Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba is showing “small signs of improvement” but remains “critically ill”, according to the London Chest Hospital.
It is now almost 48 hours since the 23-year-old collapsed during his side’s FA Cup quarter-final with Tottenham at White Hart Lane after suffering a cardiac arrest.
Medical staff took two hours to get Muamba’s heart working again, but in a statement this afternoon, it was revealed there have been further small reasons for optimism.
“Fabrice Muamba remains in intensive care at the London Chest Hospital, where today he is showing small signs of improvement,” read a joint statement, released by Barts and the London NHS Trust and Bolton.
“His heart is now beating without the help of medication and he is also moving his arms and his legs. However, his long-term prognosis will remain unclear for some time.
“He is still critically ill and will continue to be closely monitored and treated by staff in The London Chest Hospital’s intensive care unit.”
It was confirmed yesterday that the former England Under-21 skipper would be anaesthetised for at least another 24 hours and there has been no further update on that situation.
In addition, Bolton have not confirmed how long manager Owen Coyle intends to maintain his own vigil for the player, having remained in London since Muamba was rushed to hospital to receive emergency treatment.
“We are all after the same objective; to see that lovely young man, who has such a fantastic smile. That’s what we want to see again,” Coyle said.
“When you look through what he’s come through in his life already, he’s a natural fighter. Also, he’s a physically fit young man so I think those two things will be a source of help and encouragement.”
Muamba left his home in war-torn Congo in 1999 and was re-united with his father, who had fled five years earlier and sought asylum in Britain after becoming a target for rebels.
The 23-year-old has overcome such a difficult start in life to become an England Under-21 international, joining Arsenal as a youth team player, before moving onto Birmingham and then Bolton for £5m in 2008.
Though not one of the most flamboyant players, Muamba was amongst the most industrious, which just makes the shock at what has happened even more acute for Bolton skipper Kevin Davies, who spoke today for the first time since the weekend drama unfolded.
“We all love Fabrice,” said Davies. “I respect him hugely for coming from where he was to where he is now. He is one of the first into training and has worked extremely hard to better himself. He is always out there doing a bit extra.
“That is the reason why he has been so successful and has a massive career ahead of him.”
Bolton’s players had a team meeting at their Euxton training complex this morning to be given the latest news.
They already knew the scheduled encounter with Aston Villa tomorrow had been postponed.
However, they are supposed to be in action against Blackburn on Saturday and there have been some suggestions that they are not comfortable facing the prospect of a re-arranged FA Cup quarter-final at Tottenham.
However, Davies said Bolton’s next game was the last thing on his mind.
“Any of those questions are irrelevant at the minute,” he said. “Decisions will have to be made but my immediate thoughts are with Fabrice and his family.
“The club will take a stance on it in the next couple of days. But at the minute we want to just try and help Fabrice.”
As he waits anxiously for positive news like everyone else, Davies is convinced only the prompt action of medical staff, both at the ground and in hospital, on Saturday saved Muamba’s life.
“The amount of people who were turning up, running around trying to get Fabrice sorted out was amazing,” he said.
“There is no doubt in my mind if it wasn’t down to all those people, we wouldn’t even be in this situation. We are all thankful to them that they have given Fabrice a bit of hope.”
Davies has also been touched by the overwhelming support for Muamba from across the footballing world.
Fans of both sides applauded Muamba off the pitch and supporters at matches since have offered their own backing with a minute’s applause.
Numerous scarves and other tributes from competing clubs have been left at the Reebok Stadium.
Davies is thankful for all of these. But there is a part of him that feels quite saddened.
“It is the first time in my nearly 19 years in the game that I have seen a stadium unite,” he said. “It was touching but I was laying in bed thinking how sad it was as well.
“As professionals, we put a lot of hours in. We work hard and make a lot of sacrifices.
“But it seems that the only way you are going to get a ripple of applause away from your own ground is to get carried off on a stretcher.
“That is a sad state of affairs. Fans are quick to get off their seats if there is a mis-timed tackle. Maybe people have to ask why Fabrice Muamba runs 80 yards to put a last-ditch tackle in.
“It is not because he has anything against your team. It is because he is working hard for his own. If there is anything positive to come out of this, when you see supporters from all over, it would be nice if the fans could unite.”