Stuart Holden: A Career Blighted By Injury

  • July 30, 2013 | By Chris Mann
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As Stuart Holden begins the long road back to fitness, we take a look at a promising career that has been savaged by injury.

News broke in the early hours of Tuesday morning that the 27-year-old had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, which is likely to rule him out for the majority, if not all, of the forthcoming Championship campaign.

Holden's history of knee problems is well documented, but his unfortunate injury troubles and general bad luck date back to before his time at Bolton - to when he was a teenager.

After two years of college football at Clemson University, South Carolina, Holden moved to England in 2005 and signed a short-term contract with Sunderland. Shortly after his arrival, the then 19-year-old was the victim of an assault outside a bar in Newcastle that left him with a fractured eye socket. He would spend two months recovering from the problem, before sustaining an ankle injury upon his return to training.

Holden was released that summer, having failed to make a single senior appearance for the Black Cats.

Determined to make his way in the game, Holden returned Stateside and signed a deal with Houston Dynamo ahead of the 2006/07 MLS season. His debut campaign was one to remember as the Dynamo claimed the MLS Cup with a penalty shootout victory over New England Revolution, after the tie had ended 1-1. Holden was on target with his spot-kick, ensuring his name would be in the record books.

Having won a call-up to the United States international scene in December 2008, Holden was forced to withdraw from the squad after suffering a hip injury. He would eventually win his first cap in July 2009, where he scored in a 4-0 win over Grenada in the Gold Cup.

Later that year, Holden was invited to England to undergo a trial at Burnley. Shortly after his arrival, Clarets boss Owen Coyle resigned from his position and moved to the Reebok Stadium as the successor to Gary Megson. After a brief spell in limbo, Holden followed the Scot and spent a short time training with the Trotters.

Now aged 24, Holden signed a six-month contract with Wanderers and made his debut in a 4-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur in February 2010. He made his Premier League debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers the following weekend, before his much maligned injury troubles began.

In March 2010, in a friendly match between USA and Netherlands in Amsterdam, Holden was on the receiving end of a wreckless challenge from then Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong. The tackle resulted in a fractured right fibula, ending Holden's season prematurely.

Fortunately, for Holden, he had done enough to earn a new contract at Bolton - signing a three-year deal. After recovering from a broken leg, Holden became a key figure in the 2010/11 campaign. Wanderers spent much of the season in the top-half of the Premier League and also reached the FA Cup semi-finals, but Holden would miss out on the Wembley showdown with Stoke City after another rough challenge cut short his season.

In March 2011, Holden suffered damage to the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and a fracture to the joint. This occurred in a 1-0 defeat at Manchester United, when a 50/50 challenge with Jonny Evans ended with the Bolton midfielder being stretchered off the field.

Six months later, Holden returned as Wanderers faced Aston Villa in a Carling Cup third round tie at Aston Villa. He successfully completed 90 minutes as the visitors secured a 2-0 win before routine exploratory surgery revealed damage to cartilage, bringing yet another season to an end.

More than 12 months of gruelling rehabilitation would follow, before Holden made his long-awaited return to first-team action in January 2013 as a 74th minute substitute for Josh Vela in an FA Cup tie at Sunderland.

He made his return to league action the following month, again as a substitute, as Wanderers beat Peterborough United 1-0 at the Reebok Stadium. With first-team football far from guaranteed, Holden was loaned to Sheffield Wednesday where regular action would build up his fitness ahead of a long summer and the subsequent 2013/14 season.

Holden made four appearances during his time at Hillsborough, before ending the campaign with a late cameo role in Bolton's 1-1 draw at Cardiff City in April.

Having won a call-up to the USA's Gold Cup squad this summer, he would earn another five caps for Jurgen Klinsmann's side. Having enjoyed a successful tournament, and with the end in sight, Holden was forced off the field just 24 minutes into the final at Chicago's Soldier Field. Initial reports indicated he had suffered strained ligaments in his right knee, but scans would later reveal the full extent of the injury - a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The problem is likely to rule Holden out for at least nine months and could, potentially, mean he has played his last game in a Wanderers shirt. A model professional, Holden deserves better than the luck provided to him throughout his career in England. He has spent a total of four years in the country, with Sunderland and Bolton, respectively, but has made just 38 appearances during that time.

If there was ever a career that was blighted by injury, Stuart Holden would be right at the top of the list.

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