Up until now, it's been baby steps on the road to recovery for Stu Holden.
Both player and club had decided that easing Holden back in the center of the park was the best option. Starting with a closed-door game, moving to an extended reserve appearance, and followed by a pair of short FA Cup appearances, they've done just that.
Now, things are about to ramp as Stuart Holden is set to make a major leap.
Holden, along with David Wheater, was supposed to feature in Monday's U21 match against Stoke City but that was called off due to a waterlogged pitch. Both are scheduled to see time against Manchester City's U21s on Friday and it appears that both are well on their way to prolonged first team minutes.
Of course, Holden is the player closest to reaching that of the two. He's had multiple appearances across the reserve and first team levels in the last month and now it seems that he is ready to take the next step.
The next step? 90 minutes.
With contract talks looming for both Stu Holden and Bolton Wanderers, both parties have one common goal: a fit Stu Holden. Prior to the 14 minutes he played in his return against Sunderland, the American midfielder had played just one match in 22 months. He hasn't played a single league game in that time.
It's not Stu's fault that he (a) suffered those injuries and (b) they kept him out for so long. Even if he couldn't help it, each day/week/month that Holden spent away from pitch took a little bit of what Holden was worth away from his name.
After all, what would contract negotiations be if each party didn't want the best possible deal? What the fans want is to see Holden in a Bolton Wanderers shirt for years to come. What the club wants is a fit midfielder capable of once again bossing the center of the park. What does Stu Holden want? Both of those things and at a fair wage. Can you blame him?
That's important because with just five months left on his contract, Holden doesn't have much time to prove his worth by proving his fitness and ability to stay that way. The clock is ticking to build that worth back up. Expect Stu Holden to start matches and going the distance. Expect it soon.