It’s perhaps the best news Aston Villa fans have heard for the best part of four years: Stiliyan Petrov will train with the first team during pre-season. Even if he doesn’t become a regular starter, his recovery from leukaemia will surely have an overwhelmingly positive effect after such a toxic season.
The midfielder, now 36, was forced to retire from professional football after being diagnosed with acute leukaemia four years ago. After suffering through three spells of chemotherapy, Petrov gained weight due to his medication.
But in the face of an adverse situation, Petrov remained close to Villa during his recovery and trained with the U21 side at the end of last season.
Pinch yourselves Villa fans, this is for real.
— Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) June 23, 2016
“I’ve told Aston Villa that I’m ready to start a pre-season with them,
“Obviously they will always have the first look.
“I’ve been working close to the idea for a year and a half and I’ve managed to come a long way. I started gradually with slow runs then I moved to five-a-side and then 11-a-side and half a pitch, then Sunday League.”
Petrov’s recovery is as admirable as it is remarkable – he is exactly the kind of character Aston Villa need if they’re to be mount their own resurgence into the Premier League. Even if Petrov only plays a handful of games as a rotational player for Villa, his influence as a squad leader will be fantastic for morale and inspiring for Villa’s younger players.
Stan’s return to the field in a Villa shirt will be an emotional affair, particularly when he steps foot on the Villa park turf once again. The Claret and Blue’s first match in the Championship will be televised, away at Sheffield Wednesday, here’s hoping Petrov is given the hero’s welcome he deserves.