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Bolton try to get back on track after Muamba drama
Published : 23 Mar 2012 01:16:50
Bolton Wanderers face local rivals Blackburn Rovers on Saturday in their first match since Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest, with Owen Coyle claiming all his squad want to play.
Bolton's FA Cup quarter-final at Tottenham was abandoned last Saturday after midfielder Muamba, 23, collapsed on the pitch.
Doctors have revealed the former Arsenal player was "in effect dead" for 78 minutes after the incident at White Hart Lane.
Although Muamba remains in intensive care in hospital in London, his condition has improved steadily throughout the week.
Bolton's Premier League match at Aston Villa, scheduled for Tuesday, was quickly postponed but as Muamba started to show positive signs, the club decided the Rovers fixture at the Reebok Stadium should go ahead.
The Trotters dropped into the relegation zone following QPR's 3-2 victory over Liverpool in midweek and they also face a re-arranged FA Cup quarter-final at Tottenham on Tuesday.
Bolton manager Coyle acknowledged his players must have been affected by the events of the past week but insisted his team must battle hard going into this crucial relegation match to honour Muamba.
"I spoke to the group on Wednesday because what we have to understand is that we all have different personalities and different natures," he said.
"Some people are affected in different ways than others.
"I told them that, with regards to Saturday's game, if there was anyone who wasn't up to going out and playing 90 minutes on a football pitch, they wouldn't play. I wouldn't ask anyone to play in these circumstances if they weren't in a position to do so.
"It will be a difficult game of football because all of our thoughts will remain with Fabrice. The players love Fabrice and whoever takes the field at the weekend will be doing all they can for him and for Bolton."
Bolton and Iceland defender Gretar Steinsson added: "All the players are pleased with the progress Fabrice is making with his recovery but we know it is still very serious and he is intensive care so our thoughts are with him and his family.
"We need to focus on the next game this Saturday but Fabrice will always be in the back of our minds.
"We need to go on with our business because that's what Fab will want us to do and we want to play the game for Fab."
Right-back Tyrone Mears is out with a knee problem, while midfielders Stuart Holden and Chung-Yong Lee are long-term absentees.
Blackburn have had a week to remember after recording successive victories for the first time since Steve Kean replaced Sam Allardyce as manager at the end of 2010.
Wins over Wolves and Sunderland, both by a 2-0 scoreline, also saw Rovers collect their first clean sheets of the season.
Kean and unpopular owners Venky's, an India-based poultry firm, have faced protests throughout the season but Kean's men are now five points clear of the bottom three and avoiding defeat, or even securing another win, would give them significant breathing space.
The Blackburn manager feels the form of attacking duo Junior Hoilett and Yakubu will have a major say in his team's push to avoid dropping into the Championship.
He said: "The partnership of Yakubu and Junior is starting to show signs of causing all sorts of problems for central defenders.
"We've got back to back wins and back to back clean sheets which is fantastic really."