Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish believes the fighting spirit of skipper Stiliyan ’Stan’ Petrov will help him in his battle to overcome acute leukaemia.
The condition was diagnosed following tests after Bulgaria international Petrov developed a fever following last Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Arsenal.
Messages of support for the former Celtic player, who it is understood is due to begin treatment in London on Monday, have flooded in since the news was confirmed in a Villa statement this afternoon.
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.
“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 tomorrow’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 confirmed the news of Petrov’s condition in a statement which read: “We expect to learn more about Stiliyan’s situation in due course and we have moved quickly to support him and his family.
“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.”
Celtic boss Neil Lennon, a former Bhoys team-mate of Petrov, said in a statement on the club’s website: “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.
“Knowing 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 alone.”
Villa players have also given their support to Petrov via Twitter.
Striker Darren Bent said: “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 [Keep the faith].”
Goalkeeper Shay Given wrote: “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.”
Jonathan Fear of the Vital Villa fans’ website said: “There is absolute shock amongst the Villa fans and the outpouring of love and admiration for Stiliyan increases by the minute.
“He is one of the Villa players who genuinely cares about the club and I think the Villa fans will show that they care about him during tomorrow’s game.
“We know Stiliyan is a fighter and everyone is behind him.”
PFA chairman Gordon Taylor has written to Petrov to offer his support.
He said: “It’s a terrible shock, especially so soon after what has happened to Fabrice [Muamba]. All our thoughts and hopes are 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.”