On-pitch trauma and fam­ily tragedy have pre­pared Dean for Lat­ics’ job

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Matt Bad­cock

DEAN Holden may only be in the spring of his man­age­rial ca­reer, but the Old­ham boss knows all about the bru­tal truth of man­age­ment.

The 35-year-old, re­cently ap­pointed Lat­ics chief un­til the end of the sea­son, was with Steve Eyre when he was sacked by Rochdale.

“I was there when he took the call from the chair­man fir­ing him,” Holden said in a fas­ci­nat­ing in­ter­view with Abu Dhabi news­pa­per The Na­tional.

“He was cheery when he an­swered, there were tears in his eyes when the call ended. I’ve seen many man­agers sacked. It’s never good, but foot­ball is all about re­sults.”

If there’s a man who has the char­ac­ter to deal with the rough and tum­ble of life as a lower league gaffer, it’s Holden.

A life-long Manch­ester United fan, Holden’s ca­reer be­gan at Bolton Wan­der­ers. A 20-year-old de­fender, he was mak­ing his way in the game and on the verge of an FA Cup semi-fi­nal ap­pear­ance against As­ton Villa at Wem­b­ley.

But dis­as­ter struck when he broke his leg the week be­fore in a chal­lenge with Sh­effield United’s Lee San­ford.

It wasn’t to be the only set­back he would come back from. In 2008 his tibia and fibula broke af­ter a late tackle by Stephen McManus while play­ing for Falkirk against Celtic.

It shows the mea­sure of the man that when McManus came to visit him in hos­pi­tal – with a gift of Daniele de Rossi’s Italy shirt – he went out of his way to make sure the Bhoys cap­tain didn’t feel bad about his part in the in­ci­dent. Hav­ing been a ball boy at Old Traf­ford the day of Dave Busst’s in­fa­mous hor­rific dou­ble leg break that ended his ca­reer, Holden had an ap­pre­ci­a­tion his could have been a lot worse.

“I was sit­ting ten yards away and saw it all – it wasn’t very nice,” he re­called.


“I re­mem­ber Peter Sch­me­ichel and Brian McClair go­ing for the chal­lenge but the noise Busst was mak­ing was the aw­ful thing that sticks in my mind. It was like when you hear two cats fight­ing. Then I saw Sch­me­ichel’s face and his re­ac­tion was just hor­rific.”

Holden re­cov­ered to con­tinue a ca­reer that went on to count ten dif­fer­ent clubs, where his hard work and de­sire was ap­pre­ci­ated by fans.

Af­ter leav­ing Bolton, he moved to Old­ham, cap­tained Peter­bor­ough and had spells at Shrews­bury, Ch­ester­field, Rochdale and Wal­sall. At Ch­ester­field he was part of the League Two ti­tle-win­ners in 2010-11. See­ing how his fam­ily en­joyed the cham­pi­onship win brought him great pride.

A pic­ture with his dad and brother hold­ing the tro­phy in the chang­ing room hangs proudly on the wall in his par­ents’ house. Holden had al­ways been striv­ing to achieve.

“I was al­ways the vic­tim – ev­ery­one used to say, ‘He plays for Old­ham but he used to play for Bolton be­fore he broke his leg’,” Holden said at the time of his sec­ond in­jury. “It has taken me a long time to over­come that.”

The in­jury set­backs pale into in­signif­i­cance along­side a true tragedy his fam­ily suf­fered in 2012.

Hav­ing been re­leased by Rochdale at the end of the sea­son, Holden took a fam­ily hol­i­day in Lan­zarote with wife Danielle, a for­mer chil­dren’s TV pre­sen­ter, and their chil­dren Joey, El­lis and 17-month-old daugh­ter Cici. Trag­i­cally, Cici con­tracted rare bac­te­rial blood in­fec­tion meningo­coc­cal sep­sis.

She died on the way to hos­pi­tal af­ter the in­fec­tion spread through her body, caus­ing her ma­jor or­gans to shut down. It was a dev­as­tat­ing loss.


Holden found his so­lace in foot­ball. With­out a club, he set about cold call­ing man­agers from the Cham­pi­onship down. Most didn’t an­swer and he didn’t leave a mes­sage. When they picked up he had his gam­bit ready.

“Hello, it’s Dean Holden. I’ve played 400 games. I’m ex­pe­ri­enced. I’ve got a great at­ti­tude. I want to play for you.”

He per­suaded Dean Smith at Wal­sall to sign him. And the Sad­dlers fans took him un­der their wing, rais­ing money through tshirt sales to boost the dona­tions from for­mer clubs Ch­ester­field, Old­ham and Shrews­bury.

The money went to­wards a me­mo­rial gar­den at their sons’ school – St Mark’s Pri­mary School in Wors­ley – and the Menin­gi­tis Trust.

“Send­ing mes­sages is one thing but peo­ple putting their hands in their pock­ets is some­thing else,” Holden said.“It means some­thing to me and my wife and in some small, weird way it helps.

“You get mes­sages on twit­ter giv­ing you sup­port. They don’t know you and it can’t bring Cici back but it helps give you a bit of a feel-good fac­tor. It has given us a lot of com­fort know­ing peo­ple are think­ing about us.”

Wife Danielle said: “I think he en­joys his foot­ball more now be­cause he’s seen how bad life can be.”

Smith had seen the man­age­rial and coach­ing lights go on in Holden’s head and soon gave him a player-coach role.

He helped young play­ers along and went out on scout­ing mis­sions. When the chance to be­come Lee John­son’s as­sis­tant at League One Old­ham came along, it was too good to turn down.

Smith said: “Could he be a manager one day? I think so. He def­i­nitely has all the at­tributes.”

When John­son left for Barns­ley, Holden stepped up, first as a care­taker be­fore land­ing the job un­til the end of the sea­son. The club say they’ll con­tinue the manager hunt.

Holden knows if he can get re­sults, the board’s search could lead them right un­der their nose.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

PEN­SIVE: Dean Holden has had to over­come tragedy and set­backs in his life

MO­MENT IN THE SUN: Cel­e­brat­ing win­ning League Two with Ch­ester­field in 2011

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