Stuart Holden brings some cheer back to the Bolton Wanderers camp
THERE are not many players whose mere presence can change the mood in the Wanderers camp but, once again, Stuart Holden’s re-appearance from over the pond appears to have done the trick.
No-one was moping around after the derby defeat at Wigan as the American returned to his old stomping ground at Euxton with high fives and smiles after yet another bout of rehabilitation in the States.
Sadly, the non-playing role of cheerleader is one the 28-year-old has found himself portraying far too often in recent years as a nightmarish run of injuries threatened his very career.
Triggered by “that” tackle by Manchester United defender Jonny Evans, it has been one kick in the teeth after another for the Reebok fans’ favourite since March 2011.
Even as he battles back from the “relatively straightforward” cruciate ligament tear he suffered playing for his country last summer, there are many – even among his most ardent supporters – who question whether he can ever return to being the player he once was.
Neither Dougie Freedman nor Holden is willing to set deadlines on when he is expected out on the field again. And with the midfielder’s contract up in the summer, this is clearly a delicate stage in proceedings. All parties want to get this comeback absolutely right for very obvious reasons.
The odds of Holden completing his dream comeback have been stacked against him all along but, remarkably given the circumstances, the word “negativity” simply does not exist in his vocabulary.
“I won’t ever give up,” he told the club this week. “If I keep getting knocked back down I’ll keep getting back up. That’s the one thing for sure, that I’ll always get up and fight until I’m medically told I can’t ever play football again.
“As far as my body feels now, it’s fantastic. My head is in the right place. I now just need that last little bit to get me over the line.”
How can you not root for a player who took a nine-hour flight back from Philadelphia last Sunday and dashed from the airport to catch the second half of the game at Wigan with the away fans?
Maybe some would argue that players on the club’s payroll should attend games as a matter of course.
A better example of exactly why anyone who has crossed Holden’s path is wishing him well can be summed up by what he will be doing on Monday, when Stu and his brother Euan will be helping the local charity Urban Outreach compile 600 hampers to hand out to those in need on Christmas Day.
If the balance of karma is to be redressed, then the Scotland-born Texan should get the comeback he has worked so hard to achieve, whenever that may be.
Freedman is not the first manager to appreciate what Holden contributes off the pitch but, like every Wanderers fan heading to the Reebok this afternoon, the manager will be a lot happier when he is watching him contribute on the field of play.