STUART Holden is starting to get a sense of what local rivalry really means in English football.

Back in the US, the closest the midfielder got to a derby for Houston Dynamo was a 239-mile road trip north to FC Dallas, the only other professional club in the state of Texas.

As a result, away support was virtually non-existent – so the large following of Wanderers fans expected to make a hop, skip and a jump to the DW Stadium is all part of the charm for the easy-going American.

“It’s something that I love about the football over here,” he said. “You get that rivalry and the passion from the fans that make the atmosphere inside the stadiums, the singing, and the chanting. You can see how much it means to people and you don’t get that to the same extent in America.

“As players, when you can help your club’s fans get that kind of joy, it makes it all the better for us.

“Wigan is only half an hour away from us, so it’s a big game in terms of keeping up that momentum that we have had going.

“But these kind of games are also for the fans, because with it being a local derby there’s always some pride and bragging rights associated with it. I’m sure it will be a passionate game and that we’ll have some great support there.”

The game has presented a few logistical problems in the Holden family, who just happen to be lifelong Latics who live just down the road in Hindley.

But the Whites playmaker has convinced his grandparents to leave their scarves at home tomorrow.

“It’s quite a special game for me,” said the 25-year-old. “My grandparents were Wigan fans before, but they’ve assured me 100 per cent that they’ll be behind Bolton.”

Holden can probably count himself among a very few Americans enjoying any sort of popularity in North West footballing circles right now.

His committed and energetic approach has proved a massive hit at the Reebok, where he now looks a considerable bargain having been snapped up for nothing from the MLS at the turn of the year.

The player himself also dedicates time to chat with fans, and is among the most well-known users of social networking site Twitter in the Premier League, boasting more than 73,000 followers on the web.

“It’s something I do casually and that I enjoy but at the same time you get to interact with fans a bit, and let them get to know the kind of guy I am off the field a little bit,” he said. “I’m an easy going guy and I like to have that relationship with the fans because they’re the people who come to the games to watch us play. It’s the least I can do to thank them for their support for the club and myself.

“You do have to be a little bit careful with some things, and I know that some players don’t like to do it. I certainly wouldn’t push it upon any of the other players because it’s a personal choice.

“But I think at this club the relationship between them and the fans is good. A number of the lads try hard to interact and as a result, when the fans come down on Saturday there’s no-one they don’t like on the team.”

Holden also revealed that his brother Euan could soon be joining him in English football. He is currently on trial at Derby after leaving Danish club Vejle Boldklub.

“Our manager has been really good, letting him come in and train and do a little bit with the reserves to keep himself fit,” he said. “He’s a good player.

“I found myself in the same position a couple of years ago, so I give him any advice I can to keep him ticking over because football can be a cruel game sometimes.

“Denmark was a good start for him as his first professional club but he’s really strived and gave that up to try and make it in England, so I hope it works out for him.”