By Dan Harrison
Paul Lambert has backed this weekend's charity match in honour of skipper Stiliyan Petrov - after paying a glowing tribute to his former Celtic team-mate.
The Villa Lions & Legends team - featuring several members of the 1982 European Cup-winning squad - are set to line-up against a Petrov XI in Sunday's match at Halesowen Town's The Grove.
All proceeds from the game, which kicks off at 1.30pm, will go to Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.
Former Villa players Gareth Barry and James Milner are also expected to attend the event, which Lambert has described as "a great cause."
The claret and blues chief fondly recalls watching Petrov grow up as a player and as a person during their time together in Glasgow.
"I think it's a great cause," said the manager.
"I spoke to Stiliyan when he came in the other day. I think seeing him puts everything into perspective.
"That's a guy I played football with for about eight or nine years or so. I have seen him grow up as a young guy.
"The first day I ever saw him train at Celtic, I thought Jesus Christ what have we signed? He was hitting shots from about 80-yards!
"He looked like the Nutty Professor! He lost about nine stone and became a footballer.
"Then he became brilliant for Celtic. What a player to play with he was. He was fantastic.
"Every time I see him when I look at him now it brings a tear to your eye because that's a guy that I was really, really close with and thank God that he's nearly there.
"He's just a brilliant guy and hopefully if it raises money then that will be great.
"It's a great thing if Gareth Barry and James Milner come back. That just speaks volumes for it and I think it's great."
Admission to the Petrov game is £5 for adults and £2.50 for concessions.