IAN Evatt believes Fabrice Muamba’s story could help his former Barrow charge Lewis Hardcastle after his retirement at the age of just 22.

The Bolton-born midfielder, raised in Atherton, has been forced to call time on his promising career after being diagnosed with a heart problem.

Having come through the ranks at Blackburn Rovers, Hardcastle linked up with Evatt at Holker Street and was a key component as the Bluebirds returned to the Football League last season.

But now an Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC) means doctors have told the prospect it would be dangerous for him to play on.

Evatt believes that it is an “absolute tragedy” for Hardcastle and pointed to Muamba’s recovery after his cardiac arrest playing for Wanderers at Tottenham in March 2012 as an example to follow.

“I found out a couple of weeks ago and spoke to Lewis, offering him my full support,” the Bolton boss said.

“It’s really sad. He is someone who is extremely fit, his energy levels were always there, who never really suffered with injuries.

“He came through at Blackburn Rovers and would have been screened for problems there.

“For that to happen to him is an absolute tragedy and I feel so sorry for him.

“Personally, and on behalf of the club, I will offer him my full support.

“With what happened with Fabrice Muamba, and a career-ending injury like the one suffered by Stuart Holden, we can perhaps offer him some guidance.

“I am sure Fabrice will be put in touch with him to learn how to cope with the situation.

“I feel so sorry for him because he is such a talented lad.”

Hardcastle was limited to just 69 Barrow appearances, the last coming as he played an hour of a 1-0 League Two defeat at Salford on February 16.

Evatt believes his former player’s situation should act as a warning to all players that a footballer’s career is a brief one, and you never know how brief, especially in the current climate.

“It is all Lewis has known, he has always wanted to be a professional footballer and he was fortunate to make it in the game,” the Wanderers manager said.

“To have that taken away from you overnight is so, so sad.

“But also it’s a message to

everyone – senior players, younger players, you have to respect every day in football and train and play every day like it is your last because you don’t know what is around the corner in this


“With the pandemic and all the other things that are thrown at you, nothing should be taken for granted.

“We are very fortunate to be involved in this game so I think we should make the most of it while we still can.”