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A number of things all came together that night

At the end of a demonstration of basic CPR at Hampden, Owen Coyle addresses a small group of volunteers and members of the Scottish Football Association's medical staff.

Coyle was at Hampden yesterday to promote a training programme for dealing with cardiac arrest attacks. Picture: EPA
Coyle was at Hampden yesterday to promote a training programme for dealing with cardiac arrest attacks. Picture: EPA

He tells them about how Fabrice Muamba recovered from suffering a cardiac arrest on the pitch at White Hart Lane last March because the CPR helped to prevent the Bolton midfielder suffering brain damage while his heart had stopped. "I just thought you should know that," Coyle said. "That's why it's important."

He drove up from England yesterday morning to attend the event at the national stadium because he still feels a duty to promote a better understanding of the importance of basic first aid. Muamba has regained full health – although he has retired from professional football – and Coyle is no longer manager of Bolton, but the issue remains too important to be discarded. Experiencing what happened to Muamba at close hand, then trying to help the player through his spell in hospital and rehab, made a deep impression on Coyle.

Yesterday, he was helping to promote The Scottish Football Partnership's nationwide programme to train more than 1000 coaches at grassroots level in Sports First Aid, for youth, women's and junior football. The SFP has committed £130,000 to the initiative, and the training course has been devised by the SFA's medical team, headed by Dr John MacLean. There was a poignancy to Coyle's support, though, since it is almost five years to the day since Phil O'Donnell suffered a fatal cardiac arrest while playing for Motherwell against Dundee United at Fir Park.

"A programme like this is long overdue," Coyle said. "Would it have made a difference? I don't know. The events of that night are still so raw. As well as being an outstanding footballer, more importantly he was an outstanding man. I thought the world of Phil. His was a high-profile case, as was Fabrice's. But something like this can help people across the board. It shows we are moving forward. A lot of these things go unnoticed.

"Prior to Phil you had another young lad at Motherwell called Andy Thomson. I was at the club when he passed away at 17. He'd been feeling unwell, he was sent home and that night he passed away. Sometimes these things don't show themselves on medicals, so it's all the more important to have trained people trackside. I know sometimes it comes down to finances, but for something as important as this then surely we can find the funding? We've all got brothers and sisters, we're all parents. Knowing that someone will get the best possible medical attention if something does go wrong gives everyone peace of mind."

Coyle still speaks regularly to Muamba, and remains heartened by the response to the player's medical plight. Football clubs across the world, and even teams and individuals from other sports, united to support the midfielder. Barcelona and Real Madrid players wore T-shirts bearing his name, David Beckham called Bolton to offer his best wishes, and opposition fans chanted his name. For a moment, the old, hostile rivalries of the game were set aside.

It was the precariousness of his condition that so affected people. Despite the fitness levels of a Barclay's Premier League footballer, Muamba's heart stopped for 78 minutes and only CPR, plus numerous defibrillator shocks, prevented him from suffering lasting damage. Muamba was fortunate, since the game was taking place at the elite level, with all of the attendant services and support, but also because a leading cardiologist was in the stand and was able to take to the field to help.

"There were a number of things that all came together that night and, if it hadn't been at White Hart Lane, I've no doubt it might have been a different outcome," Coyle said. "The medical staff were all highly trained but within that you had Andrew Deaner, the leading cardiologist, who was actually in the crowd. The fear afterwards was had he suffered any brain damage? Thankfully, when you see him today, you see that is not the case.

"As much as we love the game, it paled into insignificance that night. Of course the experience changed me, I think it changed all of us. The support Fabrice and the football club received was overwhelming, it was very humbling."

INTERVIEW Owen Coyle better qualified than most to talk about the dangers of cardiac arrest on pitch. Richard Wilson reports

At the end of a demonstration of basic CPR at Hampden, Owen Coyle addresses a small group of volunteers and members of the Scottish Football Association's medical staff. He tells them about how Fabrice Muamba recovered from suffering a cardiac arrest on the pitch at White Hart Lane last March because the CPR helped to prevent the Bolton midfielder suffering brain damage while his heart had stopped. "I just thought you should know that," Coyle said. "That's why it's important."

He drove up from England yesterday morning to attend the event at the national stadium because he still feels a duty to promote a better understanding of the importance of basic first aid. Muamba has regained full health – although he has retired from professional football – and Coyle is no longer manager of Bolton, but the issue remains too important to be discarded. Experiencing what happened to Muamba at close hand, then trying to help the player through his spell in hospital and rehab, made a deep impression on Coyle.

Yesterday, he was helping to promote The Scottish Football Partnership's nationwide programme to train more than 1000 coaches at grassroots level in Sports First Aid, for youth, women's and junior football. The SFP has committed £130,000 to the initiative, and the training course has been devised by the SFA's medical team, headed by Dr John MacLean. There was a poignancy to Coyle's support, though, since it is almost five years to the day since Phil O'Donnell suffered a fatal cardiac arrest while playing for Motherwell against Dundee United at Fir Park.

"A programme like this is long overdue," Coyle said. "Would it have made a difference? I don't know. The events of that night are still so raw. As well as being an outstanding footballer, more importantly he was an outstanding man. I thought the world of Phil. His was a high-profile case, as was Fabrice's. But something like this can help people across the board. It shows we are moving forward. A lot of these things go unnoticed.

"Prior to Phil you had another young lad at Motherwell called Andy Thomson. I was at the club when he passed away at 17. He'd been feeling unwell, he was sent home and that night he passed away. Sometimes these things don't show themselves on medicals, so it's all the more important to have trained people trackside. I know sometimes it comes down to finances, but for something as important as this then surely we can find the funding? We've all got brothers and sisters, we're all parents. Knowing that someone will get the best possible medical attention if something does go wrong gives everyone peace of mind."

Coyle still speaks regularly to Muamba, and remains heartened by the response to the player's medical plight. Football clubs across the world, and even teams and individuals from other sports, united to support the midfielder. Barcelona and Real Madrid players wore T-shirts bearing his name, David Beckham called Bolton to offer his best wishes, and opposition fans chanted his name. For a moment, the old, hostile rivalries of the game were set aside.

It was the precariousness of his condition that so affected people. Despite the fitness levels of a Barclay's Premier League footballer, Muamba's heart stopped for 78 minutes and only CPR, plus numerous defibrillator shocks, prevented him from suffering lasting damage. Muamba was fortunate, since the game was taking place at the elite level, with all of the attendant services and support, but also because a leading cardiologist was in the stand and was able to take to the field to help.

"There were a number of things that all came together that night and, if it hadn't been at White Hart Lane, I've no doubt it might have been a different outcome," Coyle said. "The medical staff were all highly trained but within that you had Andrew Deaner, the leading cardiologist, who was actually in the crowd. The fear afterwards was had he suffered any brain damage? Thankfully, when you see him today, you see that is not the case.

"As much as we love the game, it paled into insignificance that night. Of course the experience changed me, I think it changed all of us. The support Fabrice and the football club received was overwhelming, it was very humbling."

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