Tag Archives: leukaemia

Randy Lerner to hand Paul Lambert January cash boost in bid to revive Aston Villa

Lerner set to hand Lambert January cash boost in bid to revive free-falling Villa

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UPDATED:

12:50 GMT, 31 December 2012

Under pressure: Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert

Under pressure: Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert

Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner will provide further financial backing to manager Paul Lambert during the January transfer window to help stave off the threat of relegation.

Lerner splashed out almost 23million to help Lambert rebuild the squad during last summer, with the accent on bringing in up and coming young talent.

There had been encouraging signs up to a fortnight ago with Villa reaching the Capital One Cup semi-finals via a 4-1 success at Norwich and then winning 3-1 over Liverpool at Anfield.

That victory was achieved with a side having an average age of less than 24 and was the youngest ever fielded in the Premier League.

But Villa's lack of experience, due in part to a lengthy and growing injury list, has been highlighted over the festive period with 15 goals conceded without reply in three games.

Villa's Christmas collapse

Chelsea 8 Aston Villa 0 (Sun 23 Dec)

Aston Villa 0 Tottenham 4 (Wed 26 Dec)

Aston Villa 0 Wigan 3 (Sat 29 Dec)

Lerner and Lambert held talks about the approach to be taken next month before and after Saturday's 3-0 home defeat by Wigan left Villa only a point above the Barclays Premier League bottom three.

Lambert also has the option of trying to offload some of the players who had only played a bit-part role even before becoming injured to bolster funds.

The likes of record signing Darren Bent, Charles N'Zogbia, Shay Given, and Stephen Ireland have made only a handful of starts this season.

Villa have also missed the leadership qualities of skipper Stiliyan Petrov who continues to battle against acute leukaemia.

Ouch: Stephen Ireland and Chris Herd reflect on the 3-0 defeat against Wigan

Ouch: Stephen Ireland and Chris Herd reflect on the 3-0 defeat against Wigan

Lambert retains the backing of the Villa fans and the boos after the latest setback against the Latics were more in frustration at a poor performance rather than being aimed directly at the Scot.

There is also no suggestion that his own position is under review with Lerner recognising the long term nature of the rebuilding job needed at Villa.

Chuck Pagano speech: Leukaemia coach talks to Indianapolis Colts

NFL coach suffering with leukaemia gives team emotional speech after returning from hospital

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UPDATED:

18:35 GMT, 6 November 2012

American football coach Chuck Pagano gave the Indianapolis Colts an emotional and rousing post-match speech after attending his first game since being diagnosed with leukaemia.

The coach has been receiving chemotherapy treatment since September 26, when he discovered he had the cancer.

Scroll down for video

Emotional: Chuck Pagano raises his fist at the end of the speech he gave his side after their victory at the weekend

Emotional: Chuck Pagano raises his fist at the end of the speech he gave his side after their victory at the weekend

Get well soon: Pagano was diagnosed with leukaemia (pictured before undergoing chemotherapy)

Get well soon: Pagano was diagnosed with leukaemia (pictured before undergoing chemotherapy)

Support: Fans and players alike are backing Pagano to come back and put up this #chuckstrong banner in support of him

Support: Fans and players alike are backing Pagano to come back and put up this #chuckstrong banner in support of him

But he turned up at the Lucas Oil Stadium
on November 4 and saw his side beat the Miami Dolphins 23-20 before
heading down to the locker room to deliver his moving team-talk.

Pagano spoke to his men about the
power of positive thinking and visualisation, how they visualised what
they wanted and achieved it in the game – the Colts came back from
behind.

He told them about how because he was visualising overcoming the cancer 'it was already beat'.

Pagano talked of seeing two more of
his daughters get married – he has three, Taylor, Tori and Tara who is
married with two children.

Backed to the hilt: The entire Indianapolis Colts team is behind their coach

Backed to the hilt: The entire Indianapolis Colts team is behind their coach

Indianapolis Colts' Reggie Wayne

A fan holds up a banner in support

Come on Chuck! Indianapolis Colts' Reggie Wayne takes off his helmet while a fan holds up a message of support (right)

Pagano was released from the Indiana University Health Simon Cancer Centre two weeks beforehand.

