It's great to show football in such a good light, says Coyle

 

White Hart Lane

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 and appropriate nod to the events of 10 days before the game and at half-time.

But when referee Howard Webb blew his whistle this was a conventional FA Cup atmosphere along with everything one would hope for. Unity, perhaps more than anything else, 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 in recognition of an issue from an entirely different category.

It seemed, beforehand, as if the same might be true last night; an evening of tributes and solidarity, perhaps, with the contest to win a place at Wembley merely a reason for everyone's being there. In fact it was nothing of the sort. That much was immediately apparent in the second minute when Ryo Miyaichi was booed by the home fans. Miyaichi is on loan from Arsenal, for whom he has made two substitute appearances in the Carling Cup.

 

It was precisely the sort of uncharitable mocking which makes an English football atmosphere what it is. Tottenham, after all, are not meant to like Arsenal, and it would not be a proper Tottenham game if they afforded the young winger too much hospitality. The Bolton fans sang about Muamba, and also repeated his name throughout the 41st minute. But they also sang for Miyaichi, Nigel Reo-Coker and Owen Coyle, even soliciting waves from their manager who has been a pillar of strength.

Harry Redknapp wrote in his pre-match programme notes that he had been in touch with his counterpart over recent days. "Owen's handled it fantastically well," Redknapp said. "It was something all those who were here will never forget, but its been like a miracle since then.

"We all know," Redknapp said after the game, "[that] he has a long road ahead but from where he was last Saturday to where we are now, it is just a miracle how much he has improved."

"Hopefully we can all move on now," Redknapp wrote, setting the evening's mood perfectly, "and he can continue to improve."

There was a definite sense, for everyone, that to return the focus to football, both the simple playing of the game and also the thrill of a potential Wembley semi-final, was welcome. This had been earned, though, by the perfectly-pitched pre-game acknowledgments.

"The reason we're here is because Fabrice is getting better," Coyle said watching his brave team lose 3-1 to a very good Spurs side. "The last 10 days have been incredible. It's been great to show football in such a good light, and the way Tottenham have conducted themselves shows them in a very good light."

Before kick-off all the players, and the match officials, came out with T-shirts bearing both club crests and the words "Uniting for Fabrice" on the front and "Thank you for your support for Fabrice" on the back.

When the players were stripped and lined up on the pitch, the announcer declared a moment of thanks for the medical staffs of both clubs, as well as the doctors and ambulance workers. He did not need to complete his exhortation before being drowned out by applause. "It was important we acknowledged all the help we've had," reflected Coyle.

All 30,718 fans, to say nothing of the players and officials from either side who knew Muamba, wanted to express their profound relief at the recent direction of events. But, having done so, they wanted to play the game.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back