Stiliyan Petrov diagnosed with acute leukaemia

Aston Villa in shock as captain Petrov is diagnosed with acute leukaemia



10:50 GMT, 31 March 2012

Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia.

He is now being treated in a London hospital, with the news coming as a shock to the West Midlands club.

Petrov, who has been a regular this season, hasn't trained since feeling sick with high temperatures in last weekend’s defeat at Arsenal.

A club statement read: 'We expect to learn more about Stiliyan's situation in due course and we have moved quickly to support him and his family.

Leader: Stiliyan Petrov captains the Barclays Premier League side

Leader: Stiliyan Petrov captains the Barclays Premier League side

'During this time we ask that
Stiliyan's privacy is placed ahead of all inquiries and trust that we
will share information as we receive it.

'Stiliyan is cherished by many and he
will get from Villa every ounce of love and support that we have to
help bring this to a positive conclusion.'

The 32-year old is a national hero in Bulgaria – after more than 100 caps – and a key figure in Aston Villa’s midfield.

While his family and friends tried to
come to terms with the shock news, Petrov prepared for an immediate
course of treatment and vowed to put everything into a gruelling battle
to regain his health.

Villa’s former Celtic midfielder
prides himself on his fitness and sensed something was wrong at Arsenal
last weekend, when he struggled to keep up with the pace of the game.

He reported his unusually low energy
levels to Villa’s medical staff, who advised him to rest for a couple of
days, in the belief he was suffering from a virus.

Fighter: Petrov (left) played for Villa in Saturday's defeat at Arsenal

Fighter: Petrov (left) played for Villa in Saturday's defeat at Arsenal

When the symptoms persisted, a
concerned Petrov underwent blood tests on Wednesday to try and determine
the cause of his fatigue.

His and Villa’s worst fears were
confirmed 48 hours later, when he was told he was suffering from
leukaemia and was booked in for treatment that will begin this weekend.

Villa manager Alex McLeish believes Petrov – affectionately known as 'Stan' – has a fighting spirit that will help him in his battle to overcome leukaemia.

McLeish said: 'It's that old perspective cliche, but it's so true, and everybody here is behind Stan and a lot of the guys, everybody, will be shocked by the news.

'But he's a captain, he's a leader, he's a defiant guy and he's fought many battles on the pitch and I'm sure this is another one he'll win.

How does acute leukaemia develop

of our blood cells are produced by bone marrow, which is found inside
the bones. Usually the bone marrow produces stem cells which are allowed
to mature into 'adult' blood cells.

cases of acute leukaemia, the affected bone marrow begins to release a
large number of immature white blood cells that are known as blast

The immature white
blood cells begin to rapidly disrupt the normal balance of cells in the
blood. This means that the body does not have enough red blood cells or
platelet cells. This can cause symptoms of anaemia, such as tiredness,
and increase the risk of excessive bleeding.

as the white blood cells are not properly formed they become less
effective at fighting bacteria and viruses, making you more vulnerable
to infection.

The condition
is more common in men than women and while the causes are unknown
smoking and radiation exposure are known risk factors.

Acute leukaemia is fatal if left untreated because the blood supply will not function properly.

usually includes chemotherapy and radiotherapy. A bone marrow
transplant may also be used. Cure rates depend on the subtype of
leukaemia it is and can vary from 20 to 70 per cent.

If a cure is not possible, patients are vulnerable to life-threatening infections or uncontrolled serious bleeding.

'We certainly think it's in the early stages and Stan will get the best medical attention possible.

'I spoke to him and he was typical Stan, defiant, but I think obviously he's concerned about how its affected his loved ones.'

McLeish was unsure whether Petrov would be able to attend Saturday's home clash with Chelsea.

He added: 'He's away with the doc today and I'm not sure of the schedule. He's away to see another top specialist as we speak and I guess we'll know more tomorrow.

'I'm sure Stan will be rooting for the lads tomorrow and sending some of the vibes for the boys to be inspirational in this game against Chelsea.

'Will they want to win it for Stan I think so. I know some of the players are already texting each other and saying that kind of thing to each other.'

A section of Villa fans have called off a planned protest before tomorrow's game.

McLeish said: 'I would like to think the club and fans will be united. I'm sure the fans will be galvanised with their support of Stan.'

Villa chairman Randy Lerner said: 'We are completely focused on Stiliyan and his family. Stiliyan is someone who is cherished by many people throughout football and every ounce of love and support that we have he will get from the club to help bring this to a positive conclusion.'

