Aston Villa captiain Stiliyan Petrov has fitness on his side says Ian Botham


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The Independent Football

Sir Ian Botham is backing the Aston Villa captain, Stiliyan Petrov, to win his battle against acute leukaemia and play again for the Midlands club.

The former England cricket all-rounder is halfway through one of his regular walks around Britain with the aim of raising money and awareness of leukaemia. His thoughts were with Petrov as he set off from Birmingham yesterday.

Bulgarian international Petrov, who is nicknamed "Stan", was diagnosed with the illness three weeks ago and the midfielder is undergoing regular treatment.

Botham said: "It comes home a little bit more being in Birmingham with what happened to Stan the other day. Our thoughts go out to him and his family.


"But Stan is fit and strong, it was diagnosed pretty early, so I would expect to see him in a Villa shirt again. Mental toughness and shows of support can help people – and the people of Birmingham turned out today to show what they think of it all.

"This illness has picked on one of the fittest blokes in the Midlands in Stan, but that is on his side as well."

Botham has been undertaking such walks for leukaemia on a regular basis since 1985.

He said: "What keeps you going? The results we are having, the success we have had. Children once had a 20 per cent chance of survival. Now, 27 years down the line, they have a 93 per cent chance, so that drives us on.

"After five days, we've raised £140,000. We're halfway and if we can get up to £300,000-plus that would be great. It makes it worthwhile."