January 2010

Stuart Holden: Yanked Around

Things can never be simple when it comes to American players and transfers, especially transfers from clubs in the States to clubs over in the UK/Europe. Sure Landon Donovan’s loan to Everton was pretty straightforward, but that was by far the exception to the rule. Here’s an example of how American “transfers” usually go… from my point of view, of course.

Friday 12:00 PM/ET: I get a text message from Yanks contributor Neil (feel free to personalize this and insert the name of your very own friend). This text will say some version of “American to bigger club.” Donovan to Everton, Altidore to Sevilla, Brian Ching to Real Madrid, etc.

Friday between 12:01 PM/ET and 2:00 PM/ET: I do my research at some point in there and try to assess the level of realism and likelihood on the transfer rumor. Front page of soccernet.com? Buried deep in the team rumors section of The Daily Mirror? Something Neil wishfully dreamed after falling asleep in front of a FIFA videogame?

And wait for it.

By Wednesday at 2:00 PM/ET: The rumor falls apart for one of a variety of reasons. The club signs a European or South American to play the spot the Yank in question was supposed to fill. The Yank has trouble getting a foreign visa or work permit. The MLS doesn’t approve get on board with the move, often in cases when the player’s current MLS club does. The process drags and the transfer window closes. Often many of these factors come together to kill a move.

Houston Dynamo midfielder Stuart Holden is mired in his own transfer saga, and it seems the UEFA football gods had to get a little creative in order to mess up his seemingly done-deal move to Burnley. After about a month of heavy speculation on where he would land, Holden was set start a one week trial with the EPL club under manager Owen Coyle. Coyle and Burnley had presumably won the race amongst the mid to bottom-of-the-table English clubs for the services of the creative American. Holden’s week on trial would be merely a formality before the newly promoted Burnley inked the out-of-contract Scottish-born American.

But a management job offer from the Premier League mainstay Bolton Wanderers changed everything for Holden and his situation. Burnley manager Owen Coyle made the jump (down in the standings) to Bolton and took trialist Stu with him. Bolton’s a bigger club than Burnley, not much of a better club right now, but bigger and richer for sure. So the move makes sense for Coyle, but changes the dynamics of our American getting that contract offer.

Coyle didn’t want to lose the player he had been courting, but is Bolton Wanderers’ owner Eddie Davies prepared to pony up some cash and sign Holden so soon after buying himself a new manager? Does BW general management already have a different idea on where they’ll be spending their team personell money this transfer window? Surely the player needs of the two teams can’t be identical, then again what lower table English team couldn’t use the offensive quality and creativity that Holden offers.

And in moving to a larger club it’s worthy to mention that manager Coyle is under more pressure and scrutiny than he was at Burnley, especially with Bolton currently hanging out in relegation territory. In his mind can he really afford to make his first acquisition an American who is still on the fringes of the U.S. starting XI. Major League Soccer stars aren’t exactly household names in Britain.

I’m rooting for Stu, and I really hope this opportunity doesn’t fall apart for him, but don’t hold your breath; it may be awhile before we see him taking on Premier League opposition.

Jon Levy