Gartside hails Bolton 'family'
Chairman Phil Gartside has praised Bolton's fans for their support in the wake of Fabrice Muamba's cardiac arrest last weekend.
By Tom Mallows
Last Updated: 24/03/12 8:25pm
Bolton chairman Phil Gartside has praised the club's fans for their support and goodwill in the wake of Fabrice Muamba's cardiac arrest last weekend.
The 23-year-old midfielder remains in intensive care after collapsing shortly before half-time in the abandoned FA Cup quarter-final with Spurs at White Hart Lane.
With both sets of players visibly distressed by the incident the match was called off, while Bolton's midweek game with Aston Villa was also postponed.
Throughout the week the football world has shown its support for Muamba, while a large number of flags, scarves and flowers have been placed at the Reebok Stadium by supporters.
After consulting with Muamba's family the decision was made to go ahead with the home game against Blackburn on Saturday.
The match will be preceded by a minute's applause, while the supporters will also hold up a giant mosaic bearing Muamba's name.
Amid trying circumstances, Gartside has praised the response of the club's fans while also expressing his gratitude at the wider footballing community for their support.
When asked if he had a message for the supporters, Gartside told Sky Sports: "A huge thank you, you cannot measure the number of messages and goodwill that has been surrounding this.
"The outpouring of emotion, passion and faith, I can't put it down in words.
"The fans have been magnificent, they have been all season.
"This has culminated in this, which we don't really want it to, but they have shown what they're really about and what the club means to the community.
"We have always tried to be a family club, and the family have proved this week that we can be that sort of club.
"You have to remember that, despite an amazing week, Fabrice is still in intensive care in a seriously ill condition, so that's really what we should be focusing on.
"You have to respect that people want to see and be able to show their affection and appreciation; we felt that [the pre-match tributes] were the right thing to do.
"It's going to be awash with emotion but have to remind ourselves at three o'clock we play a football match. And we're doing that because the family have requested it so that's what today is about."
With the raw emotion surrounding the occasion it would be easy to forget that a crucial fixture is set to take place, with Wanderers currently sat in the relegation zone, two places and five points behind their opponents Blackburn.
Gartside concedes it has been a difficult build-up to the game - and one that puts football in perspective - but has backed both sets of players to get on with the game once they take to the field.
"You have to remember they are professionals, there is a human story behind it but at three o'clock they will turn into professionals," he added.
"I think this [the build-up] is unprecedented and I don't think we can predict what will happen, but that is like every Saturday.
"They train and work hard during the week and a three o'clock every Saturday you don't know what will happen once they cross the white line.
"So in that respect as a football match it shouldn't be any different."