Fabrice Muamba urges fans to keep praying

Keep praying for me! Muamba pleads with fans as midfielder's family warns of long recovery

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UPDATED:

11:53 GMT, 23 March 2012

Fabrice Muamba has asked fans to keep praying for him as the midfielder's family admitted he has a long way to go in his recovery.

Muamba is making good progress at the London Chest Hospital since suffering a cardiac arrest on the pitch against Tottenham last Saturday but the 23-year-old remains in a serious condition in intensive care.

A statement from his partner Shauna and father Marcel read: 'We would like to firstly thank God for answering our prayers.

Get well soon: Fans have been leaving messages at Bolton's Reebok Stadium

Get well soon: Fans have been leaving messages at Bolton's Reebok Stadium

'Thank you to everyone for the love, prayers and support over the past few days. In particular we owe an enormous gratitude to the Bolton and Spurs medical teams for their quick reaction on Saturday, and the fantastic team here at The London Chest Hospital.

'We have been overwhelmed by all the kind messages we have received. The support we have had from the fans not just from Bolton but football supporters around the world has given us so much strength. We have been particularly touched by the support from the football community globally.

'Thanks also to our family and close friends and thank you to the media for respecting our privacy during this very difficult time.

'Even though Fabrice has made great progress over the last couple of days, he is still in intensive care, and still has a long period of recovery ahead. He has asked that you please keep him in your prayers.'

Support: Darts fans in Dublin send Muamba their best wishes on Thursday night

Support: Darts fans in Dublin send Muamba their best wishes on Thursday night

Bolton's players will be allowed to miss Saturday's game against Blackburn if they are still too traumatised to return to the pitch.

Boss Owen Coyle reassured his squad on Thursday that no-one will be forced to play unless they are ready.

Coyle said: 'If somebody is not ready, they won't play. Simple as that. I would never ask any of my players to play if they're not ready.'

Shifting focus: Owen Coyle oversees Bolton training on Thursday

Shifting focus: Owen Coyle oversees Bolton training on Thursday

Coyle, who has received widespread
praise for his leadership and compassion, must now oversee an awkward
transition from the trauma of Muamba's fight for life to Bolton's
relegation battle.

But he admits encouragement from the player's father Marcel and fiancee Shauna has helped.

He said: 'It goes without saying that it is not going to be an easy transition. We have the best game in the world but when something like this happens it all goes out of the window.

Only play if you're ready: Coyle insists no-one will be forced to play on Saturday

Only play if you're ready: Coyle insists no-one will be forced to feature on Saturday

'We'll pick the best team available, but while we're playing there's no doubt that everybody's thoughts will be with Fabrice.'

Bolton will hand out T-shirts to fans and cards to be held up in the East Stand before Saturday's game, as well as using advertising boards to display the words, 'football, friends, family'.

Shock: Fabrice Muamba collapsed during his side's FA Cup clash at Tottenham

Shock: Fabrice Muamba collapsed during his side's FA Cup clash at Tottenham

Stunned: Players and fans could not comprehend what was happening

Stunned: Players and fans could not comprehend what was happening