FORMER Wanderers physio Mark Leather believes little could have been done to prevent Stuart Holden from spending six more months on the sidelines.

It was discovered last week that the influential midfielder's comeback from a serious knee injury sustained against Manchester United in March had been derailed because of complications of the original surgery.

Holden had pins inserted into his knee to help heal a fracture in the joint and after going in to have them removed, further damage to the bone ligament was revealed, extending his spell on the sidelines to a whole year.

Leather – who spent three years at Wanderers as a physio as part of a 23-year career in football – believes the current injury is down to pure bad luck on the midfielder’s part, rather than a mistake made in rehabilitation or by medical staff.

“I’m not privy to the exact details of the injury, or the timings but then these things don’t always follow in sequence,” said Leather, pictured.

“I’ve read one or two comments from supporters and I know there is some genuine concern that it could have been avoided, but these things can happen.

“You are introducing an extra piece of metal or plastic to the joint, and every so often that can cause an irritation. It’s usually a superficial thing, and they can easily be taken out, but in this case the metal has done more damage while it has been in there and caused a problem.

“There’s nothing you can really do about it.”

Life-long Wanderers fan Leather is a season ticket holder at the Reebok, and has now swapped the dugout for the stands to watch games with his three sons.

And as such, he can sum up the disappointment felt on all sides that the US international will not be back to help revive a poor start to the season.

“It’s a huge blow for the lad and for the supporters,” he said. “It sums up the way the season has gone so far.

“He would have been cock-a-hoop at coming through 90 minutes against Aston Villa and probably expecting to get some involvement against Arsenal and Chelsea, but to have that taken away must be devastating for him.

“If there is a silver lining, it’s that the course of rehab for a ligament injury is relatively straightforward.

“There only tend to be problems if the cartilage is in the weight bearing part of the knee.

“What stands very much in Stuart’s favour is that he’s a relatively light-weight player, not a lumbering centre-half weighing 14 or 15 stone. That will help considerably.

“There are no guarantees, but he is a naturally fit player and he’s only 26, so I’d expect him to be up fighting fit in six months, if that’s what the surgeons have told him.

“He’s an educated lad and he’s got access to the best medical equipment around, whether that’s at Wanderers or back in the US. The advances in treatment for this kind of thing have been fantastic.”

Leather was part of a Wanderers backroom medical team that first utilised the likes of American knee surgeon Dr Richard Steadman, and he is confident that the hi-tech resources available to the current staff will ensure Holden makes a full recovery.

And despite what seems a desperate situation for the former Houston Dynamo man, who scooped last year’s player of the year award for the Whites, Leather also reckons Holden could return to the Reebok a better player next year.

“You have to make the best of a bad situation and take the positives from it,” he said.

“The injury is not a re-occurrence of the original one, and it hasn’t broken down, as seemed to be the case with Sean Davis, for example, so that is a big plus. Secondly, it’s not unheard of. Someone every week goes down with this kind of thing in professional football, so the course of treatment is very well established. It is no longer considered career threatening.

“Stuart has got the opportunity to work in the gym and come back a stronger player.

“I remember when Ricardo Gardner did his cruciate the first time, he was one of the first players I dealt with at the club.

“He was so quiet and reserved but after six months in rehab he was laughing and joking with the rest of us. It really brought him out.

“He came back more hungry than ever, and that’s what I’d expect from Stuart.”

Recognition for Holden’s contribution to the Wanderers cause was underlined when he was shortlisted for the Premier League player of the year in the The MBNA Northwest Football Awards.