GARY Caldwell admits he ‘would love to start’ Grant Holt as soon as the big Wigan Athletic striker is fully fit.
Holt has recently returned from a 10-month spell on the sidelines following a cruciate knee ligament injury.
He followed a second-half cameo off the bench in last week’s JPT win at Crewe with a similar appearance at Bury last weekend – when his introduction helped to tip the game back in Wigan’s favour.
The 34-year-old is champing at the bit for his first start in the league for Latics since Boxing Day 2013.
And boss Caldwell says the ex-Norwich man is very much in his thinking ahead of this afternoon’s visit of Colchester United.
“Grant is a great player to have back in contention,” Caldwell told the Evening Post.
“He’s got experience of League One and higher, he’s scored goals at every level, and it’s great to have him in the squad fit, hungry and looking sharp.
“And we’ll keep using him when we need him.
“I would love to start him – I would love to get him fully fit to be able to play 90 minutes.
“In this league, he can definitely be a handful.”
Having fallen down the pecking order under Uwe Rosler – and wrecking his knee during a loan spell with Huddersfield before he had the chance to impress Malky Mackay – Holt has plenty of incentive to make a splash on his return.
“Without a doubt he has something to prove,” recognised Caldwell.
“And I think he would tell you himself he has something to prove.
“He was a big signing at the time when he arrived here, in terms of being the man to fire us back into the Premier League.
“It didn’t quite work out, for a number of reasons, and then he picked up a serious injury.
But he’s back now, and he’s hungry.
“You can see that with in his training, and with the work he’s done in the gym while he’s been injured.
“I’ve also spoken to him many times, where he’s shown me he’s hungry.
“That’s great for me – to have players who are willing to fight to get into the team, and to do something about getting us back up the leagues.”
Holt has certainly emphatically answered any questions about his desire to come back from a potentially career-threatening injury at the tail end of his career.
“When you get older, there’s certain things that go through your head as a player,” acknowledged Caldwell, who retired last term at the age of 32.
“When you get an injury like that, you might be thinking: ‘Is this the end? Am I going to get back to playing football?’
“When that happens, it’s a low point – and you either sink or swim.
“Grant’s certainly done the latter, he’s worked very hard to get his opportunity, and he’s desperate to grab it.
“It’s about increasing the minutes now.
“When he makes the kind of impression he did at Bury, he’s asking the question about starting.
“It’s great to have that option, and it’s given me and my staff a decision to make.
“We’ll look at the games, the training, his fitness, whether he can last 90 minutes, and I’ll speak to Grant and see how he feels.”
l Tickets for the JPT northern area quarter-final against Blackpool on Tuesday, November 10 will be priced just £5 adults and £1 juniors.
Kick-off is 7.15pm.