Tottenham stadium announcer Paul Coyte has recalled how White Hart Lane stood still and held its breath after watching Fabrice Muamba collapse on the pitch back in 2012.
The talkSPORT 2 host had a front row seat to the harrowing scenes at the Lane, and shared his memories of the event on Tuesday, nine years after watching it all unfold.
It’s nine years to the day that the former Bolton midfielder was clinically dead for 78 minutes after suffering a cardiac arrest during the Trotters’ FA Cup clash with Spurs in north London.
The game was rolling like any other when suddenly Muamba dropped to the turf, and it didn’t take long for his teammates and opponents to realise this was something more serious than a standard injury.
The then-23-year-old was almost instantly swarmed by medical staff, with the player given CPR, oxygen and shocked with a defibrillator in lengthy treatment on the pitch while players, fans, managers and reports alike all watched.
At first there was a cacophony of noise, chants of ‘Fabrice Muamba’ and ‘COME ON’ from both sets of fans as they almost pleaded with the player to get up and walk, but the atmosphere turned to an eerie silence when he was stretchered off the pitch, with the game soon abandoned.
Remarkably, Muamba made a full recovery. He was given two shocks on the pitch, one in the tunnel and 12 in the ambulance on the way to hospital, where he stayed for a month.
He later retired from the game the following August, under advice from his medical team.
talkSPORT 2 host Paul Coyte is a familiar voice to White Hart Lane regulars having worked as the club’s stadium announcer for many years.
He was working at the stadium that day and recounted the incident, as well as Muamba’s emotional return to the ground after his recovery, on Wednesday’s Early Sports Breakfast
“I was there,” he said.
“I was actually just going to interview Pat Jennings [on the pitch at half-time], it was just before half-time and we were ready to walk down and then it was, ‘hang on, something’s happened’, and we didn’t really knew what because of course Fabrice was just on the ground.
“But things started to become very uncomfortable. I was sitting with some former players and they were saying, ‘this is bad, something bad is happening’, then the crowd started feeling it and then the reaction of the players who were looking and looked terrified.
“Then the doctor came running out and this is where you think, ‘my goodness’.
“All the medical staff were there and then a heart specialist who happened to be a Spurs fan ran out onto the pitch to help treat him.
“To be in that place in that time… if he was anywhere else, Fabrice Muamba would not be here today, that’s without question.
“I spoke to people in the tunnel afterwards and you could just see, everybody thought he had gone. Nobody thought he’d survive that.
“They abandoned the game and nobody knew, everybody was searching for information on what truly happened, all we knew that he had collapsed and was taken away.
“So obviously thank goodness everything worked out OK.”
Coyte was later able to welcome Muamba back to the Lane after his recovery, and revealed how it was an emotional return for the retired midfield star.
“The thing I most remember was when Fabrice came back, I couldn’t even tell you how long after it was, but he came back to Spurs,” he explained.
“I spoke to him beforehand, I was introduced to him and I said ‘we’ll have a chat at half-time in front of the crowd’, and he told me, ’I want to walk out to where it happened’.
“The hairs stood up in the back of my neck. I said to him, ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ But he said, ‘no no, I want to go out there’.
“So we did. We walked to where it was, strolled out to the place and I’ve never experienced anything like it. I was going to have a chat with him, but he was in tears, absolutely crying his eyes out.
“So what do you do? Do you just stand there? So I put my arm around him and I remember chatting to him about it, but I actually remember nothing about that conversation at all, apart from the obvious ‘how do you feel?’
“It was just the feeling of the whole thing, the most bizarre situation and incredible that he’s well now, because nobody imagined that he would be,”