Nigel's rallying cry for Fabrice: Reo-Coker must find words to lift Bolton
23:01 GMT, 23 March 2012
Nigel Reo-Coker will sit down on Saturday morning and try to think of the words; try to somehow capture the raw emotion of a traumatic week and use it to win a game of football.
A Lancashire derby and relegation six-pointer with Blackburn pales in comparison to the battle fought on the pitch at White Hart Lane seven days ago to re-start Fabrice Muamba's heart.
But when the Bolton captain addresses his team-mates in the minutes before they try to return to normality, Muamba will never be far from his thoughts.
Relief: Reo-Coker, Pratley and Davies visit Muamba in hospital
'I don't know what I'll say yet,' admitted Reo-Coker. 'I'll do it on Saturday morning. Have a think about how to word it correctly. The younger players in particular might need that big of edge.
'Whatever happened, at some point we knew we had to get back to playing football and people would have to face their fears.
'We haven't really paid much attention to the results or the situation in the table. But this is a big game and for now we're literally going to play for Fabrice.'
Reo-Coker saw Muamba on Tuesday morning. He went to the London Chest Hospital with Mark Davies and Darren Pratley.
'The two who were very affected by the scenes,' he explained. 'I thought it would be good for us to go. I saw the relief in their eyes after they'd seen Fabrice.'
In fact, when they were confronted by the sight of their friend in intensive care with all the tubes attached to his body, it was Reo-Coker who broke down.
'He obviously wasn’t speaking so well because he was still a bit drugged up, but he said “alright Nige – what happened”
'I choked up in all honesty. I couldn’t even answer him. I was just looking at him. To see him lying there with all the tubes and everything was tough.
'Darren Pratley said “you just collapsed, but don’t worry about it you’re going to be okay”. We were in and out, probably about a minute maximum. I just choked up seeing him in that position.'
Reo-Coker was the nearest player to Muamba when he went down. He was the one who helped Bolton physio Andy Mitchell turn over the body of his stricken team-mate as the drama began to unfold.
Shock: Reo-Coker was one of the closest to Muamba when he collapsed at White Hart Lane
'There were no signs,' he recalled. 'Nothing. I remember before it happened I asked him: “Do you want to swap positions Do you want me to be the midfielder pushing on and you can play the deep role” He just laughed and smiled and said no.
'Next thing I turned around and saw Fabrice on the floor. He was shaking. I didn’t know what it was. I thought he might have been having a fit, but I'd not known him to have epilepsy or anything like that.
'I didn’t realise how serious it was until the physio got there and I tried to help him turn Fabrice over.
'The one thing I remember distinctively was when they were trying to resuscitate him and they were shocking him, the whole stadium just went quiet.
'The Bolton fans began to sing his name. Then the Spurs fans. It sent a tingle down my spine to the point where I nearly broke down and I'm not generally a person who cries.
'I cannot find the words to describe the feeling, but that’s just how it was.'
Muamba was effectively dead for 68 minutes. He had a total of 15 defibrillator shocks. His bewildered team-mates followed his stretcher off the pitch and the game was abandoned.
'When he was carried off we got the news in the dressing-room that they'd shocked him six times,' said Reo-Coker. 'I spoke to the doctor and his heart wasn't beating.
'Loads of people would come to their own conclusion. I feared the worst. That's just me being honest.
Tribute: The football community has pulled together to show their support
'It was very emotional. From the time he was on the pitch to being carried into the ambulance, it felt like a lifetime.
'Emotions were everywhere in the dressing-room. We’ve got a very young team and a lot of them were in tears. People breaking down and crying.
'Young Ryo (Miyaichi), everyone was in tears. It was totally unexpected. One minute you're playing a game, the next he's lying there. No-one saw it coming.
'We just had to try and comfort each other because we had to understand there was nothing anybody could do. It wasn’t as though he needed a transplant or blood.
'We were all powerless. It was in the hands of the medical department and God.
'The manager was stood by the dressing-room door waiting for news. They were talking to the referee and Harry Redknapp about the game being abandoned. We were just waiting for news from the ambulance.
'/03/23/article-0-1245F84C000005DC-631_468x313.jpg” width=”468″ height=”313″ alt=”Quick thinking: The team who saved Muamba on the pitch at Tottenham ” class=”blkBorder” />
Quick thinking: The team who saved Muamba on the pitch at Tottenham
'The club chaplain came in and has been speaking. He's offered his services and the boys are very familiar with him.
'The coaches and a few of the senior players have tried to recognise the boys who might need that extra help. The support system is there straightaway.
'It was nice when I told them I'd seen Fabrice and had a conversation. It seemed like a weight had been lifted off their shoulders. They feel a lot happier now.
'For your heart not to beat for that long, just to be alive and recognise anyone is a miracle. He's still not out of the woods, but that was more than enough for me.'
Reo-Coker has been in contact with Muamba's fiance Shauna as well.
'Shauna's very good friends with my fiance and she has her own business where she prepares food for a lot of players,' he said. 'Me and Zat Knight are two of her biggest customers!
'She's been very strong. She's not a typical WAG. She has her own business and she’s really made something of her life. She's been so strong in handling this situation. So positive.'
Net gains: Bolton are hoping to get back to winning ways
The former West Ham and Aston Villa midfielder plans to see Muamba again when Bolton return to London for the rescheduled FA Cup tie with Tottenham on Tuesday.
He agrees it's probably better that Owen Coyle's side play in the familiar surroundings of the Reebok today before revisiting the scene of Muamba's collapse.
'That will help but there's nothing we could have done,’ he added. 'We're just thankful he's alive. The family want us to continue and that's all the support we need.
'I have no idea how I will feel walking out onto the pitch, and if I told you I did I’d be lying. But I'm ready to go. I know I’ll be fine.
'To see him alive gives me the fighting spirit. Hopefully that will go throughout the whole team.'
It sounds as though Reo-Coker's speech is coming along just fine.