Reo-Coker: Why I had to revisit the spot where Fabrice collapsed
Published 22:30 28/03/12 By Mike Walters
Nigel Reo-Coker chased away Bolton's demons by making a pilgrimage to the spot where his comrade Fabrice Muamba fell.
In an act of solemnity and spiritualism, Reo-Coker headed straight for the point on the White Hart Lane where Muamba suffered cardiac arrest after the Trotters arrived at Spurs' ground for their rebooted FA Cup quarter final.
The Bolton skipper's moment of exorcism could not prevent Owen Coyle's men going down 3-1, but Reo-Coker insists his homage to his friend helped him to reconnect with the game.
And he called on his team-mates to summon the fighting spirit that sustained Muamba through 78 minutes without a pulse to keep Bolton in the Premier League.
Reo-Coker said: "We had to face our fears. Sooner or later, we knew we would have to come back and play at White Hart Lane, and for a young team I felt we coped with it very well.
"There had been a lot of emotions during the previous league game against Blackburn, but of course going back to Tottenham was altogether different because that's where the incident took place.
"It definitely helped that we were able to come back and play the game quickly.
"I'm not a psychiatrist, so I couldn't tell you how long it will take totally to get over what happened - it might take some people years to come to terms with it.
"The last 10 days have felt like years to us. But the only thing that matters, from where we were to where we are now, is that Fab is improving.
"And the fighting spirit he has shown is something we have got to take on board ourselves for the rest of the season."
Although he is still in a serious condition, and one leading heart specialist has warned he is unlikely to play football at a high level again , Muamba's recovery has been miraculous since he collapsed after 41 minutes of the original tie on March 17.
Bolton sent a delegation to players and coaching staff to visit him in the London Chest Hospital on Tuesday, and manager Coyle wrote an open letter to Tottenham in Tuesday's match programme, thanking the medical staff for their part in saving Muamba's life.
With Muamba out of immediate danger, his improvement has enabled Bolton to draw a line under the episode and reboot their fight against relegation.
Reo-Coker sensed a need to move on from the graphic horror of the emergency during their hesitant performance in the rearranged Cup tie.
"During the game I felt we were slightly withdrawn and I was very vocal on the pitch because I feared the occasion was getting too much," he said.
"But it was an emotional night and, on a personal level, I had a tingle down my spine when we walked on the pitch after arriving at the stadium.
"Just for my own benefit, I had to walk over to the area where the incident occurred.
"You could call it flashbacks, but it did bring some bad memories rushing back, and that's why I had to walk over to that spot before the game to get it out of my system.
"Speaking to the club doctor, even he said he felt weird. It was a day of very mixed emotions, and I will never in my life be able to sum up in words the range of feelings I went through."
Bolton fear midfielder Darren Pratley, carried off with a gash on his thigh on Tuesday, could be out until May.
Coyle said: "The worst case scenario is that it could be four to six weeks."