Reo-Coker: we had to face our fears but I had flashbacks


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The Independent Football

Nigel Reo-Coker has revealed just how difficult it was to return to White Hart Lane on Tuesday night, 10 days after Fabrice Muamba's cardiac arrest there. Bolton Wanderers lost their re-arranged FA Cup quarter-final 3-1 to Spurs, and captain Reo-Coker said that before the game he had to see the place on the pitch where Muamba collapsed, because he experienced "flashbacks" to the traumatic incident.

The midfielder said that memories of the incident drove him to return to the precise scene of Muamba's collapse. "You could call it flashbacks," Reo-Coker explained. "And that's why I had to walk over to the spot before the game to get it out of my system. In a way we had to face our fears. Eventually we had to come back here and play so we had to face it sooner or later. We have a young team and I felt they dealt with it very well."

Reo-Coker said that beforehand he did not know precisely how he would feel on returning. "On a personal level, people were asking me how I would feel coming back here, but I told them I couldn't answer that," he said. "I would have been lying. It was all a different story when we walked on to the pitch and arrived at the stadium before the game. And for me I did have a tingle down my spine."


Those feelings, though, had to be quelled when the game started. "When I came on the pitch before the game, I went to where the incident occurred, just for my own benefit," Reo-Coker continued. "As I say, there was a tingly feeling down my spine, but I couldn't tell you how I felt as the game wore on. We had a job to do and I had to control myself as much as possible."

While Muamba's improving condition is obviously everyone's first concern, Reo-Coker said that Bolton players were also recovering from the trauma, and that returning to Tottenham to play football will help. The last few days, he said, have seemed like an eternity.

"It definitely helped," Reo-Coker said of coming back so soon to play. "It helps that we can come back here and play this game. I could never tell you how long it will take for people to totally get over their reactions to what happened. It might take years – I don't know, I'm not a psychiatrist. But I think it has helped them a lot. The last 10 days have felt like years to us. It's felt like such a long period of time."

This was not Bolton's first game after Muamba's collapse, as they beat Blackburn Rovers 2-1 at home last Saturday. Reo-Coker believed that the team showed admirable character in both matches. "There was a lot of emotions during the previous league game against Blackburn last Saturday," he said. "Of course, there was different emotions against Tottenham, because this is where the incident occurred. But I didn't have to put my arm round any of the young lads. I felt they gave a very good account of themselves."

The experience of coming back to Tottenham proved difficult for everyone, Reo-Coker revealed: "Speaking to the club doctor, even he said he felt weird. I can't speak for the rest of the lads – I can only speak of my experience. But it was a day of very mixed emotions and I will never in my life be able to sum up in words the emotions I went though in this game."

As Muamba, still in a serious condition in London Chest Hospital, continues to improve, Reo-Coker said that Bolton need to be inspired by him over the rest of the season. With nine games left Bolton are only one point ahead of the relegation zone.

"People have texted me asking me how I am," Reo-Coker said. "But it has never been about me. For me it hasalways been about Fabrice, and where he is now is amazing. We've got to be thankful for that. The fighting spirit he's shown is something we've got to take on ourselves for the rest of the season. Some of the staff saw him yesterday and last night and he's getting better and better."