HomeSportSoccerSpurs, Bolton set for poignant night at White Hart Lane

Spurs, Bolton set for poignant night at White Hart Lane


LONDON – One of the more poignant matches of recent times takes place at White Hart Lane on Tuesday when Bolton Wanderers return to Tottenham Hotspur 10 days after Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest there in the original FA Cup quarter-final.

Muamba, 23, is still in intensive care in the London Chest Hospital following his collapse on the pitch shortly before halftime in the March 17 match, which was quickly abandoned as he was rushed to hospital with his life hanging in the balance.

The midfielder’s fight for life shocked the football world and although he still has a long way to go before making a full recovery, his manager Owen Coyle said on Monday he was continuing to improve.

Coyle told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s rearranged cup game that the player watched highlights of Bolton’s 2-1 Premier League win over Blackburn Rovers at the weekend.

“He was able to watch Match of the Day on TV on Sunday morning and if there is any humour in that, I’m told he fell asleep when the score was still 2-0,” Coyle said.

Coyle also reckoned Tuesday’s match gave Bolton “a chance to thank Tottenham Hotspur and their fans” for their support during what has been an emotional week and a half.

Both Bolton and Spurs fans, realising the seriousness of the situation as Muamba lay motionless on the field while medics tried to resuscitate him, were enormously respectful throughout and dispersed in orderly unison when the game was abandoned.

“There was a real sense of unity,” Coyle said, while acknowledging it would be tough to return to the North London ground to play the game.

Several Bolton players will visit Muamba in hospital while back down in London. Many in soccer from FIFA president Sepp Blatter to Real Madrid and Barcelona players down to ordinary fans from many clubs have all wished him well.


Coyle added: “He has taken it in now and is so thankful to everyone for the support that has been shown to him.

“The most important thing for us is his recovery but in the last few days he’s been able to take in more the goodwill that globally he’s been getting from people. It’s so great to know that bit by bit he is getting better too.”

The match shirts worn by both teams on Tuesday will be signed and auctioned with proceeds going to various medical institutions.

The original game ended on 41 minutes with the scores at 1-1 after Bolton had taken a sixth-minute lead when Gareth Bale deflected a Darren Pratley shot into his own net. Spurs equalised five minutes later through a Kyle Walker header.

Tueday’s match will start again from the beginning with the score at 0-0.

Since the abandoned game, Spurs have drawn 1-1 with Stoke City and 0-0 with Chelsea in the Premier League to arrest a run of three straight league defeats, while Bolton’s match with Aston Villa was postponed last Tuesday before they beat relegation rivals Blackburn on Saturday.

Notwithstanding the emotional background to Tuesday’s game, Spurs start as favourites to reach the semi-final where Chelsea await the winners at Wembley Stadium on April 15.

Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said that while automatically qualifying for the Champions League by finishing third in the Premier League remains their priority, they are eager to reach the next stage of the FA Cup.

“It is important for us,” he told reporters.

“We want to get to Wembley, firstly for the semi with Chelsea and then all the way to the final.

“The FA Cup is a big thing for this club. We would be desperately disappointed if we did not reach the semi-final now.”

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