Date: 19th March 2012 at 7:37am
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Bolton Wanderers are a family club. That has been the overriding line that has gone through the reporting of Fabrice Muamba’s collapse. From the reporters standing outside The Reebok to the manager himself, standing outside the London Chest Hospital alongside the chairman looking as drained as I have ever seen him. As a manager of a football team, the hardest thing that you would ever imagine having to do is to tell someone that they are no longer needed at the club. Owen Coyle, as the figurehead of Bolton Wanderers, has held himself together with dignity.

And we are a family club. But as we enter a new working week, we have been reminded over the past couple of days that Bolton Wanderers belong to another family. The football family.

As a writer on Bolton Wanderers, I never thought that this kind of article would ever have to be written. In the past year or so, we as fans of Bolton Wanderers have had to endure the deaths of Nat Lofthouse and Gary Speed. Whilst the former was expected, the latter left the football world in shock. But what makes what has happened to Fabrice Muamba even more shocking than last November was that it happened right in front of us. Not just in front of the six hundred or so Bolton fans who had made their way to White Hart Lane but to the thousands of us who saw, if only for a split second, Fabrice in what appeared to be discomfort.

It quickly became apparent, not only to the viewers at home but also to the fans in the stadium, that something was not right. And, as one, Bolton Wanderers fans and Tottenham Hotspur fans stopped being parochial and became fans of Fabrice Muamba. In the midst of all that was going on on the pitch, after the various messes that English football has found itself in this season, it renewed the faith in the English football fan.

In my line of work, I’ve seen death close up and have to deal with it every day that I’m in work. I’ve seen the act happen from start to finish right in front of my eyes and it is true what they say, that you grow a thick skin and have to maintain a sense of humour because, if you let it get to you, then you can’t do the job.

But, naturally, when something like this happens to someone that you know of, the thick skin goes and the humour disappears. Like everyone else you look for answers as to what had transpired. I remember, as a child, watching Tommy Cooper collapse on stage live in television. In those days, what had actually happened wasn’t made public until the day after. Today, we found out within three hours. It would be difficult to imagine waiting until the day after.

But it wasn’t just Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur fans who waited. This site alone has received messages of support from Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Portsmouth, Wolves, Villa, Leeds, Bournemouth and Wigan fans of those that put their clubs down. Other Vital sites have done their own articles. The mighty Arseblog posted a small article about Fabrice but where there is usually analysis, followed by a couple of curse words, there was nothing else to write. Manchester United sites wrote more about him than they did their game yesterday.

From the wider football world, footballers that you wouldn’t expect to give a first thought about Bolton Wanderers or our players have sent their best wishes and there was a nice touch last night before the Real Madrid v Malaga match when the players wore a tshirt saying ‘Get Well Muamba’. Gary Cahill`s goal celebration against Leicester was especially emotive. It seems that the whole world is pulling for him.

So, where do we go from here as a club? It is too early to say. The match on Tuesday at Aston Villa has been postponed with the possibility that the Blackburn match on Saturday will go the same way. There have been reports that the club are considering either pulling out of the FA Cup or considering asking for the tie to be moved to a neutral venue.

But all that is an irrelevance. The main focus has to remain on Fabrice, a man whose personal story has touched many hearts over the past thirty six hours.

For what it’s worth, thanks go again to everyone at Tottenham Hotspur. The way the fans conducted themselves was a credit both to their club and football in general and the quick response by the medical team has been lauded as saving Fabrice’s life. I think it’s safe to say that a special bond has been formed between the two clubs due to what has happened.

But as a Bolton Wanderers fan I would like to thank everyone in the football world. I know that if the same thing had happened to any other Premier League player than Bolton fans would have sent the same messages as everyone else has. But it happened to one of our players and the football world has rallied around us and our player at this time of need. And that is something that will never, ever be forgotten.



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