Petrov tells emotional dressing room: I will beat leukaemia
Published 22:20 01/04/12 By Martin Lipton
Stiliyan Petrov gave an emotional dressing room vow to his Aston Villa team-mates as he promised to win his fight for life.
Just 24 hours after being diagnosed with acute leukaemia, the Bulgarian was the centre of the thoughts and prayers of Villa Park.
It was a day of hugs and kisses from his team-mates and a standing ovation after 19 minutes which saw Petrov wipe the tears from his eyes as he began the biggest battle of his life.
Villa boss Alex McLeish said: “It was great to see him in the dressing room and there was definitely a bit of inspiration for the players.
“He said ‘I’ll beat this, I’ll beat it’. There’s leadership qualities as you would expect.
“The players shook his hand and embraced him and said they are with him all the way. I didn’t see anyone in tears but Stiliyan is starting his treatment and he’s on the road to recovery and we’re confident he will recover fully.
“Stiliyan was right behind the game going ahead. There was no consideration of calling it off. We actually thought we could use it to galvanise the players and the crowd.”
Petrov’s plight touched a nerve and Austrian striker Andreas Weimann admitted the sense of shock when the news broke on Friday.
“We only found out about it when it came up on TV,” said Weimann. “Everybody was devastated.
“We’d all gone from the training ground, I don’t even think Stan found out until about 2pm. Everyone was back home and that’s when we found out. We were all in shock.
“Now we just hope he can get through it as quickly as possible. He’s brilliant, he’s our role model and captain, the one you look up to and a big character.
“I know it’s been really hard for Barry Bannan. He is a Celtic fan, supported them when Stan played for them and it’s even worse for him than it is for us because he was his idol when he was younger.
“He came in before the game, said hello to the players and wished us all the best.
“The fans were brilliant, the standing ovation in the 19th minute was brilliant and the Chelsea fans started singing too.
“We’re all behind him. He’s ready to fight it and hopefully he’ll get through it.”
McLeish agreed the response from all sides of Villa Park had been immense but also insisted his players will do Petrov proud by ensuring they win their far less serious survival battle after being dragged into the fringes of the relegation fight.
“The crowd were fantastic,” added McLeish. “Stiliyan just wants to get on with it, go on as normal, take his kids to school, that kind of thing and get his treatment.
“I’m sure it’s affected the players but I went to see James Collins after training, late in the afternoon and he said that the players were all ready to battle for Stan.
“He’ll have treatment and he comes back a day or two at a time, hopefully pop in the training ground.”