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

Jan 10, 2013, 11:12 AM EDT

Stuart Holden

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.”

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