Petrov to begin treatment for leukaemia as Villa captain vows to win battle
07:00 GMT, 2 April 2012
Stiliyan Petrov will begin treatment at a London hospital on Monday after being diagnosed with acute leukaemia.
Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish expected that the Bulgarian midfielder, 32, would spend a couple of days in the capital in the first instance after the diagnosis was made public on Friday and hopes to visit him in hospital this week.
Club captain Petrov addressed the Villa squad in the dressing room prior to Saturday's 4-2 Barclays Premier League defeat at home to Chelsea, where he vowed to fight the condition and beat it.
Show of defiance: Stiliyan Petrov watched Aston Villa play Chelsea
He then stayed on as a spectator at the match with his family, and stood to acknowledge an ovation from both sets of supporters in the 19th minute, timed to match the player's squad number.
'I don't think he's down there (in London) long term, only for a couple of days at a time,' McLeish told Sky Sports.
'But we believe he's got the best possible chance of help at the moment, with the specialists he's got now.
'I didn't see him after the game yesterday but he texted me to say it was a great game and he thought we were a bit unlucky.
'He obviously made it a very emotional occasion and the fans were right behind the team and gave us extra power.
'I never realised the Chelsea players wore T-shirts and I thank them very much for that fantastic gesture.
'I watched (Petrov's former club) Celtic play (on Sunday) and they had a smashing tribute in the 19th minute to Stiliyan – he's a massively popular guy.
Support: Fans at Celtic (above) and Villa gave their backing to Petrov
'I've received numerous emails and texts saying “pass my best wishes on to him”.
'Hopefully the support will boost him and give him positivity – I know that can help people in their recovery.'
McLeish had earlier spoken about Petrov's dressing-room message to his team-mates.
'Stan is a determined guy and has said he will fight it and beat it. He told the lads that before the game in the dressing room,' the Villa boss said.
'It was typical of him. He is a leader, and he says he will battle through it, and those are the kind of words we would expect to hear from Stiliyan.
'The whole of football has got respect for Stan and we are right behind him in his recovery.
'He has taken his first couple of
steps in the past couple of days and we hope to see him popping in the
training ground in between his spells of treatment.'
In our thoughts: Fernando Torres (left) and Martin Petrov lend their support
Bond: Aston Villa players came close to upsetting Chelsea in front of Petrov
Villa defender Eric Lichaj, who scored his side's second goal, said: 'Stan came into the dressing room beforehand. It is never easy when you hear news like that about someone you play with all the time.
'It can happen to anyone, just like with Fabrice Muamba the other week (who suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch playing for Bolton against Tottenham on March 17). You don't really know what to say or to do and just hope he makes a full recovery.
'Stan was in a good mood before the game, just trying to motivate us, being his normal self.
'That's how he is, an uplifting guy, a great captain, and it's sad what has happened.'