Bolton Wanderers manager Owen Coyle has backed Stuart Holden to make a strong return for club and country after the USA midfielder took another step towards first-team football with last night's run-out for the reserves in front of his national head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Holden played 65 minutes as the Trotters' second string drew 1-1 with Rochdale before triumphing in a penalty shoot-out. The 26-year-old also played for the reserves against Fulham last week, the first action he has seen since suffering a knee injury in Bolton's Premier League defeat at Manchester United in March.
Both Coyle and Klinsmann - who watched yesterday's game from the stands - are delighted to see Holden back out on the field. "It's great to have him back," Coyle said.
"I think he has probably been getting a little bit frustrated because he thinks he can click his fingers after being out for six months and get back at the level he was at. It takes time to build up that fitness and your decision-making in a game, but it was great to see him running about with a Bolton Wanderers shirt on, albeit in a reserve game.
"It will be a tremendous boost when we get him back, and for Jurgen Klinsmann to make that trip when it was pouring down and to stay all night to watch the game is all credit to him. He showed his class, and there is no doubt that Stuart will reward him when he is fully fit with big performances for the national team."
Klinsmann is prepared to be patient as Holden continues to work his way back to top condition. The USA coach told the Bolton website: "He's getting closer and closer, but I'm not looking to get him in the United States squad as soon as possible.
"He's certainly in my plans, but I'm sure I'm one of many who don't want to rush him back. He's a very good character, has a professional attitude and constantly wants to improve his game.
"That's exactly the type of player the national team wants. We're building a young team in the United States and he definitely fits into that. People in the United States have noticed his ability, and now hopefully he can continue to step it up a bit at a time and surpass the levels he was at prior to his injury."
Close to return
Coyle is adopting a similarly cautious approach and although progressing well, Holden is unlikely to feature in Bolton's clash with United at the Reebok Stadium on Saturday. "The great thing about him is that he is driven to do well," Coyle said.
"He has a real hunger and desire to show everybody his qualities and he has already done it in the Premier League. I believe he was one of the top group of midfielders in the country last year and there is no doubt that we missed him. The sooner we get him back, there is no doubt we will be a better team for it.
"It is important we don't throw him into a situation he is not quite ready for yet, but he is getting better and is not too far away. Saturday might just be too soon for him, but if we can get him another game under his belt next week, he will be a lot closer to being back involved in the first team."