Holden's happy return

BIRTHDAY boy Stuart Holden is loving getting back to his roots on Wanderers’ mini tour north of the border.

The midfielder turned 25 on Sunday and celebrated by dusting off his golf clubs and playing at the famous Gleneagles course alongside a dozen team-mates and staff. Some family friends also presented him with a cake after the goalless draw with Falkirk.

It is 15 years since Holden moved from Aberdeen to Houston, Texas, and while his Grampian accent might have faded a little, he insists he is still a Scot at heart.

“This is my first birthday in Scotland since we moved on my 10th birthday,” he said. “Fifteen years later I’m here doing a pre-season tour and it’s nice to see some familiar faces, back where I was born.

“Obviously I didn’t play against Falkirk, so we’ll wait and see what reception I get from the fans if I get on against St Johnstone. I hope they’ll forgive me playing for the US.

“I do consider myself Scottish because I was born here and my family have a lot of heritage and tradition in this country, so I have really enjoyed being back over here.”

Holden is not unduly worried by Wanderers’ dip in pre-season form, which has seen them held to draws by Rochdale and Falkirk and beaten by Oldham in their three games since arriving back from the US and Canada.

“I think it’s about progression at the moment, and maybe getting a little sharper with our passing and our movement,” he said. “The result against Falkirk was a little disappointing but we are moving along and we’ll take something from the game. We’ve stepped up in training and started doing much more high intensity workouts now, so we’ll be at the top of our game when August 14 comes round against Fulham.”

The former MLS star will be in the starting line-up on Monday night against St Johnstone, where the likes of Jussi Jaaskelainen, Gretar Steinsson, Matt Taylor and Fabrice Muamba are also expected to return.

But Holden will read little into how much game time each player gets until Friday’s final dress rehearsal against Osasuna at the Reebok.

“Some of it is fitness, some is about getting a few touches of the ball and that cohesiveness,” he said. “You can read into how much football you’re getting but a lot of those decisions are based on fitness and who needs a match.

“We’re all trying to do our little bit to impress the gaffer but I’m sure he knows where each of us is at.”

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