Fabrice Muamba incident will stay with players says Nigel Reo-Coker


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The Independent Football

Nigel Reo-Coker admits it may take years before Bolton's players fully come to terms with Fabrice Muamba's cardiac arrest at White Hart Lane.

Eleven days ago Bolton's game against Tottenham in north London had to be abandoned towards the end of the first half after Muamba suddenly collapsed on the pitch.

His Bolton team-mates, their opponents, and the rest of the football world were shocked by what happened to the 23-year-old, whose heart stopped beating for over an hour as paramedics fought to save his life as he was rushed to the London Chest Hospital.

The former England Under-21 international is now making a steady recovery from his ordeal, but his team-mates had to face up to the anguish of returning to the scene of his collapse on Tuesday night in their rescheduled FA Cup quarter-final tie, which ended with a 3-1 victory to Tottenham.

Reo-Coker, who has been a regular alongside Muamba in the Trotters midfield this season, admits playing last night's game was important for the club, but conceded that the horrifying events of March 17 will live long in the memory of the Lancashire club's squad.

"It might take years for some boys to get over it," Reo-Coker said.

"I'm not a psychiatrist, but I think last night's game helped them a lot, though.

"The past 10 days has felt like years to us. It's been such a long period of time.

"But from where we were on Saturday to where he is now is amazing and we have got to be happy and grateful for that."

Reo-Coker revealed that he felt an eerie tingle down his spine when he wandered over to the place where Muamba collapsed head down in to the turf on that Saturday evening.

"I came on the pitch before the start of the game, I actually had to walk over to the area where the incident occurred, just to get it out of my system," he said.

"There was a tingly feeling down my spine. I really couldn't tell you how I felt when the game went on but we had a job to do and I just had to try and control myself as much as possible."

The football world has united in support of Muamba as he makes the long journey back to full health.

A minute's applause was heard before kick-off and Muamba's name was sang throughout the game, in which Spurs ran out deserved winners thanks to goals from Ryan Nelsen, Louis Saha and Gareth Bale.

Muamba's recovery has been hailed as a "miracle" by some and Reo-Coker hopes the midfielder's courage can prove to be a boost to his team as they head in to a nervy relegation battle with eight games of the Barclays Premier League season remaining.

"The fighting spirit he has shown is something that we have to take with us for the rest of the season," Reo-Coker said.

"We have a young team but I thought they handled last night well.

"I didn't have to put my hand round any of them."

Tottenham's win - only the second in their last eight matches - means they will now face Chelsea in the semi-finals on April 15.

A winless streak of five league matches means the Londoners have much work to do to close the three-point gap that currently separates them from third-place Arsenal, who have won their last seven games.

But Spurs striker Louis Saha has been encouraged by last night's win and Saturday's goalless draw at Chelsea and claims his team can repeat their neighbours' form and edge the battle for third.

"It is football, with lots of paradox and things can quickly change," Saha said.

"Arsenal have had a run so they are confident. They are in the front seat, they are in a good position but it doesn't mean we cannot do the same.

"We have showed consistency during the season. We may have dropped a few points during the past weeks but we have shown that we have closed the gap in terms of our performances."