Distraught Bolton may pull out of the FA Cup

 

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The Independent Online

Bolton Wanderers were a deeply distraught club last night and, with Fabrice Muamba still critically ill following his collapse on the White Hart Lane pitch on Saturday, are not certain they want to stay in this season's FA Cup.

Bolton, whose game at Aston Villa tomorrow night has already been called off, are due to face Spurs in the rematch next week, but much depends on whether the 23-year-old can pull through at the London Chest Hospital.

The psychological effect of returning to the same stadium, only nine days on, may simply be too much to bear for the players and staff. The Football Association will talk to Bolton, possibly as early as today, about their quarter-final tie. It is unlikely the club would face any kind of penalty if they decided to withdraw and ceded Spurs a bye. More immediately, they face a critical relegation game with local rivals Blackburn Rovers on Saturday. A decision on that game will be taken soon.

Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, told i last night that counselling was available for any players wanting it.

Muamba was still fighting for his life last night, with the many uncertainties including the question of whether he has sustained brain damage having been on the pitch for at least six minutes and then encountering a short time lag in the ambulance on the way to hospital.

A joint statement from hospital and club said yesterday that the England Under-21 international remained "anaesthetised". It is when the heart is asked to do its own work, rather than be artificially helped by adrenalin, that more will be known about Muamba's capacity to pull through.

Manager Owen Coyle, Bolton chairman Phil Gartside and full-back Tyrone Mears stayed in London with him yesterday. Coyle said: "It's very serious. There's no getting away from that."

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