Colts owner, Jim Irsay, announced Pagano would be watching two days before the game took place.

The game was notable itself for a
record breaking performance from quarterback Andrew Luck, in which he
threw for 433 passing yards – beating the previous record of 432 yards
set by Cam Newton.

Pagano's side are now 5-3 and will travel to Jacksonville in Week 10.

PAGANO'S SPEECH IN FULL

'I mentioned before the game that you guys were living in a vision and you weren't living in circumstances. Because you know where they had us in the beginning. Every last one of them.

'But you refused to live in circumstances and you decided consciously, as a team, and as a family, to live in a vision. And that's why you bring things home like you brought home today. That's why you're already champions, and well on your way.

'I got circumstances. You guys understand it. I understand it. It's already beat. It's already beat. My vision that I'm living, see two more daughters getting married, dancing at their weddings, and then hoisting that Lombardi several times and watch that confetti fall on this f****** group right here.

'Several times, we're going to hoist that baby. I'm dancing at two more weddings. And we're hoisting that trophy together man. Congratulations.'

Good news came with doctors saying his leukaemia is in 'remission', but treatment must continue over two years.

His form of the cancer is acute promyelocytic leukaemia which in over 80 per cent of cases can be cured.

When the news broke at the end of September the team were distraught.

Ryan Grigson took over as general
manager but hopes Pagano will be able to return and coach from the press
box later in the season.

Offensive co-ordinator Bruce Arians was nearly in tears when he heard the news.

Arians fought prostate cancer in 2007 and backed his colleague to emerge on top.

'I know him. He's a fighter. He's
survived tough times already in his life,' said Arians. 'As a cancer
survivor myself, I know that these first few days are really hard on you
but as he and I talked yesterday, it's just a matter of time.'

He spoke of a tribute to Pagano which is taking place.

Arians said: 'I asked Mr. Irsay if we
would leave the light on in his office permanently till he comes back
and we are going to do that.'

Watch the rousing speech here:

Stiliyan Petrov"s leukaemia in remission – Aston Villa captain speaks

Petrov overwhelmed by support as Villa captain continues fight against leukaemia

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UPDATED:

17:27 GMT, 9 September 2012

Aston Villa club captain Stiliyan Petrov has spoken publicly for the first time since it was confirmed his acute leukaemia was in remission and thanked fans for their overwhelming messages of support.

Petrov's comments came on the day Villa masseurs, Alex Butler and Andy Smith, completed their 400-mile 'Pedal for Petrov' cycle ride with former England midfielder Geoff Thomas in a fund-raising effort for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research .

The trio have pedalled from Celtic Park – Petrov is a former Bhoys player – to Villa Park and are aiming to raise 250,000.

Making progress: Stiliyan Petrov, who was diagnosed with acute leukaemia earlier this year, has entered remission and thanked those who continue to support him

Making progress: Stiliyan Petrov, who was diagnosed with acute leukaemia earlier this year, has entered remission and thanked those who continue to support him

The Bulgarian international said: 'I'm fine but it's been hard and tough so far but, thankfully, everything is going in the right direction.

'I've been looked after really well by the people in the hospital and so far everything is going in the right direction.

'I'm really grateful to them and I'm grateful to all of the people who have sent messages of support to me. I appreciate all of this very much.'

Petrov is full of admiration for the efforts of Butler, Smith and Thomas.

He said: 'Alex and Andy have put themselves through a lot of work and hardship to try to raise money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.

'They have worked so hard and they want to cheer me up and they want to show me how much they love me. It is great to see something like that and, of course, it is for a great cause as well.

Doing their bit: Aston Villa club masseurs have raised money through 'Pedal For Petrov' where they rode from Celtic Park to Villa Park

Doing their bit: Aston Villa club masseurs have raised money through 'Pedal For Petrov' where they rode from Celtic Park to Villa Park

'I've experienced something that a lot of people don't experience and I know how important this research is because it helps with all the drugs which people need to get better and better more quickly.

'I asked them to cycle to Bulgaria but they said it was too far to go so they decided to cycle from Celtic Park to Villa Park instead!'

