BOLTON'S Fabrice Muamba remains in hospital "but is showing small signs of improvement" after collapsing against Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Saturday - and his Wanderers team-mates will decide over the next 48 hours whether to continue their FA Cup journey without him.
According to the club, Muamba is still "critically ill in intensive care" at the London Chest Hospital in Bethnal Green after suffering what appeared to be a massive heart attack.
But his heart is now beating without the help of medication and he is also moving his arms and his legs. There are unconfirmed reports that he spoke to a friend from his hospital bed tonight.
The statement added that Muamba's long-term prognosis remains unclear and he will continue to be closely monitored. A statement release tonight at 7pm, 9pm South African time, said: "Fabrice Muamba is able to breathe without a ventilator, he has been able to recognise family members & respond to questions."
One source suggested his heart "had stopped four times" and that it took two hours to get the organ beating once more.
With the entire footballing world offering their sympathy, tomorrow's Premier League clash against Aston Villa is already postponed. Boss Owen Coyle said: "The players wouldn't be in any fit state to play. Football pales into insignificance at this time."
His captain Kevin Davies said: "Patrice is a natural athlete, box to box. There are not many stronger than him in the Premier League. He's a great lad. Hopefully, in true Bolton style, he will fight against the odds and come through."
Saturday’s match against Blackburn at the Reebok could be called off too. Rovers manager Steve Kean told the BBC: "We hope he makes a full recovery but, if they need a little bit more time and the game doesn't go ahead, we would respect that from Bolton's point of view.”
According to The Sun this morning, Bolton are considering withdrawing for the FA Cup altogether, even though a semi-final appearance – against Chelsea, if they were to beat Spurs in a replay - would be a rarity for the Lancashire club. Reports suggest the players are divided. Some want to play and win as a tribute to Muamba while others simply don’t want to return to the scene of his heart-rending collapse.
World Cup final referee Howard Webb reacted swiftly to the incident on Saturday, calling the game off after 41 minutes as a crowd of medics and physios attempted for six minutes to resuscitate the midfielder capped 33 times by England’s Under 21 boss Stuart Pearce.
Spurs star Rafael van der Vaart, visibly distressed and close to tears when Muamba fell to the floor, tweeted: "Terrible what happened to Fabrice during the game. We're all praying for him.
"He just fell on the ground and it look like he died. They got him back but then he faded away again.... it was very quiet in the dressing room afterwards"
Injured Bolton team-mate Stuart Holden added: "Praying for you Fab. Waiting anxiously for updates. Fab is a fighter!"
At the age of just 23, the man born in Kinshasa is not the first to collapse on the field of play. Over 30 have died since 2003 when Cameroon’s Marc Vivien Foe collapsed in France and died from what was later diagnosed as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Today a new hero emerged when I became apparent that a Dr Andrew Deaner – a Spurs fans watching in the stands - ran on to the pitch and began treating Muamba with the medical staff at Spurs. Dr Deaner is a consultant cardiologist at the London Chest Hospital.
Muamba was rushed to the hospital with his coach Coyle and captain Davies alongside him in the ambulance. His condition is now listed as stable, though onlookers say “he was not breathing”. One said: "He didn't even put his hands out when he fell".
Muamba went down with “nobody near him” four minutes before half-time with the score locked at 1-1. A defibrilitor was used in an attempt to revive Muamba on the field, while one medic tried to administer mouth-to-mouth.
Fans from both sides stood and chanted Muamba’s name as he was carried off on a stretcher, still having his chest pumped, and Twitter was immediately awash with well-wishers, from Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand to former team-mate Jack Wilshere.
Spurs fan Terry Hunt, who witnessed the incident, said: “Muamba just collapsed. When he went down all the players immediately realised it was a serious problem. There was an eery silence around the ground. The medics did all they possibly could to bring him around.
“There was no appetite to continue the game. The medical teams were superb. We just hope the guy pulls through. It’s such a tragedy for one so young. I feel for his family. For Bolton Wanderers.
“On the train going home, everyone just wanted to know how he was doing.”
Muamba came to England as an 11-year-old after his father left what was then Zaire as a refugee after an uncle had been murdered. He was spotted by Arsene Wenger within a year and spent four years with Liam Brady in the Arsenal academy.
He was a bright lad too, gaining three A levels at Kelmscott School in north London despite being unable to speak English when he arrived in the country. Though he didn't break in to the Arsenal first team, he successfully moved to Birmingham City and then Bolton after he gained citizenship. He has played for England at every level from Under 16 to Under 21 with a total of 57 caps at all levels.
England international Jack Wilshere, who played on loan with Muamba at Bolton, tweeted: "Hope Muamba is okay. Thoughts with him."
Middlesbrough defender Justin Hoyte, who played in the Arsenal youth team with Muamba, said: "I seriously hope my best friend in football is OK. Stay strong bro please please stay strong. God is with you, remember that."
Shauna Muganda, 27, mother of Fabrice's three-year-old son Joshua, is at his bedside with parents Marcel and Gertude and told The Sun this morning: "God is in control."