and fitter.
I could play a full game if need be and obviously, for the team, it would be great to contribute in some way for us to get back to the Premier League because that's where Bolton Wanderers belong.
We're very grateful to Stu for taking the time out of his day to speak with us. If Bolton Wanderers do make the play-offs, Holden has a very real chance to contribute in a major way. The summer could be very busy for him as the Gold Cup tournament looms Stateside. With Jurgen Klinsmann keeping an eye on Holden's progress, it only seems like a matter of time until we see Stu in a United States shirt again.