Holden put on cup alert
WANDERERS manager Dougie Freedman could hand Stuart Holden a first-team start at Sunderland tonight as he looks to get the American midfielder back into senior action after 15 months out.
Both Holden and youngster Josh Vela are ready to return according to Freedman, who is expected to have them in his squad for the FA Cup third round replay at the Stadium of Light.
And while he continues to ponder their inclusion in the tie, he has not ruled out the possibility of one or both starting.
The pair played for the Under-21s at Leyland in a Manchester Senior Cup win against Oldham last week and Freedman is keen to get them back into his senior ranks.
Holden’s return is a big focus for everyone involved at the club after his two-year knee injury nightmare.
And just having him back in full training has led Freedman to say it is like having a new signing around the place.
Now the boss has to consider whether to throw him into action in the North East.
He said: “Stuart Holden and Josh Vela are the two definites coming back and we have David Wheater and Mark Davies chomping at the bit but it is probably a little bit too soon for those two.
“But I can see both Stuart and Josh are ready to start.
“They have played three or four reserve or practice games and are fine fitness-wise.
“They are both available for selection tonight.
“Stuart has always been around for the past few months at the training ground.
“His influence has been good but now being back actually training it is like having a new signing.
“If you know him and what he represents in term of his life, you know he’s a fantastic character.
“I have to give credit to the medical staff who have nursed him along at the right time and made sure he is psychologically ready to play.
“He has come through it and is a tough young guy who deserves everything he gets in life and I think he is ready.”
Freedman is likely to make changes and give some much-needed minutes to others aside from Holden and Vela But he has doubts over midfield Keith Andrews with his persistent Achilles problem and young defender Joe riley who limped out of the first meeting with a bruised foot.
Freedman added: “We have small problems with Keith Andrews who is still feeling his Achilles.
“It needs to be managed in such a way that he doesn’t train as much.
“Young Joe Riley was very unfortunate having to come off early in the first game and he still won’t make it.
“Other than that it is just a decision on who needs the games and getting the right balance in the team.”