Despite a rash of serious injuries that have limited his contributions for the club since 2011, Stuart Holden is still safe and sound in the hearts of Bolton Wanderers.
According to a recent report in The Bolton News, the 28-year-old US international has been assured he will return to the team after his contract expires at the end of the season and that a new deal will not be contingent upon his return to the field this spring.
Holden is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered while on duty with the US national team last July in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He has played in non-contact games with Bolton recently and is expected to make the next step in his recovery in the coming weeks, according to the report.
“I have spoken to Stuart and I will keep that conversation private on what I have said about next year,” Bolton manager Dougie Freedman said. “But what I said did ease him a little bit. I haven’t put Stuart under any pressure to play. It’s unfair for me, as coach, to do that because of what’s happened to him in the last couple of years.
"I wouldn’t rush him back or make him do extra as in most cases because that could be detrimental to his other muscles, not just the knee.”
Freedman said he suspects that Holden’s return last year – which was celebrated by USMNT supporters after he missed more than two years of action with the team because of injuries – contributed to the torn ACL, which occurred during the Gold Cup final in Chicago. The former Houston Dynamo standout had spent time on loan with Sheffield Wednesday in 2013 and appeared in four matches for the team last spring before coming on during stoppage time of a Bolton match against Cardiff City in April.
“Clearly, when he came back last year he wasn’t right,” Freedman said. “Hopefully, it is a lot different this time. He has spent a lot of time in America with the surgeon that did the operation, he has completely changed his running style which I am told could have prevented the last problem. He is in a completely different mindset to where he was last time.
"Therefore, I am not going to rush this through. I want to make sure when he comes back he will be ready for the future.”
Bolton currently sit in 19th place in the Championship table, winless in their last eight matches.
“He is someone we probably need right now with the leadership qualities he has got-on and off the field,” Freedman said. “We all want him back and we are all frustrated. But you won't see me making a call which puts the rest of Stuart's career for the next seven or eight years in jeopardy because we need him tomorrow.”