He Played for Both Clubs: Fabrice Muamba, Birmingham City & Bolton

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Chris takes the obvious route into Obvious Town and picks an obvious candidate for this week's look back article

With one eye to the weekend's game away to Birmingham City, and with the responsibility falling to me in terms of the "Played For Both Clubs" piece, then it seemed obvious that there was really only candidate: Fabrice Muamba.

Born in April 1988, in Kinshasa, Zaire, Muamba became a footballer in 2002, when he signed youth terms at Arsenal. He would spend time at both Birmingham City and our own Bolton Wanderers before that fateful day in 2012 which remains permanently etched in the modern footballing conscience, but more on that as we progress.

Muamba was sent to England aged 11 to escape political turmoil in the country. When civil war broke out in 1996, Muamba's father Marcel, a political advisor in the government of ousted President Seko, became a target for rebels. Fabrice was granted indefinite leave to remain in 1999 following his initial asylum claim upon arrival. Settling in east London, he went on to be a bright and promising student both academically and in a sporting context, joining Arsenal's youth system in 2002, before signing a professional contract in 2004.

Fabrice Muamba progressed through the youth ranks at the club until he made his first-team debut away to Sunderland in the League Cup in 2005. He would again play in the following round against Reading where again he helped Arsenal to a win.

In August 2006, with Muamba finding it hard to break into the Arsenal first-team, he was offered the chance to get regular football on loan at Birmingham City, managed at the time by former Manchester United manager Steve Bruce. Muamba made 34 appearances that season, anchoring their midfield with energetic and lively performances, though unsurprisingly he did not trouble the score-keepers. He was voted by the supporters as their Young Player of the Season.

That Summer, Bruce parted with a reported £4m to sign the player on a three-year deal, saying:

"His performances and the way he drove the team on was unbelievable for a young kid."

Muamba then turned down a call to represent the nation of his birth as a 19-year-old, making his England Under-21 debut in a friendly against Romania in August 2007, going on to win 33 caps.

The following season saw Birmingham City succumb to relegation, and Muamba moved on. Then-Bolton Wanderers manager Gary Megson saw enough in Muamba to push through a deal worth an initial £5m, with another £0.75m due in clauses and conditions. He was an ever-present in his first season at the Reebok Stadium, scoring his first goal for the club the following season at home to Wigan Athletic.

Muamba's energetic and athletic style was never one to impress the purists, his performances would often move from the sublime to the ridiculous, and the less said about his shooting the better. Muamba was nevertheless a key member of the Bolton Wanderers squad alongside Stuart Holden producing a formidable partnership in the centre of midfield.

He would also go on to sign a four-year contract extension in August 2010, with manager Owen Coyle calling him a "great young prospect". It has however emerged since that Muamba's spell out of the team that immediately preceded his retirement would have likely resulted in him leaving the club, such was his desire to play on a more regular basis that Coyle could offer.

The 2011/12 season began well for Bolton Wanderers, as we defeated QPR 4-0 at Loftus Road in the opening game of the Premier League. Muamba was on the scoresheet that day, which was soon followed up by another goal, this time against former side Arsenal in 1-2 League Cup defeat. However, soon after this Muamba yet again found himself on the sidelines.

It was 17th March 2012 when Bolton Wanderers travelled to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham Hotspur in an FA Cup Quarter Final. Muamba began the game in his usual energetic fashion and all seemed perfectly normal. The score was 1-1, with Bolton acquitting themselves well.

In the 41st minute however, things would take a severe turn for the worst. Out of nowhere, and completely unchallenged, Muamba collapsed. Medics spent six minutes trying to resuscitate him, providing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and through using a defibrillator.

Both sets of supporters chanted Muamba's name as he was taken off the pitch on a stretcher. ESPN, who were broadcasting the match, reported that he was not breathing as he was taken into the tunnel. The match was abandoned soon after.

Muamba was taken immediately to London Chest Hospital, with manager Owen Coyle and captain Kevin Davies in the ambulance. Our next game, against Aston Villa, due to be played three days later, was postponed at the club's request.

Bolton's club doctor, Jonathan Tobin, later confirmed that Fabrice Muamba had received numerous defibrillator shocks both on the pitch and in the ambulance, but his heart had stopped for 78 minutes.

Miraculously, by 19 March, his heart was beating without medication and he was able to move. Later that day his condition was described as "serious" rather than "critical" and he was able to recognise family members and respond appropriately to questions.

Two weeks after the incident, a photograph was released of Muamba sitting up in his hospital bed and smiling. He was discharged from hospital on 16 April, having been fitted with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. Muamba attended Bolton's home match against Tottenham Hotspur on 2 May, where he was visibly overwhelmed by the level of support he had received.

On 15 August 2012, Bolton announced that Muamba had retired from professional football, based on the recommendation of his medical team, and on Thursday 8 November 2012 returned to White Hart Lane for the first time and received a standing ovation from the crowd.

Upon announcing his retirement, Muamba said:

"While the news is devastating, I have much to be thankful for - I thank God that I am alive,"

His fight for life inspired tributes from British football and around the world. In Madrid, Real players were photographed before the match against Malaga in specially produced shirts carrying slogans wishing him a speedy recovery.

In Italy, Juventus playmaker Andrea Pirlo dedicated a win over Fiorentina to Muamba.

Since then, Muamba has enjoyed a return to some semblance of normality with his family, though obviously a return to professional football is impossible given the stresses inherent within.

We will never forget the contribution Muamba made to our club. In total he made 148 appearances for the Whites, scoring four goals.

Club

Season

League

FA Cup

League Cup

Total

Division

Apps

Goals

Apps

Goals

Apps

Goals

Apps

Goals

Arsenal

2005-06

Premier League

0

0

0

0

2

0

2

0

Birmingham City (loan)

2006-07

Championship

34

0

3

0

4

0

41

0

Birmingham City

2007-08

Premier League

37

2

1

0

0

0

38

2

Total

71

2

4

0

4

0

79

2

Bolton Wanderers

2008-09

Premier League

38

0

1

0

1

0

40

0

2009-10

Premier League

36

1

4

0

3

0

43

1

2010-11

Premier League

36

1

5

0

0

0

41

1

2011-12

Premier League

20

1

2

0

2

1

24

2

Total

130

3

12

0

6

1

148

4

Career total

201

5

16

0

12

1

229

6

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