We'll be thinking of you, Fabrice: Bolton players visit team-mate in hospital just hours before emotional return to Spurs
12:01 GMT, 27 March 2012
Bolton trio Zat Knight, David Wheater and Jussi Jasskelainen made an emotional visit to Fabrice Muamba ahead of tonight's match against Tottenham.
The players took time out from preparations at the team hotel to see their team-mate at the London Chest Hospital.
Weaing their club tracksuits, the players jumped out of a black cab before a short visit to see Muamba.
Visit: Jussi Jaaskelainen (left), Zat Knight (centre) and David Wheater (right) arrive at the London Chest Hospital to see their pal
Time out: The players made the visit ahead of the game at Tottenham
For all the emotional issues swirling around Bolton’s return to White Hart Lane on Tuesday, it could have been so much worse.
There could have been no rescheduled FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham, no delegation paying a visit to the London Chest Hospital on Tuesday.
We could, as manager Owen Coyle tactfully put it, be having ‘a different conversation’ about Muamba, after he went into cardiac arrest and collapsed on the pitch 10 days ago, and whether Bolton would replay this tie at all.
Return: Owen Coyle (left) will take his team back to White Hart Lane
Shauna Muamba on Twitter
Today I reflect on the outpour of support and love from people who love Fab from a distance. We love and thank u too 4 caring, thank u.
‘The reason the game goes ahead is because Fabrice is improving,’ said Coyle as he delivered another positive update on the 23-year-old’s condition and even joked about Muamba falling asleep on Sunday morning during Match of the Day highlights of Bolton’s 2-1 win over Blackburn.
‘I don’t know if he still thinks we won 2-0,’ smiled Coyle. ‘You’ve got to understand, for those of us who were there on the Saturday night, to think that a week later he could sit up and watch some of that game is remarkable. He is touched and moved by the show of support, unity, goodwill and feeling, and everyone willing him on to a recovery.’
Coyle, chairman Phil Gartside, defender David Wheater and one more player will visit the intensive care unit on Tuesday, where Muamba remains in a serious but stable condition.
Otherwise the club are doing their best to prepare for the game as normal. Coyle acknowledged that there are clearly extraordinary issues to consider, and some players have complained of flashbacks to the incident.
He again promised that no-one will be made to play against Tottenham, but expects to name a similar line-up to that which started the abandoned tie.
Tribute: Bolton players warmed up wearing Muamba's name and number
‘It’s going to be very emotional but I don’t think we can pre-plan as to whether we go there early or this and that,’ said Coyle. ‘We’ll just have to take it as it comes.
‘It’s just about going and playing the game. Do we want to win Yes, as do Tottenham. In a football context, it’s a tough game at the best of times, never mind coming on the back of all the emotion involved in it as well.’
Bolton have also been keen to acknowledge the efforts of Tottenham’s medical staff and Spurs fan Dr Andrew Deaner, as well as the reaction of the home crowd 10 days ago.
Their players will warm up in T-shirts dedicated to Tottenham and the match shirts worn by both teams will be signed and auctioned for the hospital treating Muamba, the London Ambulance Service and several heart-related charities.
Improving: Fabrice Muamba watched his team-mates on Match of the Day
‘We’ll get the opportunity to thank both sets of supporters, who were remarkable,’ said Coyle.
‘From chairman Daniel Levy all the way through the club, Tottenham Hotspur have been truly outstanding. Harry (Redknapp, their manager) didn’t have to be phoning two or three times a day for an update, but he had genuine concern and goodwill. That just sums up the man he is.’
For Tottenham’s players, too, the game could prove to be a difficult experience. But midfielder Scott Parker believes Muamba’s progress has made it easier to focus their minds on football again.
He said: ‘It was a little bit tricky after what happened but I think the lads are fine now because we hear Fabrice is doing pretty well. It’s helped us a lot.’