To support Pedal for Petrov, please donate via JustGiving at: http://www.justgiving.com/pedalforpetrov or text 'STAN91 3' to 70070

London 2012 Olympics: Gemma Gibbons wins judo silver

Brave Gibbons claims silver in judo as medals flood in on day six

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UPDATED:

15:35 GMT, 2 August 2012

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LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

Gemma Gibbons delivered Britain's first Olympic judo medal in 12 years with a silver after she was beaten by American Kayla Harrison in the women's under-78kgs final at ExCeL.

Gibbons, who spent six months out of the sport after needing surgery on her shoulder, had lit up North Arena 2 as she battled to through to semi-finals and then disposed of world champion Audrey Tcheumeo with an ippon throw in golden score.

However, the gold proved just out of reach for the 25-year-old as the fourth-seeded American claimed a narrow 2-0 victory, for the United States' first ever judo Olympic title.

She's a Gem: Gibbons put in a fine display but could not get the better of Kayla Harrison (right)

She's a Gem: Gibbons put in a fine display but could not get the better of Kayla Harrison (right)

Coached by Kate Howey, who was the last British judo fighter to win Olympic silver at the Sydney Games, Gibbons opened up well, but was caught by an early Yuko score.

With Prime Minister David Cameron and Russian leader Vladimir Putin – a judo black bet – watching from the stands, the Briton went back on the offensive.

Gibbons – who had looked to the Heavens and mouthed 'I love you mum' after her semi-final win, in memory of Jeanette who passed away from leukaemia in 2004 – showed few signs of fatigue from her gruelling encounters so far.

Not this time: Gemma Gibbons looked done in at the end of her final

Not this time: Gemma Gibbons looked done in at the end of her final

The British judoka gripped well, but her opponent also showed good defensive skills to evade being caught and edged further ahead with another Yuko as the contest moved into the final minute, from which she closed it out.

Nevertheless, Gibbons left the Tatami to a standing ovation, and a congratulatory handshake from Cameron before heading off for the medal ceremony.

Tcheumeo, meanwhile, picked herself up to win the bronze-medal fight against Abigel Joo of Hungary.

All over: Kayla Harrison and Gemma Gibbons (left) at the end of their final

All over: Kayla Harrison and Gemma Gibbons (left) at the end of their final

Top-seeded Brazilian Mayra Aguiar also made the podium when she beat Dutchwoman Marhinde Verkerk on an ippon score.

In the men's under-100kgs, Tagir Khaibulaev of Russia defeated Mongolian Tuvshinbayar Naidan to claim gold.

The bronze medals went to Henk Grol, the number two seed, of Holland, delighting the massed ranked of Oranje in the stands who had been hoping for gold.

Defeated semi-finalist German Dimitri Peters, who knocked Grol out in the last eight, also won bronze.

Silver service: Gemma Gibbons (top) was second in the under-78kg with Kayla Harrison taking gold

Silver service: Gemma Gibbons (top) was second in the under-78kg with Kayla Harrison taking gold

Stiliyan Petrov will remain Aston Villa captain as star continues leukaemia battle

Petrov boost as Villa stand by star as skipper during his battle with leukaemia

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UPDATED:

16:43 GMT, 5 July 2012

Stiliyan Petrov will remain as Aston Villa captain after the midfielder vowed to carry on fighting in his battle with acute leukaemia.

The Bulgaria international missed the finale of last season after being diagnosed with the illness in March and has since been undergoing regular treatment.

Petrov was, however, present at Villa's Bodymoor Heath training complex on Thursday to celebrate his 33rd birthday as his team-mates reported back for pre-season training.

He said: It is a little bit strange for me because I haven’t missed a pre-season at all in my career and, obviously, I am going to miss this one but I will catch up later on,' said Petrov.

Treat: Stiliyan Petrov celebrated his 33rd birthday at the club's training ground as he continues to battle against illness

Treat: Stiliyan Petrov celebrated his 33rd birthday at the club's training ground as he continues to battle against illness

After the Villa players greeted the popular skipper with a cake and a rendition of 'Happy Birthday' new boss Paul Lambert confirmed that Petrov would retain the captain's armband.

'It is great to see the boys and it is great to see the new manager,' added Petrov, who spent seven years at Celtic playing alongside Lambert.

'I’ve had a lot of people with the same problem as mine and they’ve beaten it. They live their life now. I have a lot of hope and I haven’t stopped believing since the start and I will never stop believing. My family believe as well.

