PETROV UP FOR THE BATTLE - McLEISH
Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish revealed Stiliyan Petrov "couldn't wait to get started" after beginning treatment for acute leukaemia at a London hospital on Monday.
Petrov was accompanied by his wife, Paulina, and McLeish as part of a show of support from Villa after the Bulgarian's diagnosis was revealed last Friday.
McLeish described Petrov - nicknamed Stan - as being in "high spirits" and determined to fight the illness "head on" following an outpouring of support from the football community.
"The chairman Randy Lerner, the chief executive Paul Faulkner, myself went to see Stiliyan today with the support of his wife on this the very first day of his road to recovery," McLeish said.
"He's determined to meet it head on - we expect that from Stan.
"He was talking really positively and actually couldn't wait to get started to try and clear up this illness that he has.
"Stan has an amazing spirit, he's absolutely fantastic. God knows what the lad is thinking.
"But he's the captain of Aston Villa, he's a pure leader and he wants to lead himself through this particular tough time."
Petrov's initial treatment involves embarking on a course of steroids and tablets that will prepare him for chemotherapy.
McLeish revealed that despite facing a "battle" to return to health the 32-year-old was remaining upbeat, saying he was already missing not being able to train with his team-mates.
"He will stand up to that battle," he told Sky Sports News.
"This afternoon he was talking about wishing he was coming back to training tomorrow because he feels as if he could train.
"That's the kind of spirits that he's in. Everybody's here to support him."
The wave of goodwill for Petrov was most notable during Villa's 4-2 Barclays Premier League home defeat to Chelsea on Saturday when players from both clubs wore T-shirts showing their support during the warm-up.
Petrov addressed the Villa squad in the dressing room prior to the match, when he vowed to fight the condition and beat it.
He then stayed on as a spectator 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.
His former club Celtic also embarked on a similar tribute during their 2-0 defeat of St Johnstone on Sunday while FIFA president Sepp Blatter also wished him well.
"The support he's had from football friends here, at Aston Villa Football Club in particular, at Celtic yesterday was a fantastic show of strength," McLeish said.
"We're really delighted and proud of the response from the football family."
McLeish asked that Petrov and his family's privacy be respected during his treatment, saying Villa would release updates on the midfielder "when we feel it's appropriate".
"We realise there will be a lot of people clamouring to talk to him and I'm sure at some stage he will want to say a few words himself," McLeish said.
"I know that the Bulgarian nation are supporting him really strongly and I'm sure that people in his home country would like to talk to him as well.
"There won't be daily bulletins. We will tell you and update you when we feel it's appropriate on behalf of Stiliyan and his family."
Blatter said on Twitter: "Very sad to hear about Stiliyan Petrov's illness. Wish him strength in his fight to win this battle.
"Support shown at Villa Park by both sets of fans another sign of all that is good in football. £getwellstan."
His close friend and compatriot Martin Petrov has revealed he only decided to play in Bolton's 3-2 win at Wolves on Saturday after Stiliyan told him he wanted him to do so.
Trotters winger Petrov scored a penalty at Molineux and celebrated by revealing a T-shirt with the message "Be Strong Stan" written across it.
The pair had spoken on Friday, with the Villa man indicating he did not want the news of his condition to stop anyone playing.
And referring to the conversation, Bolton's Petrov told www.bwfc.co.uk: "It was very difficult when Stan told me this.
"It's incredible that he was at the Aston Villa game but that shows the character he has.
"I'm sure he is going to win this fight, 100%."
Villa striker Andreas Weimann spoke of the squad's shock after hearing about their skipper's illness.
"Everyone at the club is devastated but we're all behind him," he said.
"He's brilliant, he's our role model. He's our captain, he's the one you look up to.
"Hopefully he can get through it as quickly as possible."
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