Stiliyan Petrov almost never signed for Aston Villa – but he’s certainly glad he did as he spoke of the club being “family” to him.
Petrov lifted the lid on the transfer from Celtic in 2006 and how he was on the verge of joining Portsmouth before Martin O’Neill came calling.
Looking back now on a six-year spell in the claret and blue colours as part of our new ‘Icons’ feature series, he talked of deep passion for the club he served so admirably.
He told Club TV: “My main emotion when I look back is that I joined a great club – you can’t get away from that.
“Moving to England and joining Aston Villa was great. I knew the history of the club and the size of the club.
“I was moving, of course, from Celtic to Villa – two European Cup winners – so I knew all about the expectation and what the fans would demand from you and the standards you’d need to set. So it was great emotions and I couldn’t wait to start.
“I was actually on the way to sign for Portsmouth with Harry Rednapp – it was two days before the international break. But then Aston Villa, managed of course by my former manager Martin O’Neill, struck a deal for me with Celtic.
"I remember negotiating until 3.30am in the morning and I then needed to fly that morning to play for Bulgaria – the flight was 6.30am! So the move was quick and unexpected but I am so glad I made that choice.
“Now I see Aston Villa as my family. This club means family – it also has great support and a desire to fight. The fans have it – and the players have it too.
"I hope the club will soon be back where it belongs because the fans deserve it. I am sure they will get what they deserve.”