'That is a great help when you read messages and you’ve got letters from people who have beaten this already and they have already lived 20 or 30 years.

'It is great and you just say to yourself I am going to be there as well. I am just not going to stop fighting. I have always been a fighter and I will just keep fighting.'

Well wishers: Aston Villa hope midfielder Petrov will be able to return to action soon

Well wishers: Aston Villa hope midfielder Petrov will be able to return to action soon

Lambert, who replaced Alex McLeish at
the Villa Park helm this summer, also reiterated his, and the club's,
support for Petrov and his young family as he continues treatment.

'The
main thing is Stiliyan being okay in his life. Football is a secondary
thing and doesn't even come close to it. It's his life and that's the
most important thing,' Lambert told AVTV.

'I
went to see him the day before Arsenal played Norwich and there was a
bit of trepidation when I first went in because I didn't know what I
would be walking in to. But when I saw him I thought he looked great.
His wife was there and I was delighted for him.

'To see him coming back today was great. It will be great too that, God-willing, he will be totally okay.

Hope: Petrov will retain the armband under new boss Lambert, who he played alongside for seven years at Celtic

Hope: Petrov will retain the armband under new boss Lambert, who he played alongside for seven years at Celtic

'That's the most important thing. It is for everyone to see him about the place.

'The support of the fans is vital. Villa fans have done great by him and he'll certainly still need them and their support. There's no doubt about it.

'He is a young guy with a wife and two kids and my main concern is his health. He will need that support.'

Petrov joined Villa six years ago as the first signing of the Martin O'Neill era from Celtic.

Villa supporters have undertaken a minute's applause in the 19th minute of every game since Petrov's illness was revealed.

Petrov has worn the No 19 shirt for the midlands club.

Stiliyan Petrov wins Aston Villa player of the year

Stricken Petrov thanks team-mates after landing Villa player of the season gong

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UPDATED:

08:30 GMT, 1 May 2012

Award: Stiliyan Petrov

Award: Stiliyan Petrov

Aston Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov, who is currently sidelined because of acute leukaemia, has been voted the club's players' player of the year.

The Bulgarian international enjoyed a fine season before being diagnosed with the illness last month and he is currently undergoing treatment.

Petrov did not attend the awards ceremony at Villa Park last night but sent a video message.

He said: 'Sorry I can't be with you but I've got a little issue I need to fight.

'I hope you haven't given me this award because of my situation. I thought I had a quite okay season!

'But I think we all deserve this award because we've worked so hard this season.'

Support: Petrov thanked his team-mates after winning Aston Villa's Player of the Year prize

Support: Petrov thanked his team-mates after winning Aston Villa's Player of the Year prize

Fellow midfielder Stephen Ireland was voted the supporters' player of the year after finally showing the form which led to Villa signing him from Manchester City two years ago.

Ireland had been loaned out to Newcastle last season after failing to impress the then manager Gerard Houllier but has enjoyed more first team involvement under current boss Alex McLeish.

Rookie striker Andreas Weimann, who scored vital goals against Fulham and Stoke, was named young player of the year.

Kenny Dalglish backs Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones

Dalglish backs 'strong' Jones to come through Everton assignment unscathed

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UPDATED:

12:53 GMT, 13 April 2012

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is confident third-choice goalkeeper Brad Jones has the character to come through his biggest test since arriving at Anfield.

The Australian international is set to face Everton on Saturday in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley in what will be only his fourth appearance for the club and his first start in 16 months.

Since arriving from Middlesbrough in the summer of 2010 as former manager Roy Hodgson's signing, Jones has suffered a personal tragedy with the death of his five-year-old son Luca from leukaemia in November last year.

Reflection: Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones has overcome personal tragedy

Reflection: Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones has overcome personal tragedy

That made his footballing difficulties pale into insignificance as the fact he was never selected for any squad once Dalglish took over in January 2011 seemed almost irrelevant.

But with Jose Reina and Alexander Doni both suspended, the 30-year-old is now set for his biggest match at club level, having been on the bench for Middlesbrough's 2004 League Cup win and UEFA Cup final defeat to Sevilla two years later.

