STUART Holden is on course for a first-team return within a month to boost Wanderers, according to boss Dougie Freedman.
The American midfielder ended a 15-month injury nightmare by playing for more than an hour in a behind-closeddoors indoor game against Wigan last week and came through with no reaction to his knee.
Now Freedman hopes to squeeze in a handful of other friendly outings for the US international so he can get him back involved with the first team by the end of January.
Freedman revealed: “We could have played a Premier League development squad today but it is hard because of sides playing so many games at this time of year and young players not being around.
“We had an indoor game last week against Wigan in which Stuart played 60- 70 minutes. He played very well and came through it.
“He probably needs another two or three behind-closeddoors games but hopefully he will be ready by the middle of January.
“It is difficult but we are doing our best to squeeze games in.
“The plan is that he is back by the end of the month and then I don’t have to go and get a central midfielder in.”
With Holden and Mark Davies due back early in the new year, Freedman hopes they will be key figures as he looks to shape his own squad at the Reebok.
He wants a blend of youth and experience of the Championship and is already looking to the transfer window opening.
He said: “We have one or two players who have played in this division, but I’m also a big believer in giving youth a chance.
“The guys in the academy tell me there are some good players down there that need to be looked at. It is fantastic for a manager to hear that.
“I will be having a look at that in January and maybe bring them into the squad. I want to maybe add one or two with experience of this division as well.
“I certainly believe we have enough quality in the squad. It is just a bit unbalanced. There is not enough strength in depth in key positions and we have to address that quickly.”
Freedman was praised at previous club Crystal Palace for giving youth its chance and he says the likes of returning loanee Tom Eaves could stake a claim in 2013.
He added: “Tom has been out on loan and done very well. He comes back after today and will train with the first team and has a chance to show us what he can do.
“If a chance comes I am sure he will take it because he has a manager here who will give him an opportunity if I see what I like in training.”
Eaves could end up back out on loan like Gregg Wylde who has recently extended his stay at Bury. And he is another who Freedman hopes will benefit from playing games regularly.
He added: “I think it has been hard for him coming here and not playing straight away. The best thing is he plays every week. You have to be fair to players like Tom Eaves and Gregg Wylde who are out on loan so I can call them back if I need them. You have to gauge it right