Emotional night in store at the Lane
Fabrice Muamba, who is now able to get out of bed, will be focus when FA Cup tie is replayed
Tuesday 27 March 2012
It will not be a normal FA Cup quarter-final at White Hart Lane tonight. Although Tottenham Hotspur and Bolton Wanderers are competing for the right to play Chelsea in a Wembley semi-final – a very prestigious football prize indeed – the focus will be elsewhere.
Because there should not be a game taking place this evening. This is not a cup replay in the traditional sense. Rather, this is the restaging of the game from 10 days ago, which will always be marked in English football history following Fabrice Muamba's shocking collapse from a cardiac arrest.
Muamba remains in intensive care in hospital, where his condition is serious but stable. But his gradual recovery, given everyone's fears in the immediate aftermath, has been stirring.
"Muamba continues to make encouraging progress in his recovery," read a statement from Bolton Wanderers, Barts and the London NHS Trust yesterday. "Over the weekend, he has been able to sit out of bed for a short time, watch television and has begun to eat. However, he will need to continue to be closely monitored by the medical team at the London Chest Hospital for some time."
The Bolton manager, Owen Coyle, will visit Muamba before the game today, as will the club's chairman, Phil Gartside. "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. 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."
It will inevitably be an emotional evening at White Hart Lane. There will be one minute's applause for Muamba and players from either side will wear supportive Muamba T-shirts. Coyle said that only Muamba's recovery will allow the game to take place.
"Because Fabrice is getting better, that allows us to play the match," said the Bolton manager. "If it was different circumstances, it might be a different conversation. The great thing is that he is getting better. Will it be emotional? Of course. But I can't say how it is going to be until we are physically there."
On Saturday Bolton played their first game since Muamba's collapse, beating Blackburn Rovers 2-1 at the Reebok Stadium. It was an emotional afternoon, with an atmosphere marked by support for Muamba from both sets of supporters.
A similar atmosphere is likely tonight. During Tottenham's 1-1 draw with Stoke City last week some Spurs fans chanted Muamba's name, and all the fans at White Hart Lane are likely to unite behind a common cause this evening.
Coyle revealed that Muamba watched most of the highlights of Bolton's Saturday victory, and that he is aware of all the gestures made for him from across the football world. "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," Coyle said. "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 even if he still has a long way to go."
There have been T-shirt tributes staged at Barcelona and Real Madrid, and Thierry Henry wore a special captain's armband for New York Red Bulls this weekend with "Muamba" written on it.
"Over the last few days he has been able to take in more of the goodwill that globally he has been getting from people and the prayers and everything else," Coyle said. "He wanted to thank everybody for that support. We have to make sure we continue that but he is on his way to recovery. God willing that continues."
Spurs: CUDICINI, WALKER, KABOUL, GALLAS, ASSOU-EKOTTO, KRANJCAR, PARKER, MODRIC, BALE, SAHA, DEFOE
Bolton: BOGDAN, RICKETTS, KNIGHT REAM, ALONSO, PETROV, REO-COKER, M DAVIES, EAGLES, KLASNIC, NGOG
Tottenham v Bolton Tonight, 7.30pm (ESPN)
Referee H Webb (South Yorkshire)
Odds: Tottenham 3-10; Draw 9-2; Bolton 8-1.
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