Mum's the word as Holden aims to cruise past United

For Moira Holden, watching her son play either involves a nine-hour flight from Houston, which she took to see Bolton Wanderers face Arsenal a fortnight ago, or getting up in the small hours and turning on the television. Stuart Holden has described his mother as one of his sternest critics – certainly they discuss every one of his performances – and today's against Manchester United will be of special interest.

"It will be shown live on ESPN at 4am and she'll have three or four coffees to keep her going," said Holden, whose family emigrated from Aberdeen to Texas when he was 10.

"She is a stern critic but she is also one of my biggest fans; my sister will have friends watching at collegewhere she is. Anyone who is American likes to watch Americans play, especially when the games are live against Manchester United. Family support was so important when I was growing up because in the United States you have to drive an hour for training two or three times a week. That is why I am indebted to them."

Holden's first return to Britain, five years ago, was an unhappy one. Having made a name for himself in college football at Clemson University in South Carolina, he signed for Sunderland only to have his eye socket fractured in an unprovoked assault in Newcastle. Footballing injuries followed and he returned to refashionhis career at Houston Dynamo.

"It made me question my faith a bit because, having had those injuries, I did one or two trials after that, I picked up another injury and that keeps knocking you down. I always maintained I had the ability for this level but it took going back to Houston to establish myself and win a place in the national team."

He returned to England with Bolton at the turn of the year, the time when Owen Coyle was wrestling free of his contract with Burnley and receiving all the poison that burst out when he returned to Turf Moor last Tuesday. Holden said Coyle did not mention his feelings about the maelstrom that awaited him and to an American it must seem strange that football can exert this kind of viciousness. Holden is sometimes recognised in Houston but seldom if he travels outside the city centre.

"The kind of thing you saw at Burnley doesn't tend to happen in the States because it is so far to travel for the away fans," he said. "If you are a New York fan and want to travel to Los Angeles, it's a six-hour flight. But more MLS teams mean more derbies."

As a kid, Holden's speciality was video games – especially one called Counter Strike, which might sum up Coyle's tactics today. Now it's Fifa 10. Most of the USA World Cup squad cooped up in their training camp near Pretoria became addicted. "It was pretty much all we did during the World Cup because there was little else to do," he said. "We were pretty confined, security-wise. We had ping-pong, pool and Fifa. You had to play as your own team, so I was Bolton. I gave the rest a good hiding."

Bolton versus Manchester United is live on ESPN from 11am this morning

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