'I thought it was a cold': Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov feels lucky to be alive as battle with leukaemia continues

The Bulgarian has spoken of the moments he was diagnosed, and revealed what the levels of support he has had mean to him

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The Independent Football

Aston Villa club captain Stiliyan Petrov has spoken of the moments he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia and said that he is lucky to be alive.

"I've had my hard moments but I've had good moments as well," he said. "I'm lucky because some people with this disease will die very quickly. I'm glad that this hard year is behind me now and I can concentrate on getting back to my life."

Just over a year since he was diagnosed, Petrov has finished his intensive chemotherapy and, with the illness in remission, he will move on to the next phase of his treatment. Speaking to avfc.co.uk at Villa's Bodymoor Heath training ground, he explained, "I have finished all of the high intensity treatment and from now on I'll be on the softer treatment, which is two years on tablets. It was a very, very long year but now, after all this treatment, I can go back to a normal life.

"At the start I thought it was just a cold, nothing serious but just something normal. When I was told what exactly the diagnosis was I was a little bit shocked but I accepted it and just wanted to start the treatment straight away."

It was announced that the Bulgarian midfielder was in remission in August of last year, but now that he has finished his intensive treatment he will have a two-year course of consolidation treatment drugs, with the hope that he will be given the all clear after that.

Petrov has continued to be a presence at Villa Park - with fans applauding the former Celtic man on the 19th minute of every game - and he has been outspoken about the level of support he has received from fans and staff at the club, explaining that he was lucky he had medical support so quickly and that the millions of supporters from Glasgow to Birmingham and Bulgaria have helped him pull through the dark times.

"Sometimes I have a joke with some friends when they text me saying, 'You've still got that applause in the 19th minute, when are they going to stop?!' But it's been incredible," he said.

Reflecting on his role as club captain, however, Petrov had a message for his relegation-threatened teammates who are urrently hovering just above the bottom three in the Premier League table.

"I think it's about belief," Petrov said. "Villa are in a position at the moment where people say we are fighting relegation. We are, but so what? You need to believe that you are going to be out of that situation. The boys have been showing that, they've been showing great character. They're a very young team but they've been showing they can compete at that level and they want to stay at that level.

"They've kept fighting, they've kept fighting and the last several weeks they've played with great confidence and have picked up a lot of important points. They have a manager who I know very closely, he's a good friend as well and I know how important it is for his team to improve and to win as well. These are positive things."

The popular figure has been at games when doctors have cleared him to be part of the crowd. However, he says he has been impressed with what he has seen and believes the club have the wherewithal to climb out of the mire.

"There are still a lot of games to come, a lot of points to be picked up, so there's nothing to worry about."

Villa have five games left to avoid dropping from 17th in the table, with Wigan Athletic two points behind them with two games in hand. They have games against Manchester United and Chelsea, as well as must-win fixtures against Sunderland, Norwich and Wigan on the last day of the season.