Dalglish insists he has no doubts over the goalkeeper's temperament, even though the club had a last-minute unsuccessful appeal to have Doni's ban overturned.

'We're not here to delve into the players' personal lives, but what's happened to Brad would have tested most people,' Dalglish said.

'You can only guess what it must be like to go through what he's been through, but he has done. He's come through it a really strong character.

'We know that to do what he's done has shown a tremendous amount of strength of character.'

Jones, whose partner gave birth to another son Nico last week, would still have been in the wilderness at Liverpool had Reina's suspension not brought him a recall.

Spot on: Jones saved Yakubu's penalty as Liverpool beat Blackburn

Spot on: Jones saved Yakubu's penalty as Liverpool beat Blackburn

Dalglish's hand was forced further when Doni was sent off in Tuesday's 3-2 win at Blackburn, with Jones' first touch on his Liverpool Premier League debut being to save Ayegbeni Yakubu's penalty.

The club have recalled Hungarian Peter Gulacsi from his loan spell at npower Championship side Hull to provide cover for Saturday, after which Reina will be available again.

'He (Jones) will be happy he got a few minutes under his belt at Blackburn and I'm sure he enjoyed his first bit of action, saving a penalty,' Dalglish added.

'He'll be excited, as everyone else is, about playing. It's credit to Doni that he kept himself fit and active and sharp, and Brad's the same.'

Liverpool lifted the Carling Cup at Wembley less than two months ago, their first trophy for six years, but Dalglish does not believe that will have much bearing on the match with Everton, losing FA Cup finalists in 2009, in a much better run of form.

Perfect prep: Liverpool warmed up for Wembley by beating Blackburn

Perfect prep: Liverpool warmed up for Wembley by beating Blackburn

'The Carling Cup victory was a fantastic day for everyone connected with the club but you get your rewards for what happened on the day and you cannot live in the past,' the Scot said. 'We didn't, we haven't and we won't and we will look forward.

'What beating Cardiff on penalties did got us a trophy and that was a very rewarding circumstance, but the Carling Cup win doesn't help or hinder anything we are looking forward to.

'We've never got ahead of ourselves at any stage and we won't now. Just winning the game will be important for us.

'The most important thing for us is to prepare ourselves properly, make sure that we are right and ready for it mentally, physically and tactically.

'Our greatest concern will be ourselves and we are always respectful of the opposition.'

Stiliyan Petrov to return to Birmingham after first round of treatment

Villa confirm Petrov will make return to Birmingham after first round of treatment in London

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UPDATED:

15:38 GMT, 5 April 2012

Alex McLeish has revealed Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov will return to Birmingham in the near future after having his first period of treatment for the illness in a London hospital.

Petrov was diagnosed with acute leukaemia after undergoing tests in the wake of Fabrice Muamba's shocking collapse on the pitch at White Hart Lane last month.

Best wishes: Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov is battling acute leukemia

Best wishes: Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov is battling acute leukemia

Stay strong: Alex McLeish

Stay strong: Alex McLeish

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.

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.

Speaking on Thursday, McLeish said: 'He's had three days of treatment. I think he is coming back today. I know the doctor was scheduled to go back down to London today but I think Stiliyan is coming back for a few days and it is ongoing.

'He does request we don't do a daily bulletin because the team have obviously got important matters ahead. But the support over the last week for him has been fantastic and he has been really lifted by that.

'It has made him even more determined to try and get rid of the illness as quickly as possible. We are not going to see too much of him but I'm sure he will pop in from time to time.'

Taylor hails football family for coming together in support of Muamba and Petrov

Taylor hails football family for coming together in support of Muamba and Petrov

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UPDATED:

17:19 GMT, 3 April 2012

Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor has praised all quarters of the game for pulling together to offer support for Fabrice Muamba and Stiliyan Petrov.

In a season dogged by race controversies, players, fans and administrators alike have joined as one to send goodwill to Muamba after he suffered a cardiac arrest while playing for Bolton, and to Aston Villa captain Petrov who was last week diagnosed with acute leukaemia.

And, having had to answer questions about unsavoury matters for a lot of the campaign, Taylor is pleased that the game has shown its positive side, albeit in unfortunate circumstances.

