Stephen Hunt was adamant yesterday that he did not mean to hurt Petr Cech in the collision that has left the Chelsea goalkeeper in hospital with a depressed fracture of the skull.
The Reading midfielder has been given the full support of his club following the incident and has written to Cech to wish him a speedy recovery.
Cech's head felt the full force of Hunt's knee in the opening minute of Saturday's Premiership game at the Madejski stadium, which Chelsea won 1-0.
In a statement yesterday, Chelsea said 24-year-old Cech is fully conscious and his condition is improving after surgery on Sunday at the Radcliffe Infirmary's specialist neuro-surgical unit in Oxford. Cech had two metal plates inserted into his skull in the operation which lasted three hours.
"He is communicating and talking with his wife Martina as well as the Chelsea and hospital medical teams who have now given permission for visitors," the statement said.
Several members of the Chelsea management and team, including manager Jose Mourinho and captain John Terry, visited Cech yesterday.
Hunt said: "I can guarantee that I did not attempt to injure Petr, and I am very upset that the collision has resulted in such a bad injury. It was very early on in the game. I just thought I could win the ball and went in for it and our momentum took us into each other. I'm an honest player and give 100 per cent. All my team-mates and ex-managers say 'the boy works hard and he's honest and gives everything he's got'. When Petr slid in to collect the ball, our momentum meant a collision was unavoidable. The pictures show the collision was [an] accident. I'm not the kind of person to deliberately hurt an opponent.
"Serious injury is the worst part of football and I feel terribly sorry for Petr. I have written to him to wish him a full recovery."
Reading supported Hunt by issuing a statement which rejected the view of Mourinho that the midfielder's challenge was malicious.
"Reading has strongly defended Stephen Hunt following allegations that he deliberately injured Petr Cech," the statement read. "We believe all the evidence fully vindicates Stephen. We would also like to send our wishes to Petr for a full and speedy recovery."
Referee Mike Riley yesterday defended his handling of the situation, denying claims that he ordered Cech from the pitch. Cech crawled to the touchline after the clash but Riley told FA referees chief Keith Hackett he followed correct procedure for head injuries.
Cech's replacement, Carlo Cudicini, was also carried off in the closing stages of the match when he was left concussed after an aerial challenge by the Reading defender Ibrahima Sonko. "I remember a spate of corners and after that I just remember being in the ambulance," Cudicini said. Sonko said last night: "When he punched it, it was too late to get away and try to avoid him. I didn't try and hurt him or do anything bad."
Cudicini hopes to resume training tomorrow and expects to be fit for Saturday's Premiership home game against Portsmouth. The third-choice keeper, Hilario, will deputise at home to Barcelona in the Champions' League tomorrow.
Mourinho was particularly critical of Hunt's challenge but reports last night claimed Chelsea may drop any demands for action, because after considering the incidents, they do not want to adopt an aggressive stance.Reuse content