Owen Coyle has admitted there is no way of knowing how his Bolton players will react to tonight’s return to White Hart Lane for the rescheduled FA Cup quarter-final tie against Tottenham.
News of further improvement in Fabrice Muamba’s condition has offered plenty of encouragement.
From Coyle’s amusing confirmation that Muamba had been well enough to start watching Match of the Day, only to fall asleep with his team-mates leading 2-0 against Blackburn, to the even more uplifting bulletin from the London Chest Hospital that the 23-year-old has been out of bed and eating, yesterday’s updates have been totally positive.
However, it remains to be seen whether that alone will insulate Bolton’s players from the mental problems that could be triggered by visiting the same ground on which Muamba suffered his cardiac arrest nine days ago, and entering the dressing room in which so many were in floods of tears as they feared the worst for their friend and colleague.
“Because Fabrice is getting better, that allows us to play the match,” said Coyle. “The great thing is that he is getting better.
“We will do our best, as we always try to do. Will it be emotional? Of course. But I can’t say how it is going to be until we are physically there.”
Coyle and chairman Phil Gartside will be part of a small Bolton delegation that intends to visit Muamba today, the first Wanderers representation since club doctor Jonathan Tobin revealed the midfielder’s heart had stopped beating for 78 minutes before medical staff finally managed to get it started.
Such visits are crucial, according to the Bolton boss, for the morale within his squad.
“Everyone would want to be there but that would be impossible,” said Coyle.
“Fabrice’s recovery is paramount but the players who do go can filter back the news. That will help.
“Fabrice is not just a team-mate and a colleague. He is a dear friend to those lads. They want to know he is getting better.”
To that end, the latest statement on Muamba’s health provided a huge lift.
“Fabrice Muamba remains in intensive care where his condition is serious but stable,” read the statement.
“He continues to make encouraging progress in his recovery.’’
“Over the weekend, he has been able to sit out of bed for a short time, watch television and has begun to eat.’’
That one of those programmes should be Match of the Day proved he is aware of his situation, and the team-mates fighting on in his name.
“For all of us who were there on the Saturday, to think he could sit up and watch Match of the Day a week later is remarkable,” said Coyle.
“I am led to believe he fell asleep when it was 2-0.
“I don’t know if he still thinks we won 2-0 but it is so great to know that bit-by-bit he is getting better.”
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