The Bolton manager, Owen Coyle, said yesterday that he would not be surprised if Fabrice Muamba returned to action in six months' time, following Monday's announcement that the Wanderers midfielder had been released from hospital a month after the cardiac arrest that stopped his heart for more than an hour at White Hart Lane.
Muamba, 24, is spending time with his fiancée Shauna and son Joshua. Coyle, who spoke to him on Wednesday, said: "I'd come in from training and Shauna sent me a message, 'There's somebody who'd like to speak to you'. And when I spoke to him... you can always tell from the sound of somebody's voice, and he sounded in a good place.
"It was great to hear from him and he sounded terrific. Of course that's a huge boost given where he's come from. You only need to look at the tragic events last weekend in Italy [where Livorno's Piermario Morosini died on the pitch] to put things into perspective."
One heart expert has predicted that Muamba could be back playing in six months, and Coyle added: "I understand, because of the interest, that everybody thinks he's released from hospital so that's it, he's singing and dancing down the street, but people have got to understand there's room for continued improvement.
"But knowing Fabrice and how much of a battler he is, it wouldn't surprise me if he comes back. But I've got to stress he still needs that time with his family unit. His little lad hadn't been able to see him for a period so it's important we give them that time to be together. God willing, if he ever comes back to play at the level he's played before then of course that will be a huge boost to everybody."
Coyle will also leave it up to Muamba whether he wants to visit his team-mates before the end of the season.
"That would be Fabrice and his family's decision," said Coyle. "He'll not come under any pressure from us. Once he feels he's up to it then all good and well. If it's next season, great."