Petrov full programme notes: I have been part of something special
What has excited me most about this season is the way this team have grown.
They have grown as a team and the players have grown as individuals.
This augurs well for the future of the club.
The manager brought in some experienced players last summer in Ron Vlaar and Karim El Ahmadi but he also brought in young players with a fantastic hunger and desire to succeed.
They have all shown character, courage and great quality and potential.
Paul Lambert has seen these traits in his players for sure.
The younger players such as Christian Benteke, Ashley Westwood, Matt Lowton and others have grown into men during this season-long journey.
They have shown a battling spirit and a genuine will to achieve, battling through some really hard times and withstanding sometimes intense pressure.
They have managed to handle it all and the present run of form is testament to the resilience and ambition of the squad.
I was delighted when the manager was appointed in the summer because I knew him as a team-mate at Celtic and as a man.
I know the deep competitive nature that drives him and I have watched the drama unfold over the course of the past nine months.
The work ethic and overall ethos is now established and the belief that the manager has shown all along is evident in the progression of the players and in the fantastic support of the fans.
There is a very positive mood throughout the club.
There are many individual moments and performances I could talk about but the outstanding feature of this season - certainly since January - has been the 'team' performances.
You know this is a team, embodying everything that the word means.
Over these past few months they haven't just improved, they have managed to catch the eye of people within football.
Only last week on Match of the Day, Alan Hansen put forward Paul Lambert for manager of the season.
Everybody is taking notice, which is great for the club.
It is great for the chairman also. I know how passionate he is about Villa and I know how much he wants to see the club do well and continue to grow.
The seeds have been sown now and there is no doubt that Villa will benefit from the work that has been put in this season.
The example of senior players such as Gabby Agbonlahor, Brad Guzan and Ron Vlaar has encouraged the younger players to work harder and become better.
All of this hard work is beginning to pay off.
The levels of performance and commitment have always been high.
As a team, we are learning to defend better and this has helped to improve results.
I firmly believe that players and fans are all looking forward to next season with genuine optimism and that next season Villa will experience a lot of joy.
These are my final notes as captain of this great club, my final notes as a footballer.
Aston Villa will always remain in my heart.
I am so grateful for the opportunity I was given here and, to the fans, I am so grateful for the way you have supported me over the years, most especially during the past 14 months or so when you have stood with me and everything I have gone through during the 19th minute.
This has touched me profoundly. It will be hard to let go but in life everything and everybody must move on.
To have been part of this for seven years was enough to know that I have been part of something unique, something special. Up the Villa!
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