I like every sane Bolton Wanderers fan am a huge fan of Stuart Holden. He was a great player for us before the injuries came thick and fast and has never done anything to ruin his reputation as an all-round good guy.
With Holden fit and in the team it looked like Bolton were getting back to where we were under Big Sam in the glory days. If we had beaten Chelsea that season we would have leapfrogged them into the top four. Five or six years have passed since that moment and how far we have fallen since.
Many people, outside of Bolton mainly, point to that infamous FA Cup semi-final against Stoke City as where it all started in Bolton’s descent. But we all know that wasn’t the case.
Before Holden got injured we were playing well by all accounts against Manchester United at Old Trafford. The score was at 0-0 and we were well in the match. Then that incident happened. I won’t go into any Jonny Evans bashing here but the game turned on that moment and we lost 1-0. That would set the tone for what would follow as a slip in form turned into freefall which has barely stopped since.
What would have happened were it not for that fateful day in Manchester?
Bolton would likely have secured a top 10 finish that season, their best since the end of the Big Sam era. Maybe the club would have followed through on their status as favourites in that aforementioned match against Stoke and enjoyed a first FA Cup final since 1958, and with the way we were playing that season with Holden in the side who knows what could have happened. Whatever the outcome it would have been a moment which would have been put right up there with the highs of the Premier League era and would have put the club in their third European campaign.
I believe Bolton would have stayed up the next season with Holden in the side. He played one match that season against Aston Villa in the League Cup. We won that match at Villa Park against a Villa side unbeaten at the time that season if memory serves. I think we would have been a long way clear of the drop zone that season.
Then it is likely that Holden would have moved on to bigger and better things. He would in my view be playing for a team challenging for Champions League football by this point, banking the club a decent fee in the process.
At that point things may well have gone downhill. But the extra year or two of Premier League football may have given us a chance to make our financial situation less stupid, helped by the increased TV money coming in the year after we got relegated.
Maybe just maybe that would have left us in a far healthier position once we dropped out of the top flight. But then again maybe that would never have happened.
One thing is for sure and that is had Holden not had his injury nightmare the glory days would have been that little bit longer and he would be no doubt enjoying a highly successful career.
I will leave this with a quote from the man himself;
"If all we have left are the memories then let’s remember the best – beating Blackburn Rovers 2-1 on derby day and going absolutely nuts!"