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Owen Coyle was on record as being a fan of Major League Soccer, saying that it has the potential to bring through the next generation of football greats. One of those was Stuart Holden while Tim Ream still has the potential to shine. What does his sacking mean for the future of the Americans at Bolton Wanderers and the stateside fans that support them?
Of all the players on the books at the Reebok, there are few Bolton Wanderers that would have likely taken the news of the club parting company with Owen Coyle harder than Stuart Holden. After all, Coyle took not one, but two major chances on the promising prospect out of MLS that had already had his share of bad luck.
Holden tried his hand at playing in England once before and it was his luck that kept him from breaking in. After two years of soccer at Clemson University, Stuart signed for Sunderland, then a Championship side on their way to winning the league. On March 12, 2005, Holden was attacked outside a bar in Newcastle where he left with a fractured eye socket. The injury would eventually end his Black Cats career after six months and no first team appearances.
The then-20-year-old returned home to Texas where he would spend three good seasons with the hometown Houston Dynamo, helping them win two MLS championships in that stretch. He was named to the MLS and CONCACAF Gold Cup Best XIs in 2009, his final season there. Owen Coyle recognized the American's talent and took him on trial at Burnley in the time approaching the 2009/2010 winter transfer window. Coyle moved to Bolton in January of that season and famously took Stuart Holden with him, signing the center mid to a Bolton Wanderers contract. Who knows what would have become of Stuart Holden had Coyle not signed him up but there's a 99.9% chance that his future would not have been in Bolton White.
There's no question that Holden deserves to be one of the first names on the team sheet when fit and his future, regardless of whoever the new manager is, should be assured at the Reebok. The other Yank on the books, Tim Ream, is on the completely opposite end of the spectrum.
Ream, after enjoying much of his first half-season at the club in the starting XI, has been on the bench at the Reebok for the vast majority of the current term. This is not to say that his stay outside of the starting lineup is the incorrect call. The Championship is a rough-and-tumble sort of league. Instead of pacy little wingers coming in, you have the strong and relatively large midfielders in that spot.
Ream's problems in defense are twofold: Not strong enough on the ground and not good enough in the air. These flaws were pointed out in the most obvious of ways when Hull City walked all over Bolton Wanderers to the tune of 3-1 just over a month ago. Ream played a very large part in the third goal on the day as Hull's Jay Simpson bundled him off the ball far too easily and then cut inside to play the killer ball that would find its way into the back of the net. It also seems that Ream has a particular dislike for headers and thus is often beat in the air. These issues are in no way unfixable, with the ability to correct them through some work in the gym and better discipline on the defensive end.
A new manager may very well be willing to give Tim Ream another run in the side. After all, the 25-year-old has shown plenty of promise in the past, enough to be called into the senior US Men's National Team squad on eight occasions as well as interest from Arsenal among other teams. Ream is really only just over two years into his professional playing career and certainly has some way to go.
You have to wonder what a new manager would mean for each player's potential time on the field as well as what said manager's ability to retain these players in contract years would be. Injuries or not, not a single one of us wants to lose Stuart Holden in any capacity.
The other concern, from an American standpoint, is what the future for Yanks is at Bolton Wanderers. Owen Coyle was on record as being a big fan of Major League Soccer prior to Bolton's match against Houston Dynamo two summers ago:
MLSsoccer.com: What's your impression of MLS?
Coyle: I watch the games every week and I think the league itself and teams are getting better every year. I've always said that I feel that in the not too distant future the US will have a major say in the World Cup because of how the game's progressing at both the grassroots and professional level with MLS. It's a terrific league filled with fantastic players and great young players coming into the teams.
I watched the Seattle versus Vancouver match and there were some terrific goals. I love watching the matches because they're real entertaining for the fans. We're the same in the EPL. We have the best league in the world because we're entertaining for the fans and they're the crux of the sport. I think the MLS [teams] are doing the same.
Whether a new manager will be keen to give MLS players a shot is something that we don't exactly hold high hopes for but it will certainly be something to watch.