After a series of injuries that stunted the US international's development, Holden will go into this season fully fit and looking for glory
When Stuart Holden came on as a second-half substitute for the United States in their opening CONCACAF Gold Cup game, against Belize in a 6-1 win, he must have been hoping that this tournament will be the perfect spring board into a season which will get his career in England back on track.
The 27-year-old midfielder was born in Scotland but sculpted in the US, after moving to Texas with his family when he was 10. Two years of college football at Clemson University was followed by a dream transfer to Sunderland in 2005, although that unraveled after six-months when a fractured eye ,from an attack outside a bar in Newcastle, stunted any development at the club.
A move back home was needed and Holden signed for MLS side Houston Dynamo, going on to represent the club 118 times and scoring 16 goals as The Orange lifted the MLS Cup in 2006 and 2007. Holden was included in his country’s Olympic squad in 2008 and in 2009 received his first senior cap at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
His performances once again registered on the radar of Premier League clubs and this time it was Bolton Wanderers who offered the midfielder an opportunity across the Atlantic in the January transfer window of 2010. By the end of the season Holden had featured twice in the Premier League and once in the FA Cup, showing a glimpse of what would come in the following campaign.
The 2010-2011 seasons began brilliantly for Bolton and up until March they were seventh place in the Premier League and had reached the FA Cup semi-final, but a game against Manchester United would stunt the development of both the midfielder and club.
His tough tackling, creative play and strong runs down the wings gave Bolton the perfect injection they needed to climb their way up the league table. Holden’s infectious enthusiasm for the game and hard work made him an instant fan favourite, and back home in the US he is widely adored.
The USA international went into a tackle against Jonny Evans, in which the defender caused a gash on Holden’s right knee which required 26 stitches and inflicted an anterior cruciate ligament injury, ruling the midfielder out for the rest of the season.
It is a testament to his performances that season that despite missing the final two months he still won Bolton Wanderer’s Player of the Year Award (in his absence the club stuttered and finished 14th after only amassing six points following Holden’s injury).
Injury still plagued the player on his return the following season when a standard procedure on his knee revealed that there was more cartilage damage than at first thought and six months rest was advised. The rest of the season was written off and Holden’s team got relegated from the Premier League.
In 2013 Stuart Holden featured for the first time in nearly a year when he came on as a substitute in an FA Cup win over Sunderland in January. By March the club decided he needed match fitness and sent him out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday who themselves had been inflicted with injuries, although he only featured four times.
This summer is a real chance for Holden to enjoy competitive football and US fans, who adore the midfielder, are hoping he can get his country to the finals and bring home the Gold Cup. Getting minutes under his belt and putting in some convincing performances will surely propel him into the 2013-2014 Championship season in which the aim with be more glory with Bolton, and a return to the Premier League.
image: © Matthew Wilkinson