STUART Holden’s eagerly-awaited reserve team comeback could be made before Christmas – but Dougie Freedman has warned that several boxes still need to be ticked before the US midfielder gets back on the pitch.

Even though Wanderers confirmed that Holden has returned to train with the first team, the club are reluctant to set the exact date of his comeback.

The only scheduled outing for the development squad before the end of the year is a Manchester Senior Cup tie against local rivals Bury, but Freedman insists for the 27-year-old to take part in that game, a few other factors will also have to fall into place.

“We do need to manage it right,” the manager said. “He obviously needs to be in the right place with training and maybe we need to put him in there with one or two players who need games.”

Wanderers want the game to be played at the Reebok rather than Leyland, and preferably with a smattering of Freedman’s first- team squad.

Crucially, though Holden’s fitness is currently ahead of schedule, his participation for the Under-21s will depend entirely on there being no ill-effects of his recent step up in intensity at Euxton.

Freedman has been delighted to see the all-action American back on the training pitch, and, although no timescale has been set on an official first-team return, it is hoped Holden can rejoin a Wanderers side on the up.

“He’s been around the training ground for a little while now and off the pitch he has been very enthusiastic and bubbly, which has been nice to get on the training ground as well,” the manager said.

“But I must say that the lads have really bought into what we are trying to do. That is starting to come across now on a Saturday and I saw little glimpses of what I want even though the result wasn’t there against Ipswich.

“That makes me feel we’re on the right path. A few days earlier, we had put the performance and the result together against Blackburn and hopefully, Stuart can add to that.”