The big news of today was Owen Croyle confirming that Stuart Holden would be returning to the lineup in Bolton’s Carling Cup clash with Aston Villa tomorrow. Holden will be seeing first team action for the first time since being brutally tackled by Manchester United’s Johnny Evans back in March.
For the first two-thirds of the season Bolton Wanders were a nice change of pace in the English Premier League, playing some attractive soccer and were in the top half of the table battling for a spot in Europe. Stuart Holden was one of a few reasons why Bolton were playing so well and he was even rated as the top player of the first half of the season by The Guardian’s readers. Holden was also among the league leaders in tackles won for most of the season until his season was cut short by Evans’ bad tackle.
Despite tomorrow’s game only being a Carling Cup match, I decided to look at Bolton’s play with and without Holden last season within league play. While other factors came into play with Bolton’s slump down the stretch, Holden’s loss was a major factor. The Trotters look like they might have missed his tackle-winning ability in the middle of the field as they gave up 1.75 goals per game in games without him.
As stated above, Bolton were battling for a Europa League (and possibly Champions League) spot for most of the season and were sitting in seventh place after that March 19 contest with Manchester United where they lost Holden.
After losing Holden, the season just went sour for Bolton and if you look at the standings from March 20 until the end of the season, they were only able to muster six more points in their final eight games, tied for the second-worst effort over that final two and a half months.
While Holden probably still has a ways to go to return to his 2010-11 form, it will be nice seeing him take the field for Bolton in that Carling Cup match tomorrow.