Freedman in a stew over Holden's first-team return

First published in Sport The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , chief football writer

DOUGIE Freedman wants another look at Stuart Holden’s fitness before deciding on the date of his first-team comeback.

After watching the US midfielder come through an hour for the development squad on Tuesday night, the clamour has already begun for Holden to make his grand Reebok return after an absence of nearly two years.

Freedman hinted that he could be involved in next week’s FA Cup replay at Sunderland but believes he may be forced to delay naming him in the starting 11 for a little while longer.

The Under-21s had been down to face Crystal Palace on Monday – a game now cancelled because of the replay – which would have been an ideal chance to gauge Holden’s fitness.

Freedman admits that has left a question mark as to when he can pitch the American in.

“I think he needs one more good game at 80 minutes before we can make that decision,” he said.

“He’ll then need one or two at 90 minutes before we can think about starting him. But there is no reason why he cannot be around the first-team squad. It’s unfair to put any pressure on him to get playing but as we have all seen, he’s getting very close.

“In an ideal world I’d give him two more full reserve team games, but we don’t live in an ideaL world. “We live in one where we have got to win games, so we have got to make the right decisions.”

Holden joined Josh Vela on the comeback trail at Leyland and the timing of the pair’s return could be crucial to Wanderers’ chances of catching the play-off pack by the end of the season.

“It’s huge for the club,” he said. “I think Stuart – and young Josh, to be fair – come with that fighting spirit and that never-say-die attitude. That is what is needed around the place – what has been missing, I feel.

“It isn’t only from an ability or technical point of view, it is just as much about character and team-building. These guys are crucial.”

David Wheater was also due to play for the development squad next week, while Mark Davies is expected to go straight into the first-team reckoning. The former Wolves man has been able to keep his fitness up during his recovery from a shoulder injury and his rehabilitation will not need to be managed the same way.

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