Arise Stiliyan Petrov
A minor miracle happened in Austria today, besides the fact that Villa won a game. Former Villa captain, Stiliyan Petrov came on as a second-half sub to once again play in the claret and blue shirt of Aston Villa. A moment that no Aston Villa supporter would have ever expected given Petrov’s fight of the past few years.
Four years ago, as we all know, Stan was fighting for his life after being diagnosed with leukaemia. The Villa faithful stood by him all the way, symbolised by our 19th-minute supportive applauses at every Villa game.
Stan had to prematurely retire from the game, issuing a heartfelt statement, but he was to win the overall war and fully recover from the disease. The biggest victory of Petrov’s life was typified by him even being seen playing Sunday league level football upon recovery. Such was the will of the man.
Considering what he had been through, it was an even better surprise when it was announced that Petrov would team up with the Villa squad over preseason in an attempt to get fit enough to play professionally once again.
Having last week turned 37, even if Petrov hadn’t had leukaemia, he’s at an age where realistically it would be very unlikely he’d play for Villa. Although, judging by last season, he must still fancy his chances. Seriously though, that is why his appearance in the second half of today’s 8-0 win against Gak 1902 is even more special and the race for Petrov to play professional football again is on in earnest.
Regardless of what he achieves in the future, today was something of a personal triumph for Stan. Imagine if he gets to play in the Villa Park friendly against Middlesbrough. Surely, it would be a great gesture to bring him on for at least the last 10 minutes of that match? For a proper Villa Park celebration of his effort.
Villa should certainly take a photo of Stan from today’s game or from the Villa Park game against Middlesbrough, blow it up big, and put it up in Bodymoor Heath to inspire Villa players for generations to come.
The 8-0 result against Gak 1902 was expected, against a team that play in the lower regions of the Austrian football league. The training game was perhaps most notable for a double freekick whammy from Joe Bennett, with both Jordan Ayew and Rudy Gestede also picking up a brace each. Other goals came from Micah Richards (who went off injured) and Libor Kozák.
The game, apart from being notable for being the first time Villa boss Robert Di Matteo has seen his players in action in a competitive game, was all about the return of Captain Petrov though.
1st half: Gollini, Richards (Hutton), Elphick, Baker, Cissokho, Gana, Gardner, Gil, Veretout, Ayew, Kozak.
2nd half: Bunn, Hutton, Okore, Lescott, Bennett, Westwood, Petrov, Grealish, Agbonlahor, Sinclair, Gestede.