With Stuart Holden possibly headed for a massive decision in the context of his career, we should reflect on what has come to pass before potentially devastating news hits the public.
The US international collapsed onto the pitch just 22 minutes into his return with the Bolton U-21 side against Everton, clutching his knee.
A picture of his injury surfaced on Twitter, a picture that invoked painful faces and stomach knots for anyone with half a heart.
The image shows the 28-year-old trooper in a crumpled heap on the pitch all by himself in the shot.
News was released by Bolton that Holden would head back to the United States, and while there’s hope that his injury does not result in the fourth torn ACL of his career, it doesn’t look good. Bolton manager Dougie Freedman said, “we feel that it’s the same injury.”
Not good. Not good at all. But where there is darkness, there is also light.
The light that comes from the endless adversity Stu Holden faces is the professionalism and human relation that Bolton has expressed throughout the midfielder’s injury trials.
Holden’s club has been a source of rich luminosity through his endless tunnel, supporting him through the entire tribulation.
Even after his latest setback, Freedman gushed with praise for his downed man.
“I want to be very clear to everybody that Stuart Holden will be here in some capacity at this football club,” said Freedman. “He is such a fantastic lad and is a great ambassador for this football club. He is a giver, and I believe that this football club needs people like that. Some people are just take, take, take, but Stuart has never once talked about his situation – he only ever talks about how we can win games and that is music to my ears.”
That speaks not only to Holden – who is by all accounts a perfect embodiment of Freedman’s words – but it also reflects the praiseworthy stance of the club. They see Holden not as a dollar sign, not as strictly an employee, but as a human being, their player, and their friend.
The best part is, this is nothing new. It’s been this way for Holden at Bolton since he arrived there in 2010 and first found himself the recipient of the Jonny Evans red-card tackle a year later. They’ve privately and publicly supported him throughout his recoveries.
Holden’s contract is up this summer, a major talking point and something he was hoping toward resolving with his return this spring. If he has indeed ruptured his knee’s most unstable ligament yet again, it would be entirely understandable for Bolton to shut up shop and send the 28-year-old packing at his contract’s expiry.
And yet still, they are not ready to give up on Holden. Freedman visited Holden the day after he lay face down on the Reebok Stadium pitch, and came away with the following sentiment. “Stuart will hopefully be fine and will be back playing, but if he’s not then he’ll be back here during the summer trying to get fit to get back in some capacity.”
While there’s no doubt that could ultimately change, and Bolton could make a business decision that anyone would find difficult to question. But if they remain steadfast in sticking by their American midfielder, it would only strengthen the admirable support they have shown Holden.
We await the results of the tests on his knee, and a diagnosis could be some time away given the previous trauma that his knee has endured (often previous ACL surgery clouds future scans and makes determining the extent of future injuries much more difficult). But it would appear that no matter the final determination, Bolton will plod on with a resolve that most teams across all sports could only dream of showing their employees.
Because too often these days players are viewed as just that – employees on a paycheck. But to Bolton, the 28-year-old American that lay in a heap last weekend was their man, and they wish to see him through the next chapter of his career just like the rest of us.
Let’s all stand up and applaud Bolton Wanderers.