International Football

Stuart Holden's Bolton Deal Ideal for All Involved

CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 13:  Stuart Holden #22 of the Houston Dynamo is kicked by Gregg Berhalter #16 Los Angeles Galaxy in the first half during the 2009 MLS Western Conference Championship at The Home Depot Center on November 13, 2009 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Ben TrianaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2010

Even though his name couldn't be found anywhere on this week's stat sheet, Stuart Holden had plenty to celebrate this weekend.

His recent signing with the English Premier League's Bolton Wanderers is the beginning of a perfect opportunity. Furthermore, instead of not being ready, the reported reason for not dressing for his first game was a leg injury in the "final stages" of healing, and he was expected to be up and practicing soon.

It doesn't really matter though, for the signing is almost all benefits and few drawbacks. 

The only negative with the move is the possibility of injury, but even if he was not with a team, he could easily harm himself in a warm-up match or intense training for the World Cup (since he is expected to make the squad). Since that's the possible outcome, better to risk than not.

The key to such a beneficial situation is the length of his contract. With a signing that only lasts until the end of this season, Holden has all to play for and not much to lose by May.

Obviously, Holden's attempting to impress his temporary club in order to earn a long-term contract, but, grant me a moment of extreme optimism.

Say he exceeds all expectations. Then he is not beholden unto Bolton, and he can move onto a club of his choice, preferably one desperately needing his talents, one that is not constantly worried about relegation (Bolton's currently one point out of the drop zone), and one willing to offer him a relatively lucrative and long contract.

Maybe he doesn't. Maybe he has a horrible stay with Bolton, is only able to dress with the first team a handful of times, and is released by the club.

In such a case, there's no reason for Holden to be embarrassed. The team's struggling to find any sense of stability and find a starting lineup that can implement what new manager Owen Coyle wants.

If Holden doesn't fit into those plans, it may not necessarily be his fault, and thankfully, Europe, especially England, has a short memory when it comes to the performance of American players.

Or he may not be ready for the EPL. Or the style of game in England. There's always an appropriate excuse...er, reason (I'm in no way saying I expect that will be the case with Holden).  He holds dual citizenship with Scotland, so it's much easier for European teams to sign him.

No matter how this season ends for Holden, he will find a place in Europe. It may be in the EPL. It may not, but he should see at least minimal playing time at Bolton, and the possibility of a bigger role at the club is very possible.

Also, he's Owen Coyle's signing. Thus, Coyle has a reason to see Holden succeed. Plus, as I've mentioned, any player who can help improve the team's fortunes can earn a spot in the starting 11.

Finally, even if Holden is an utter failure at Bolton (also highly unlikely), he gets the opportunity to play against elite opposition, which, in the end, will only add to his experience and play this summer. Another boon, not just for him, but also for the U.S. national team.

This deal is not all one-sided though. Bolton and Coyle put up little risk by signing Holden. It was a free transfer—they only needed to pay his wages—and if he doesn't pan out, the club can release him. All the while, Coyle can claim he was willing to do anything to keep the club out of relegation, even sign an American.

Only time and Holden will decide if he sinks or swims, but the chances are in his favor. The club needs players. The coach is interested in him (offering a trial to the player just as he switched clubs). He is familiar with Europe having played as a youth overseas and being born in Scotland.

Plus, he has a decently well-rounded game. He's intelligent, creative, calm, and thoughtful with his passing and play on the ball. 

His defensive abilities will have to improve some, but the fast and physical game in England should force him to do as much.

Still, when he does falter, his ability to cross with such accuracy and finesse should always make him a dangerous option for Coyle...even if at first, it is as a sub coming off the bench.

Overall, this scenario reminds me of another player who went overseas to sell his wares to another struggling English club a few years back: Clint Dempsey.

Look how that turned out (all jokes about his current injury aside).

The next couple of months for Stuart Holden should be exciting.

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