Bolton Wanderers midfielder Stuart Holden says U.S. National Team fans can rest assured that he’ll be ready should he get the call-up from Bob Bradley to World Cup training camp in May.
“I’ll definitely be 100 percent by then,” Holden said in an interview with MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “It’s obviously the coach’s decision whether to include me or not for the World Cup camp. Hopefully I’ve done enough to have myself included. I just have got to prove my fitness, and if I do get selected, I’ll look forward to representing the U.S. this summer.”
Over the last two weeks, Holden says he has stepped up the training to raise his level of fitness and build muscle in his legs as he returns from a right fibula fracture suffered last month.
Holden told MLSsoccer.com that there is even a chance he could be part of Bolton Wanderers' match against Tottenham Hotspur in EPL action this Saturday.
“It’s a possibility, but it’s not my decision,” Holden said by phone from Bolton. “I’m going to see how training goes this week. If all goes well with no setbacks, then I’ll be available for the weekend.”
The 24-year-old expects to permanently join full training with Bolton this week after working on the side in recent weeks, including some sporadic action with the club’s reserve team. What few know is that the fateful tackle in the Americans’ friendly match against the Netherlands last month did more damage than just fracture his right fibula.
“It’s been a strange injury,” he said. “I had a little bit of a sprain in my knee at the same time from the tackle. So I’ve been rehabbing two injuries, in a sense.”
It was a Nigel de Jong tackle in Amsterdam that put Holden out of commission for nearly two months. Holden, who earned his 12th U.S. cap in that match, says he has never heard from de Jong after the incident, but holds no grudges.
Still, the plate and screws in his fibula will serve as a constant reminder of the Manchester City midfielder, who was later chastised for the rough tackle by Dutch national-team coach Bert van Marwijk.
The injury couldn't have occurred at a worse time. Holden was coming off his first and only two appearances for Bolton on Feb. 24 and Feb. 27, and seemed on his way to proving he was worthy of the EPL club picking up the option on his short-term contract in May.
The day after suffering the injury, Bolton manager Owen Coyle called Holden to let him know the club would exercise their option and bring him back for the 2010-2011 EPL season.
With the peace of mind of a contract extension, Holden began the long road back from injury along with fellow U.S. National Team players Charlie Davies and Oguchi Onyewu. The three have supported each other regularly during the course of their recovery.
“I’ve had constant contact with Charlie and Gooch, and they’re almost at the point where they’re fully back from their injuries as well,” Holden said. “It’s obviously been a tough couple of months for everyone, injury-wise. Now that all of us are starting to turn the corner and get back healthy, everyone is really motivated and driven by the thought of playing in the World Cup.”
The debate has already begun about whether players with limited playing time at their clubs should be selected to the 30-man World Cup preliminary roster, which U.S. coach Bob Bradley will need to submit to FIFA on May 11.
For his part, Holden has no doubts he can be ready.
“I’d say I’m in the 90s [percent fit],” he said. “Now that my body feels good, I just need to get my sharpness back. And that’s going to come with training. We have some high intensity trainings over here. It will be good to get back amongst the guys and really get working on all that little stuff that you can’t replicate on the side.
“I’m really confident,” Holden added. “I’m always confident in terms of my fitness. I’m a good enough professional that I do the little things I need to off the field, and in terms of taking care of my body and making sure that I’m doing extra running. That’s something I’ve always prided myself on. Fitness has always been one of the stronger parts of my game. I’m just making sure that I keep that up and fitness won’t be an issue for me into that selection.”