Programme notes v Stoke City - Tuesday, March 21
We were all shocked by what happened to Fabrice Muamba here at White Hart Lane during Saturday's FA Cup Quarter Final with Bolton Wanderers.
I want to thank all the fans for the way you responded to the situation. The support you gave during and since the weekend has been unbelievable and is a credit to this football club.
The medical experts on the scene also deserve a great deal of praise for the speed at which they responded and handled such a traumatic situation.
Due to print deadlines I am unable to offer a comment on the latest with Fabrice but all of our thoughts are with everyone connected with the player.
Continuing the game was the last thing on anyone’s mind when something like that happens and it was an obvious decision for everyone to abandon the match at that point.
Despite these difficult circumstances, we all have to pull together now and lift ourselves in order to resume our season.
We have two important games this week starting with tonight’s visitors as we welcome Stoke City to White Hart Lane.
You never get an easy game against Stoke and tonight will be no different. There are a lot of big games this evening – Everton against Arsenal, Man City play Chelsea – so it is important we get three points, but we know it will be tough. You have to be prepared for what they have to offer but we have to go and play our game. If we do that then we have a good chance.
Tony Pulis has done a great job at the Britannia Stadium, while his coach Mark O’Connor played for me at Portsmouth so it will be good to see them, as well as Jonathan Woodgate, Wilson Palacios and Peter Crouch.
We have had a couple of results that haven’t gone our way of late but I can’t fault the performances. The gap between us and the teams below has closed right up but we are still in a great position.
There are 10 games to go in the league, they will all be hard games but I am convinced we can have a great end to the season. We have so much to look forward to so please get behind the team tonight as you always do and let’s pick up the result we are all looking for.
Have a good evening.
Main interview, Stoke programme - Tuesday, March 21
Focus the key for Kyle...
It has been a difficult few days for Kyle Walker, who saw his friend and international team-mate Fabrice Muamba suffer a heart attack during Saturday’s game here. But as the Bolton midfielder shows small signs of recovery, Kyle accepts that the show must go on. By Jon Rayner...
Driving home from White Hart Lane after Saturday’s tragic FA Cup tie with Bolton Wanderers, Kyle Walker’s only thoughts were the same as the rest of the footballing world - hoping and praying that Fabrice Muamba would be ok.
The quarter-final was abandoned after the Bolton midfielder collapsed on the pitch 41 minutes into the game, having suffered a cardiac arrest. Distraught players and supporters could only look on in utter despair as he received medical attention and a shocked atmosphere descended on the Lane as the seriousness of the situation became all too apparent.
The 23-year-old was rushed to hospital as the stadium emptied in almost hushed disbelief at what had just occurred, each and every person hoping that the next piece of news they would hear would be positive.
Kyle was certainly no different. Our full-back was an international team-mate of Muamba’s just a matter of months earlier, the pair lining up side-by-side in England’s Under-21 team at the summer’s European Championships in Denmark, and yet on Saturday evening, Kyle found himself praying his colleague and friend would pull through one of the most harrowing incidents ever seen at a top-flight football match in England.
At the time of writing, incredibly, the signs are that the hopes and prayers of Kyle and the rest of the football family have been answered, as Fabrice appears to making small steps to recovery.
But Walker admits he never expected to see such a scenario on a football pitch.
“It’s just so hard to come to terms with what happened,” he revealed. “Only a few months ago I was playing alongside Fabrice for the Under-21s and then this happens, it’s just crazy.
“I couldn’t bear to watch, I sat down and turned away because I couldn’t believe what was happening to a friend of mine. I just felt so helpless, I think we all did, I couldn’t do anything or help in anyway, it was a horrible situation.
“I was just thinking all the way home, ‘please Fabrice, come on, you can pull through this’. Praying for him, like everyone else was doing too. He’s only 23, it shouldn’t happen.
“He’s in our thoughts all the time, as are his family too of course, and I hear that it seems he might just be starting to show signs of recovery, which is fantastic news.
“Obviously there’s never a good place for something like this to happen, but the fact that it did in the middle of a Premier League football pitch meant there were medics around who could get to him instantly and give him the treatment he urgently needed. Those guys were amazing and almost certainly saved his life.”
Having agreed prior to the weekend to do the interview for tonight’s match programme, so we could discuss the outcome of the FA Cup tie with Bolton and hopefully look ahead to a semi-final at Wembley, it was a very different and difficult conversation given the turn of events on Saturday.
But the focus did turn towards our Premier League game with Stoke City this evening and Kyle insisted that this is a big match in our race to finish third in the division and three points is very much the target.
“It has been a difficult few days for the players, no question, and it may well be a bit of a strange atmosphere initially tonight. But the game is going ahead, there are points to be won and we are determined to get back to winning ways.”
We are currently on our worst run of the season by far, following three successive defeats against Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton and having seen our lead over the chasing pack reduced to just a single point. And Tony Pulis’ side arrive at the Lane as one of only six teams to have defeated us this term after their 2-1 win at the Britannia Stadium in December.
“We’ve just got to concentrate on this game now and hopefully get back to winning ways in the Premier League,” he continued. “It’s massive, we need the three points and perhaps more importantly, we need to show the confidence in our play that we were showing early on in the campaign.
“With the players we have here in the dressing room and the coaching staff too, we are more than capable of doing that. It’s going to be difficult tonight, but every game is like a cup final now,” added Kyle, who refutes the suggestions by some that we are in a mini crisis.
“Three defeats on the spin will always appear worse than maybe it is, but they were good teams we were playing. If we’d won a couple of matches in between each defeat, people might not be looking at us thinking we’re having a wobble or whatever they think.
“We’ve got great characters and real quality here, the ability we have is more than enough to get a victory this evening, I’m confident of that.”
Stoke’s win towards the back end of last year was our first defeat in 12 games and only our third in 14 from the start of the season, but it came with an element of bad luck on our part as decisions on the day went against us. Despite being 2-0 down at the interval, we showed great character in the second period, pulled a goal back through an Emmanuel Adebayor penalty and went so close to forcing an equaliser.
“We played very well in that second half and I’m sure Ade’s goal that was ruled out was onside. Then we had what looked a penalty that wasn’t given, so we were unlucky on the day, it didn’t go our way that time. But tonight we just have to concentrate on playing our game and hopefully that will get us the three points.
“It’s going to be tough but we know what to expect from Stoke. They play their own style of football and it works for them, it has seen them climb up the divisions and they’re now an established Premier League team.
“They like to get the ball forward quickly, work off the second balls and use set-pieces and long throws as weapons. That’s fine, that’s up to them. But we’ll stick to our own brand of football which we know can hurt teams, hopefully get the goals we need and deal with their dangers when we need to.”