Stiliyan Petrov – Goodbye and thanks for everything

Undoubtedly, the main news in world football this week has been the announcement that Sir Alex Ferguson is going to be stepping down at the end of the season from his managerial role at Manchester United.

However, as massive a story as this is, something for me, is of equal importance. The announcement that Aston Villa captain, Stiliyan Petrov is retiring from football.

Having watched him every week during his time playing for Celtic in the Scottish Premier League, I was always a fan of him. When he moved to Villa in 2006, it was a shame to see him go, but having spent seven great years at Celtic Park, it was time for him to move on.

Honoured

The Bulgarian international played over 300 times for the Scottish side, scoring over 60 goals in all competitions, as well as earning over 100 caps for his country.

During his time in Glasgow, “Stan” won four league titles, as well as two Scottish Cups, two League cups and reached the final of the UEFA cup in 2003, before the club lost in extra time to Jose Mourinho’s Porto side.

Even when he first moved to Scotland from his homeland, I remember reading how he was homesick and how he did not speak English. To remedy that, the then 20 year old took a job in a burger van, to help grasp the language.

He was a fans favourite at Parkhead, and when he moved to the Villains, he took almost two seasons before gaining a similar status in Birmingham.

It wasn’t until he scored a spectacular goal against Derby County in 2008 that he truly got noticed by the Villa fans, and was justifiably named both supporters’ Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year for the season, before being appointed club captain in 2009.

Stiliyan Petrov was voted Aston Villa's player of the year in 2008

Stiliyan Petrov was voted Aston Villa’s player of the year in 2008

Leukaemia

In March 2012, the former Bulgaria captain was diagnosed with acute leukaemia, bringing an end to his playing career just over year later, sadly.

The 33 year old is still in remission, but looks set to recover from the normally fatal disease, and good luck to him in the rest of his recovery.

Every home game at Villa Park, in the 19th minute, the fans show their respect for their former player, by applauding him for the entire minute, the first time it was done in the stands, Petrov was visibly emotional at the mark of respect.

Initially it was just the Villa fans which were applauding him, but now every spectator in the ground does it, and what a great tribute to a great player.

Retirement

In a statement on the Villa website, he said:

“It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my retirement from the game.”

“The emotions are overwhelming really, but the continued support of family, friends and the great people I have come to know will make it easier for me to move on from the only life I’ve ever known.

“That I am ready to embrace new challenges will make this process much easier.

“Since being diagnosed with acute leukaemia in March 2012, I have come to understand and appreciate the way in which this disease impacts the lives of so many people.”

Now, although being finished with football, he will still look to use his disease, and the determination he gained through football to help other people suffering from the illness.

He went on to state: “I can help and I want to help and, in setting up a foundation to help address the issues involved when people are diagnosed with this illness, I hope to make a difference.

“For the life I’ve lived in football, I will always be incredibly grateful. For the opportunity this crazy thing that happened in my life has given me, I also feel grateful in a strange kind of way.

“This crazy thing, somehow, has touched people and I want to try to channel this in a positive way. This will be the greatest challenge of my life.

“I wish to thank the fans of Aston Villa and the Villa chairman, Randy Lerner, chief executive Paul Faulkner and manager Paul Lambert, also the fans of Celtic, the Bulgarian fans and fans of football all over the world who have helped me through the past year.”

The man was a gentleman playing football, and remains one after the sport. Good luck and all the best in your recovery, Stiliyan.

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Blair Condie

I'm currently a student at Stirling University in Scotland, where I have just finished my third year for my degree in Sports and Journalism studies. I have an interest in a number of sports, including football, golf, tennis, rugby and American football.

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