AN MLS import with blond hair and flawless set piece delivery — comparisons to a certain Mr Goldenballs were inevitable once Stuart Holden finally made his mark on the Premier League.

One of the few good things to emerge from Wednesday night’s FA Cup calamity against Spurs was that Owen Coyle kept faith with the US international and reaped immediate rewards as he helped fashion a victory that not only takes Wanderers out of the relegation zone, but also sweeps away a lot of the clouds that had started to gather around the Reebok.

It was by no means a one-man show — but the Scottish-born American’s star quality ensured that he was going to take the headlines, especially after divulging the club and player he admired from afar growing up in Houston, Texas.

“My dad and his family were big Manchester United fans, so I always followed the club growing up,” he said.

“Obviously, I admired David Beckham’s workrate, his delivery on set plays, and the technical aspect of my game is something I work very hard on.

“I stay after training doing set pieces, corner kicks and the rest of it — those little things can make a big difference in a game.”

Even after an encouraging Premier League debut, Holden has a long, long way to go before getting the same star billing as England’s former skipper.

After arriving on a short-term deal in January the 24-year-old midfielder has had to bide his time before making his first team bow because of injury.

How fitting then, that his first league game happened to come against the man who released him without playing a game during his first taste of professional football.

Wolves boss Mick McCarthy was in charge of Sunderland when he brought Holden to the Stadium of Light fresh out of Clemson University.

More injuries and an unfortunate attack outside a Newcastle nightclub that left him with a badly broken cheekbone meant he never got a chance to prove his worth until Coyle contacted him in December to trial at Burnley.

The manager brought him to the Reebok after quitting Turf Moor — but Holden insists he holds no grudge with McCarthy.

“It was unfortunate timing,” he said. “We got promoted to the Premier League that year, I hadn’t played and he was looking to bring people in, so we both felt it was best we went in different directions.

“It ended up working out for the best because I went back to Houston and established myself and I feel like I have grown as a player.

“I didn’t see him before or after the game but if I had, I would have took the opportunity to catch up with him and thank him — he gave me an opportunity at Sunderland. It didn’t work out but I’m still grateful for that chance.”

Games like this are won and lost with fine margins, and in this case, it was about the width of a post.

Had either David Jones or Matt Jarvis got an ounce more luck with shots that thundered off the inside of the post in the second half, then Wanderers’ fragile confidence would have been tested to the limit.

But good fortune at last smiled down on Owen Coyle and his team, and thanks to the defensive efforts of Sam Ricketts and Fabrice Muamba in particular, a clean sheet was protected with little more drama.

Zat Knight scored the all-important goal on the stroke of half time, lifting the pressure that had been building up around the players’ ears for over nine hours of football.

It was well deserved too, as Wanderers should have been a couple of goals up by the break.

Johan Elmander had been given a massive vote of confidence after being preferred to Ivan Klasnic from the start in such a vital game.

But the gods conspired against the Sweden international turning his workrate into tangible results once again, and by the time he was hauled off after 64 minutes, he had missed two clear-cut opportunities and fans were calling for his head. Kevin Davies suffered no such treatment but also had a couple of clear sights goal. However, with Marcus Hahnemann in decent form, it seemed fingernails would be taken right down to the quick before the deadlock would be broken.

That Wanderers did take the lead was down to Chung-Yong Lee’s quick thinking on the left side of the penalty area.

The skilful Korean, rested in midweek, outfoxed Adlene Guedioura and put a low cross into the six yard box, which was tapped in by Knight.

The big defender’s last goal salvaged a point for Aston Villa on Boxing Day, 2008, in the last minute of a game against Arsenal, before that he netted in a 2-0 victory over Chelsea. While hardly regular, Knight’s goals, therefore are clearly worth waiting for.

Wolves abandoned their safety-first approach in the second half and came within inches of an equaliser on two occasions.

Jones’s superb free kick bounced out to safety off the inside of the post, likewise Jarvis’s dipping half volley after the winger’s pace had taken him past Gretar Steinsson.

Both teams had claims for a penalty — Wolves for an alleged trip by Steinsson just before Jarvis unleashed his shot at goal, and Wanderers for a clear handball on Ronald Zubar deemed accidental by referee Andre Marriner.

Klasnic might well have wrapped things up altogether with a couple of typically opportunistic efforts but Whites fans were forced to hang on until the final whistle before finally celebrating a critical victory in the club’s fight against the drop.

One swallow doesn’t make a summer, and all that, but Wanderers can put themselves within touching distance of safety if they can tip-toe past West Ham, Sunderland and Wigan in a similar fashion in the next fortnight.

On this evidence, Coyle and his side have both the stomach for a fight and the quality to survive, and that was being questioned after a meek surrender against Blackburn at Ewood Park. But then a week is a long, long time in the Premier League.