STUART Holden has been given assurances that he will get a new deal at Wanderers in the summer – but will not be rushed back into Championship action.
The popular American returned to training at Euxton yesterday in what is hoped will be the last leg of his near three-year battle against injury.
Holden’s contract expires at the end of the season but Dougie Freedman revealed yesterday that he has recently held discussions with the midfielder about his future at the Reebok.
And it is understood an agreement is in place that would keep the 28-year-old at the club into next season – but that it does not hinge on him playing a requisite number of games before the current campaign ends.
Holden, recovering from a cruciate ligament injury sustained on international duty last summer, has played in non-contact games at Wanderers and is due to step up his physical work in the next fortnight.
But Freedman is not rushing any aspect of his rehabilitation in order to judge whether to offer him a new deal and is treating Holden as a special case for now.
“I have spoken to Stuart and I will keep that conversation private on what I have said about next year,” he said. “But what I said did ease him a little bit. I haven’t put Stuart under any pressure to play.
“It’s unfair for me, as coach, to do that because of what’s happened to him in the last couple of years.
"I wouldn’t rush him back or make him do extra as in most cases because that could be detrimental to his other muscles, not just the knee.”
Holden returned from his second long injury lay-off just over 12 months ago and Freedman revealed yesterday that his most recent setback, suffered in the Gold Cup in July, may have been as a result of returning too early.
“Clearly, when he came back last year he wasn’t right,” he said of the midfielder, who also spent time on loan to Sheffield Wednesday.
“Hopefully, it is a lot different this time. He has spent a lot of time in America with the surgeon that did the operation, he has completely changed his running style which I am told could have prevented the last problem.
“He is in a completely different mindset to where he was last time. Therefore, I am not going to rush this through. I want to make sure when he comes back he will be ready for the future.”
No-one at the Reebok has seen the best of Holden since that fateful day at Old Trafford getting on to three years ago.
And as an outsider looking in at Bolton during Holden’s Premier League days, Freedman admits he took some convincing that he would make the grade in English football.
“He is someone we probably need right now with the leadership qualities he has got-on and off the field,” he said.
“When he first came over here I was not too sure about him to be honest. But the energy and drive from midfield he showed in games and the matches he played in the Premier League was obvious to see.
“However, you can't take what he was doing two or three years ago and expect him to walk straight back and do that again. You will put too much pressure on the guy.
“We all want him back and we are all frustrated. But you won't see me making a call which puts the rest of Stuart's career for the next seven or eight years in jeopardy because we need him tomorrow.”