Stubbs ‘shocked’ as Bolton player fights for his life
As a football man who faced a life-threatening situation and won through it, former Celtic hero Alan Stubbs possibly has more insight than most into the dreadful situation facing Fabrice Muamba, the Bolton player who is critically ill in a London hospital after collapsing during the FA Cup quarter final against Spurs on Saturday.
Like Muamba, Stubbs played for Bolton Wanderers, but it was at Celtic that he had his own brush with deadly serious illness, overcoming testicular cancer with his illness public knowledge practically from diagnosis onwards.
Speaking before yesterday’s Scottish Communities League Cup Final, Stubbs said: “I also went through a health issue and football will always be second. My thoughts are the same as everyone – I am completely shocked by what happened to Fabrice.
“When you saw the amount of medical staff around him on the pitch it drove home how serious the situation was. Everyone’s thoughts are with Fabrice at the moment. And it is not about whether he comes back to play football. We just all hope he comes through as a person. That is the most important thing.”
Bolton’s deserved reputation as a family club will see the fullest support for Muamba and his family, according to Stubbs.
“His family will be going through hell at the moment,” he said “But when I was at Bolton, it was a brilliant club and it is the same now. It has gone to a different level in terms of the finances and stadium, but it still has the same feeling in the background. There are still the same people there from when I was there – it is a fantastic club that way and I think they will look after him and his family. I think a lot of clubs are like that to be fair.”
Stubbs was a playing colleague of Phil O’Donnell, the former Celtic player who collapsed and died while captaining Motherwell against Dundee United in 2007. Muamba’s cardiac arrest reminded Stubbs of O’Donnell’s collapse, and that of Marc Vivien Foe, the Cameroon internationalist who died after his on-field collapse in 2003.
“It was a real sad situation and you only had to look at the faces of the players, staff and fans at the game to see how serious it was,” said Stubbs. “I think the fans got a sense of that straight away and the Tottenham fans were very respectful. They deserve huge credit. The one thing about footballers is they all think they are invincible because they are so fit. But it just goes to show it can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time.”
Stubbs thinks the top clubs are doing all they can to help prevent such tragedies, but the Everton FC coach would like to see more cardiac tests for youngsters to try and detect abnormalities at an earlier age. “It is a real unfortunate circumstance what has happened to Fabrice,” said Stubbs. “People were talking afterwards about people being checked, but I don’t think players could be checked any more than they are at this time. They have the best treatments available, they have tests and they even have tests for the tests at times. That is how many tests they go through.
“Clubs have cardio tests every season and at Everton we all have them. The Premier League and Football League have them. I think Scottish football has to fund something which goes right through the age groups. The earliest this can be done with youngsters, the better, then hopefully they can stop this in the future.
“By the looks of it, Fabrice could have had a heart problem and we saw it before with Phil O’Donnell and Marc Vivien Foe. Unfortunately, you will get the odd one or two sneaking through undetected. We all have to make sure every player has got this (testing) in place.”