Petrov was signed for Celtic by John Barnes. He was handed the Villa captaincy by former manager Martin O'Neill, under whom he had previously excelled at Celtic.

He took time to win over the Villa
fans upon his arrival in 2006, before establishing himself as a key
figure under O'Neill and his successors Gerard Houllier and current boss

In 2008-09 Petrov was named players' player and supporters' player of the season at Villa Park.

Fighting spirit: Villa boss Alex McLeish has backed Petrov to beat leukaemia

Fighting spirit: Villa boss Alex McLeish has backed Petrov to beat leukaemia

a statement on Celtic's website, manager Neil Lennon said: 'We are all
absolutely devastated to hear this news. As a member of the Celtic
family, it is important for Stiliyan to know that he has our unequivocal
support in battling against this disease.

Stiliyan as I do, and the many obstacles he has overcome in his life to
get to the peak of his career, he will overcome this one too.

'On behalf of the players and the
backroom staff we send our support and best wishes to Stiliyan, Paulina
and the family. We are there for them all and they will never walk

The statement added that Lennon's
coaching staff of Alan Thompson and Johan Mjallby, both former
team-mates of Petrov as well, had both been left stunned by the news.

chief executive Peter Lawwell added: 'This is terrible news and our
support and prayers go to Stiliyan, Paulina and their family at this
very difficult time.

was an exceptional player for Celtic and helped to bring incredible
success here during the seven years he spent at the club.

was also one of the most popular players here, not only within the club
but with all our supporters and I know that they, too will want to pass
on their support and best wishes to Stiliyan and his family.'

Big hit: Petrov did well with Celtic before moving to Villa Park

Big hit: Petrov did well with Celtic before moving to Villa Park

Jermaine Jenas, a former team-mate of
Petrov's at Villa, tweeted: 'Just saw the news about Stan Petrov one of the
nicest guys in football! Thoughts with him and his lovely family.'

Villa striker Darren Bent was also on Twitter, saying: 'Really sad news to hear about our captain Stan Petrov. hopefully he'll be back fighting fit soon. Thoughts are with him and his family. KTF.'

Goalkeeper Shay Given tweeted: 'In shock about Stiliyan Petrov acute leukaemia but we are all here for him and his family. Please God he makes a full recovery.prayforstan.'

PFA chairman Gordon Taylor promised all the help the players' union can provide to Petrov and has written to the Villa skipper to offer his support.

He said: 'It's a terrible shock, especially so soon after what has happened to Fabrice [Muamba]. All our thought and hopes with him. Stiliyan is a great character, a good leader, and we will give him all the help and support we can.

'Whenever I have met him I have been most impressed by him, he is a great gentleman, we are proud to have him as a PFA member and I just hope that, like Fabrice, he can come through it.'

Thomas offers words of support for Villa star

Geoff Thomas believes Stiliyan Petrov will receive excellent care after the shock news that the Aston Villa captain has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia.

The condition was diagnosed following tests after the Bulgaria international, 32, developed a fever following last Saturday's defeat to Arsenal.

Former England midfielder Thomas was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia in 2003, but has since recovered and established The Geoff Thomas Foundation to raise funds for a network of national centres to allow patients to benefit from the latest advances in diagnosis and treatment.

'You are shocked with any news like this, but with somebody so young and so fit I think it always becomes more shocking,' the 47-year-old told Sky Sports News.

'My thoughts go to him and his family. I know exactly where he will be at the moment, it's something totally out of the blue.

'It's a case of taking all the information over the next couple of days and then deciphering everything and then getting on with putting your life in the professionals hands.

'Here in Birmingham we've got tremendous skills in haematology and the doctors are fantastic people so I'm sure he'll be in good, safe hands.

'I think it's more aggressive than the illness I had, it's something that has to be dealt with pretty quickly and it's [a case of] going straight onto chemotherapy and getting into a routine. I'm confident that the guys will look after him and hopefully as soon as possible get him back on the football pitch.'

Support quickly flooded in for Petrov following the news this afternoon, and Thomas revealed that similar messages were a big help during his treatment and recovery.

'It was just like being in a dark tunnel, trying to take it all in, but as soon as you start coming round and thinking I am going to take a positive view you start looking for all the positives,' Thomas added. 'And the support I was getting from football was a tremendous boost. It was a tremendous lift at one of the darkest times.'