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Muamba message inspires Bolton to crucial win

March 25, 2012

Owen Coyle said a good luck message from Fabrice Muamba inspired Bolton Wanderers to a 2-1 win over fellow strugglers Blackburn Rovers in their first match since the midfielder’s cardiac arrest.

Wanderers star Muamba was fighting for his life for several days after collapsing on the pitch at White Hart Lane in an FA Cup quarter-final clash with Tottenham on March 17.

The 23-year-old’s heart stopped for nearly 80 minutes following the collapse and doctors admit it is nigh-on miraculous that he is now making a good recovery in intensive care at the London Chest Hospital.

Muamba has been able to speak to family and friends over the last few days and, despite his ordeal, his thoughts remain with his Bolton team-mates.

He asked a doctor to send his best wishes to Coyle and his players ahead of Saturday’s vital showdown with Rovers and they responded with a 2-1 win that lifted them out of the relegation zone.

David Wheater scored twice in the first half at an emotional Reebok Stadium and Steven Nzonzi’s second-half strike was not enough to stop Bolton claiming a win that will have done much to lift Muamba’s spirits, as well as those of everyone at the club at the end of a horrific week.

“Fabrice managed to send a message on Friday through one of the consultants, wishing the lads well in the game,” Coyle said.

“It was great that the lads were able to hear that because then they know that ever so slowly he is getting better.”

Coyle is still praying that Muamba makes a complete recovery and while talk of playing again is a long way off, the Bolton manager wants his side to remain a top-flight club for the midfielder.

“The most important thing for me is that Fabrice comes back to a level where he can have a great life with his wife-to-be and his son,” Coyle said.

“If he is able to come back to that football level, and god willing he is, then we have to do our upmost to make sure he comes back in as a Premier League player.”

After a video montage of support for Muamba from across the football community before kick-off, the home fans displayed a placard mosaic that read ‘Muamba 6’ before a chorus of the midfielder’s name reverberated around the stadium with both sets of fans in full voice.

Those chants happened at various stages throughout the game but the perfect tribute from Bolton players was their ability to overcome the harrowing memories of Muamba’s collapse and re-focus on their relegation battle.

Centre-back Wheater, who had only scored once in his Bolton career before this game, headed the Trotters in front after 28 minutes and added a second seven minutes later.

N’Zonzi pulled a goal back in the second half for Blackburn but they never created another real chance to steal a draw.

Coyle added: “I think we all knew it was going to be an emotionally charged day so, as much as we needed to play the game, all our thoughts were still with Fabrice and his recovery.

“Each day he recovers a little bit more. He’s still got a long way to go as he is still in intensive care but it was an emotionally charged day.

“We had to go and represent him in the right manner on the football pitch and I think we did that.

“In the context of football it was a great three points, but it pales insignificant to Fabrice’s health.”

With Blackburn hosting Manchester United next Monday, the result means they are dragged right back into the scrap at the bottom of the table as they sit just three points above the drop zone.

Rovers boss Steve Kean said: “Our standards have climbed dramatically over the last 11 and 12 games from what they were and we have to get back to that and go on another run.

“It’s tight at the bottom. I always said that we weren’t getting carried away. We know there’s going to be twists and turns.

“We can take massive encouragement from the fact we’ve been picking up points at very difficult grounds against very difficult opponents.”


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