Blog: Now No.19 Petrov ready to applaud from the stands
Paul Brown on Stan Petrov courage and class.
17th Apr 2013
Blog: Now No.19 Petrov ready to applaud from the stands

Paul Lambert has regularly said that you can't underestimate the absence of Stan Petrov - as a player and personality - this season.

But it's typical of gutsy Petrov that he will be very much around for the big battle ahead as we face our five dates with destiny.

The big news this week, of course, has been that Petrov has finished the most intensive period of his treatment for leukaemia, with the 33-year-old coming through the worst of it as he gets back to a normal life.

It's the little things that we take for granted that have bought a smile to the face and in most cases a tear to the eye, even among burly football blokes.

Petrov this morning will be able to take his kids to school - the same children he hasn't seen much of because of his intensive chemotherapy treatments - on their first day back at lessons.

It's nothing special in our mundane, humdrum lives. But touching and poignant for a man - and family - who have been to hell and back.

Behind his love of family lies a passion for the game, of course, and an intense desire for Villa - led by good pal Paul Lambert - to survive this bruising battle.

That's why - football-wise - there was superb news too, with Petrov revealing he will follow the team's fortunes at EVERY game from now until the end of the season.

Lambert and all the fans would want their skipper on the pitch, leading by example with his epic performances and warrior-like vocal spirit.

But don't underestimate the fact that Petrov will be in and around camp for the remaining weeks of the season, cheering on the lads from the sidelines.

This is a fighter. This is a proud man. This is a man of unbounded spirit and strength.

There has been a turnover of players, of course, since Petrov last played in claret and blue but even the newer recruits appreciate him immensely as they go about their work at the training ground.

Ashley Westwood, playing in the central ground that Petrov used to dominate, is one of those starlets.

"I've never played with Stan but you can feel his influence at the training ground. He might not have been here for weeks or months at a time but you always know he's around the place, in spirit if nothing else.

"It's always great to see him when he comes to visit. The lads love to see him. He's a warm man and his stories are brilliant.

"But his positivity is terrific for the lads. He's always giving us confidence with the way he chats to us. He's club captain for a reason. You can tell why."

Petrov has had to have belief over the past year to help him strive to survive.

But it's not something he has acquired from thin air.

Petrov holds it as part of his DNA. He is driven to succeed and defeat is unthinkable for him in all walks of life.

He knows what it's like to have conviction, principle, fervour and he sees those same traits in the current players after shining in a spell which has seen them win three in five.

Petrov has confidence in them.

"I think it's about belief. Villa are in a position at the moment where people say we are fighting relegation. We are, but so what?

"You need to believe that you are going to be out of that situation. The boys have been showing that, they've been showing great character.

"They're a very young team but they've been showing they can compete at that level and they want to stay at that level.

"Yeah, the season has gone this way, but they haven't put their heads down. They've kept fighting, they've kept fighting and the last several weeks they've played with great confidence and have picked up a lot of important points.

"They have a manager who I know very closely, he's a good friend as well and I know how important it is for his team to improve and to win as well. These are positive things.

"I was there at the game against Fulham and I've come to a lot of games this season when I've had the chance.

"I was really impressed by the performance against Fulham because the boys kept going right until the last minute. There are still a lot of games to come, a lot of points to be picked up, so there's nothing to worry about.

"I love coming to the games, watching the games, seeing the players, seeing the fans and things like that, it's great. I'll be there for every game until the end of the season and it will be great to see the boys putting in performances like that have been for the past couple of weeks."

Fans have been able to disengage their minds from the basement battle for one minute in each game as they clap eagerly in the 19th minute in honour of Petrov.

How appropriate that he will now be one of them as he takes his place to cheer on the lads against Man Utd, Sunderland, Norwich, Chelsea and Wigan.

Be sure that he will roar the team on in their ferocious fight to stay in the Barclays Premier League.

We should be thrilled to have this fighter in our corner and on our side for the bouts ahead.

But, more importantly, let's thank God we have him, full-stop.

stiliyan petrov, paul brown, blogs,
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