STUART Holden is determined not to “mess up” his rehabilitation effort by returning to first team action before he is ready.

After coming through an hour for the development squad in midweek, all eyes are on the US international and when he may make his long-awaited comeback to the Wanderers’ starting line-up.

Dougie Freedman hinted that Holden could be included in next week’s squad for the FA Cup replay at Sunderland, but his next start might well come in the second-string game against Newcastle on January 21.

But after just one full appearance in 22 months for Wanderers, and a nightmare run of injury setbacks, the midfielder intends to make sure he stays in the reckoning when the manager does decide to bring him into the team.

“It has been a long road but it is one in which I have maintained perspective and I have been taking it at the right pace,” he said after the midweek game against Oldham at Leyland. “It is now important that I don’t get carried away at this late stage. “But as far as how my knee felt and how I felt out there, I think I can come away from that feeling really good about it all and now I need to do the proper things during the recovery and prepare myself for the next game.

“If all goes well from this then I don’t anticipate any reaction and I can now take the next step. That will be playing a bit longer and then I think I will be ready to roll with the full 90 minutes. I am very close now. I have worked so hard to get to this stage and I don’t want to do anything now to mess that up.”