Stuart Holden

Could Stuart Holden join Bolton’s first team within a week?

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Like the rest of us, Bolton manager Dougie Freedman was just this side of giddy about Stuart Holden’s return Tuesday. We told you yesterday about the U.S. international playing 65 minutes in a reserve match for Wanderers.

Now Freedman is even hinting that Holden could join the first team in time for next week’s FA Cup third-round replay at Sunderland, Tuesday at the Stadium of Light. (The full schedule of FA Cup matches is here.)

Bolton, sitting at No. 16 in the 24-team npower Championship (England’s second tier), isn’t going anywhere this year. Well, not going up, that is; Just seven points clear of a perilous drop into third-tier soccer with more than four months to play is hardly rock-solid ground.

So a deep FA Cup plunge may be Bolton’s clearest path to a memorable 2012-13 season. Getting to the fourth or fifth round could potentially assist Bolton financially, not to mention adding momentum going into the summer as Freedman’s team preps for its next run at a Premiership return.

The manager is stressing patience, but told The Bolton News that Holden deserves praise and encouragement, too:

It was great to see him out there. To get 65 minutes, we are very pleased, and a very good 65 minutes at that. I thought he was very influential in the game as well.

“Having been out for so long but to be involved in most of the match is very encouraging and also very pleasing for Stuart. We have got to remember that because he’s been out for so long, we have to put Stuart first and foremost. He has got to be given time, and he has been given that. He has to be given a pat on the back as well.”

“… We are training Stuart with every possible way and he is coming through the tests with flying colours.”

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.