Support: Fans from north and south of the border backed Stiliyan Petrov

Support: Fans from north and south of the border backed Stiliyan Petrov

Support: Fans from north and south of the border backed Stiliyan Petrov

'I think one of the finest things this season, in spite of the various problems we have had, is the way the football family and community has come together very solidly in support of Fabrice and Stiliyan,' he said.

'Irrespective of background, race, creed or culture, everyone has been hoping and praying that someone who is very highly regarded comes through, and that has been very gratifying.

'It has shown the best side of football. At times the game can show it's worst side, but we have to work hard to make sure it remains the major spectator and participant sport.'

Taylor wrote to Petrov last week after the news of his illness was announced and has a particular fondness for the Bulgaria international.

'I know him as one of our members, and I know his reputation within the game – how highly he is thought of in his own country,' he added.

United: Football came together after Fabrice Muamba collapsed

United: Football came together after Fabrice Muamba collapsed

United: Football came together after Fabrice Muamba collapsed

'It was a pleasure to meet him when I did. He has very sound views on the game in terms of current topics and has good leadership qualities – he came across very impressively.'

Muamba's moving recovery from his collapse at White Hart Lane two weeks ago has pleased all in the sport and now, with Petrov set to embark on a bid for recovery, Taylor is hoping that the outcome will be similar.

'Stiliyan is well known here as a great person and a great leader. He is one of the Premier League lads we had meetings with at the start of the season,' he said.

'He is just a top-class player and person. It was a terrible shock, particularly coming off the back of Fabrice Muamba, and we just hope that in the way that Fabrice – touch wood – is coming through things, the same will happen with Stiliyan.'

Stiliyan Petrov diagnosed with leukaemia after tests following Fabrice Muamba collapse

Villa captain Petrov diagnosed with cancer after tests following Muamba collapse

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UPDATED:

09:02 GMT, 3 April 2012

Stiliyan Petrov discovered he had acute leukaemia after the Aston Villa squad underwent tests following Fabrice Muamba's collapse.

Bolton midfielder Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest during a live TV match against Tottenham and the pictures sent shockwaves throughout the football community.

Discovery: Stiliyan Petrov was diagnosed with acute leukaemia last week

Discovery: Stiliyan Petrov was diagnosed with acute leukaemia last week

Villa defender Carlos Cuellar revealed: 'Last Tuesday, after what happened to Muamba, experts came to our training ground to do tests on us and examine our hearts.

'Two days later, we received the results and they communicated to Stan his symptoms of cancer.

'They wanted him to go to hospital for more tests to confirm the original diagnosis.

Check-up: Cuellar revealed how the Aston Villa squad underwent tests following Muamba's collapse

Check-up: Cuellar revealed how the Aston Villa squad underwent tests following Muamba's collapse

Smiles better: The first picture of Muamba emerged last week

Smiles better: The first picture of Muamba emerged last week

'At the beginning they didn't even tell him the truth directly and he didn't want to scare us either, with a game against Chelsea so close on Saturday.

'They had told him “Yes it could be cancer but we need to do more tests”.

'So he didn't tell anyone but it's true his closest friends knew there was this possibility that it could be cancer.'

Muamba's heart stopped for 78 minutes when he collapsed on March 17 but he is making progress and last week was pictured for the first time, sitting up in his hospital bed smiling.

Collapse: Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest in Bolton's clash with Tottenham

Collapse: Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest in Bolton's clash with Tottenham

And former Celtic midfielder Petrov, 32, has vowed to win his battle.

Cuellar, speaking to Spanish radio station COPE, added: 'The truth is we are very much affected by the very bad news about our captain.

'No one expected it, it caught us by surprise and left us in shock.

'Last week we were still affected by the situation of Fabrice Muamba – it affected us mentally and psychologically. 'So imagine if it is one of your intimate friends, a comrade with whom you've shared a dressing room for four years.

'My team-mates and I are deeply affected and very emotional but Stiliyan is the first to give us strength, trying to lift us so that we win as many games and points as we can. 'It's the only thing he asked of us.

'I speak to Stan every day and it is him that is giving us strength. 'He knows it's a tough situation but he's certain he will win – and his family is giving him strength.

'His first priority is to keep his wife and kids happy and recover as quickly as possible for them. 'He's a strong guy and he will definitely pull through.'