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Thoughts with Fabrice but focus is then on football


Football moved on at White Hart Lane last night, with relief and gratitude. This was not quite an ordinary FA Cup quarter-final, and there was a very dignified nod to the events of 10 days ago before the game and at half-time.

But when referee Howard Webb blew his whistle this was a conventional FA Cup atmosphere.

Unity has been the defining characteristic of these difficult days following Fabrice Muamba's cardiac arrest at Tottenham on 17 March. Club rivalry felt like it was almost suspended.

It seemed, beforehand, that it might be an evening of tributes and solidarity. In fact it was nothing of the sort. That much was iapparent in the second minute when Ryo Miyaichi was booed and jeered by the home fans. Miyaichi is on loan from Arsenal.

It was precisely the sort of mocking which makes an English football atmosphere what it is.

The Bolton fans, vocal throughout, sang about Muamba, and also repeated his name throughout the 41st minute. But they also sang for Miyaichi, Nigel Reo-Coker and Owen Coyle.

"Hopefully we can all move on now," Harry Redknapp wrote in his programme notes, capturing and setting the evening's mood perfectly, "and Muamba can continue to improve."

When the players lined up on the pitch, the announcer declared a moment of thanks for the medical staff from both clubs, as well as the doctors and ambulance workers. He did not need to complete his exhortation before being drowned out by generous applause. All 30,718 fans wanted to express their profound relief at the recent direction of events. But, having done so, they wanted to play the game.