Stiliyan Petrov says Martin O’Neill once threatened to loan him to League Two – but then he found his form and a new position as our anchor man.
Petrov enjoyed an amazing debut in the draw at West Ham in September 2006, showing the attacking instincts that made him a star at Celtic.
But soon after, he struggled - with the manager questioning the standard of his performances.
He switched to the right side of midfield – a role that didn’t suit him.
But soon after, the soon-to-be skipper became the side’s enforcer in a more defensively-minded position.
He told Club TV: “I had managed to score my first goal – against Sheffield United – I’d had a couple of assists. Everything was going well. But then, all of a sudden, I had to move to the right to play in the wide area.
“For me, this was very difficult because in the Premier League the full-backs and quicker and stronger. It was tough. But it was important for me to work for the team and do my best for the team. I had a big dip in my form. Then, it was difficult to get back in the team.
“This was a normal situation at a football club and it was up to me to battle. But it took a few months. I wasn’t playing much. The fans were on the back of me. There was a lot of expectation on me. But I know what I needed to do – work harder and get fitter and wait for my chance.
“I remember Martin O’Neill said if I didn’t make it, he would loan me to a League Two team. I don’t know if he was serious or he was joking.
“But it worked out in the end. I had to adapt in a different position because Martin had amazing players going forward – the likes of Carew, Young, Agbonlahor – they gave him a different dimension.
“My position at Aston Villa changed completely. It wasn’t really new for me because I played that role for my national team. I knew it inside out – I knew what was required from me.
“I knew I wouldn’t be the same player as I was at Celtic. But I knew the job would benefit the team – and the team is always the most important thing.”