Coyle is back on familiar turf but life may never be the same again

 

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The Independent Online

Owen Coyle was back in a pair of blue shorts, a baggy red Bolton Wanderers sweatshirt, and a pair of trainers that had "OC" scribbled on the side in a black felt-tip pen.

He was back at Bolton Wanderers' training ground, players were going to work and Coyle was facing the media on home soil. It was an attempt to return to normality, however futile, to get ready for the next game of football, against Blackburn Rovers tomorrow, to make things the same, even though they may never be.

He said: "When I came back yesterday, I had to gauge the players, especially the younger ones, because we're all affected in different ways. I said to them that if anybody felt it had been too traumatic or they needed somebody to speak to, they only had to let me know and I would listen. If somebody is not ready, they won't play, simple as that.

"But we trained yesterday and we have to go into a football game and we just have to go and do our best, as we do every game."

But football was not at the top of anyone's mind. "On the initial Saturday night there was a sense of it being surreal, we were in shock," he continued. "Because of the procedure, there was going to be 24 hours of nothing, really, because they needed to 'cool him down' in the terminology, to stabilise him. On the Monday morning we were there from eight because we knew that was the point when they were going to start to try to return him to his own normal body temperature.

"At that point we knew his body had to kick in of its own accord. That was when he started to show signs of improvement and that was great for us all. There was light at the end of the tunnel. That was a day of terrific progress considering where he had come from. It would be underestimating it to say the feeling was euphoria."

Coyle spoke of being overwhelmed at people's reaction. "When I've bumped into people in the street they've stopped and said 'Our thoughts and prayers are with him'. Prayer has been the most used word since the weekend and long may that continue. We also know he still has a wee bit to go. He's still seriously ill in intensive care, but I don't care how long it takes, as long as Fabrice continues to get better. We would love Fabrice to come back to be the lad he was but the biggest single thing that Shauna [his fiancée] said is that Fabrice is alive, and she and Josh [their son] have him. Anything else would be a bonus."

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