HOLDEN: I’M LUCKY, JUST ASK MUAMBA

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Pippa Field

TO MANY Stu­art Holden is the epit­ome of bad luck – the Pre­mier League’s next big thing in 2010 be­fore he suf­fered the first of three sep­a­rate knee in­juries.

But the USA in­ter­na­tional, now at­tempt­ing to re­build his ca­reer on loan at Sh­effield Wed­nes­day, points out that what he has been through is noth­ing com­pared to his former Bolton mid­field part­ner Fabrice Muamba.

It was lit­tle over a year ago that Muamba suf­fered a car­diac ar­rest dur­ing Wan­der­ers’ FA Cup quar­ter-fi­nal tie with Tot­ten­ham and his heart stopped for a ter­ri­fy­ing 78 min­utes – March 17 to be ex­act.

Holden was back home in the States, watch­ing the game live on tele­vi­sion while re­cov­er­ing from car­ti­lage dam­age, mak­ing the wait for any news on his close friend even harder.

While Muamba has since re­cov­ered, that White Hart Lane match proved to be his last and on the ad­vice of lead­ing car­di­ol­o­gists he has re­tired.

But Holden – who has made just four ap­pear­ances for the Trot­ters since tear­ing his cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment against Manch­ester United way back in March 2011 – says that he can­not feel sorry for him­self when he thinks about what hap­pened to former Eng­land U21 star Muamba.

“Fabrice is a close friend of mine and he was my part­ner on the pitch, so it does make you thank­ful in that sense with my in­jury,” he said.

“He will never be able to play foot­ball again which is such a shame for him.

“But he is happy to be liv­ing and when you think of it in that re­spect and your health is fine, and it’s just a lit­tle knee in­jury, it really does put your life into per­spec­tive and makes you thank­ful for where you are in life.

Busy

“Fabrice is cer­tainly mak­ing use of ev­ery day that he is here now and he is keep­ing him­self busy. “I was in the States watch­ing it live on tele­vi­sion when it hap­pened. That was even harder as I wasn’t able to get the up­dates that ev­ery­one else was get­ting.

“It was just about keep­ing in touch.The man­ager was keep­ing me in touch by text and phone calls. It was tough.

“But I was at his sur­prise birth­day party the other day. He is do­ing great. I am in con­tact with him all the time.”

Holden’s own night­mare be­gan while play­ing for the United States against Hol­land in March 2010, when he had been at Bolton for just two months and had made only two ap­pear­ances.

Former Manch­ester City en­forcer Nigel De Jong broke his leg. But Holden is tough. He re­cov­ered to play a part in his coun­try’s 2010 World Cup cam­paign, in­clud­ing an ap­pear­ance against Eng­land in the group stages.

He then teamed up with Muamba the fol­low­ing sea­son and formed an un­likely but suc­cess­ful domestic dou­ble act in the mid­field that was mak­ing some of the Pre­mier League’s top clubs take no­tice.

That was be­fore Jonny Evans tack­led him in March 2011, al­most a year to the day be­fore Muamba’s set­back, and the re­sult was an­other six months on the side­lines.

Fit­ness

A clear in­di­ca­tion of Holden’s in­flu­ence, though, came when he was still voted Wan­der­ers’ player of the year – de­spite miss­ing the fi­nal two months of that cam­paign. For now, the 27-year-old finds him­self at Hills­bor­ough for a month, hav­ing been sent by boss Dougie Freed­man to prove his fit­ness be­fore next sea­son, but he’s in no rush given the events of the past three years.

“Coming back off of a long term in­jury and play­ing two games in three or four days is a bit of an ask,” he added.

“I think, look­ing at the big­ger pic­ture, it’s smarter to play ev­ery week and I’ll be fit­ter, fresher and stronger for hav­ing a bit more of a rest in be­tween games.

“I had spo­ken to the Bolton man­ager a few times about try­ing to get some games. But the team had been do­ing really well and it was tough to force my way in, es­pe­cially coming off an in­jury and the guys in front of me play­ing really well.

“It just came down to us hav­ing a good con­ver­sa­tion about me go­ing away for a month and find­ing the best place to get games.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

GOOD OLD DAYS: Stu­art Holden in ac­tion for Bolton

PAIN GAME: Muamba’s in­jury (left), Holden is hurt (above) and play­ing for the USA (right)

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