HE couldn’t give an answer to the question on everyone’s lips – but Stuart Holden’s Reebok return this week has been a definite step in the right direction.

Although the American midfielder, missing since his single appearance of the season against Aston Villa in the Carling Cup last October, still cannot pin down a date for his first-team return, the fact he is now back in situ at Euxton after another long spell of rehab across the Atlantic is bound to be a boost for Owen Coyle’s squad.

Holden has been through three months of intensive work with former US international trainer James Hashimoto in Delaware, but has kept Wanderers fans up to speed with a series of video diaries published on YouTube, entitled “No Holden Back”.

The 26-year-old is on the final leg of his recovery from a knee cartilage operation but is unable to say whether he will play any part in the relegation run-in.

“A lot of people have asked me when I’ll be back playing and I don’t have a definitive answer,” he said. “I’m not really worried about that because my focus is all about making sure I’m fully fit once I do get back on to the pitch.”

Holden has taken advantage of improved coverage of the Premier League in America to keep in touch with each Wanderers game live – even if it meant sitting with a smattering of fans in a local soccer bar at 7.45am to see the 2-1 victory over QPR.

“I didn’t miss a single game over there, no matter what the kick-off time was,” Holden said.

“But I’m looking forward to experiencing the atmosphere at the Reebok again this weekend. I saw the atmosphere for the Blackburn game on TV and it was special – even though I was in America I got chills and I could sense it.

“Speaking to the guys it was the best they’d ever known.

“I hope the support continues in that way and the fans get behind the lads against Fulham. You see the way everyone has rallied and the team have won three in three.”

With everything that has gone on in the last few weeks, Holden has had more reason than normal to keep in touch with his team-mates.

“We are such a close squad here and, even though I have been away and isolated, it’s nice to think the lads still think about me with a text message to see how I’m doing,” he said. “It makes you still fee a part of the team and that’s why it’s nice to be back and feel a part of it all.

“The guys have been passing on updates with how Fabrice (Muamba) is progressing. When it happened it was obviously devastating news for everyone because Fab is such a great character and we like having him around the dressing room.

“I’ve reached out to try tod go and see him but I know that he has to be given time and space and he continues to recover.

“As soon as I get a chance, I’ll be down there in a second.”