The Stan from V.I.L.L.A.
By Rick Austin @EvolvedRick
The 2012-2013 Premier League season has been a rollercoaster for Aston Villa, from the
lingering threat of relegation to an astonishing 6-1 victory over Sunderland that suddenly made the
highly underrated Christian Benteke flash brightly on everybody’s radar. Yet there was always one
thing that the fans never forgot: that the most personal battle wasn’t being fought on the pitches
across England by the team, but by one man. The fans have come to simply know him as Stan.
Stiliyan Petrov’s battle with acute leukaemia has been a fight that many of us can barely
imagine. When the news first broke over a year ago that he had been diagnosed with the disease, I
was stunned. He was too young, too active – too good – to fall prey to something like this. It was
unthinkable, but it was tragically true. On Thursday the 9th of May 2013 he officially announced his
retirement. Yet with dignity and personal courage that seems so absent from many players these
days, he thanked the Aston Villa fans, the staff and the team, as well as those from his previous
teams, for all of the support he has received.
In these times of high-scoring superstar jet-setters, Stan’s modesty and talent on the pitch
over the years may not have been the stuff of legend, but it should be. His skill at Celtic was a key
factor in their success, and the bond he formed with manager Martin O’Neill led to him joining Aston
Villa. From there he gained fan support through a tireless work ethic on the pitch. Never greedy on
the ball, he was a team player who became a great captain. He may not have scored the most goals,
but his skill, leadership, teamwork and faith in the team was what made him great.
Aston Villa has always focused on the team as a whole, rather than a handful of high-priced
divas, and that’s something the fans are proud of. Stan understood the tradition and history of
Aston Villa, and under his captaincy he united the squad. His history as a player is on record, but
the statistics don’t do the man justice. Numbers on a page don’t convey the talent the man had on
the pitch. Figures showing the distance he covered in the games don’t show us the speed and style
he showed week-in and week-out. His low tally of goals over the years don’t tell us how many he
contributed to in so many ways, or that those few goals have been moments of unbridled genius.
The accolades he accumulated over the years barely tell how much love and respect the fans had,
and still have, for Stan.
The applause that breaks out at the 19th minute of the games – to cheer the man who
proudly wore the number 19 shirt – speaks more volumes about the support he has. No book of
facts can equal the cheers of the fans.
Stan has faced the adversity of being a stranger in a strange land. He has tackled the
language barrier and poor form. He has faced every situation and overcome them with good
old-fashioned determination and hard work. He’s stated that his new goal is to raise leukaemia
awareness and set up a foundation to help fellow sufferers, and has called out to the fans to support
him. It’s to his credit that even now he maintains a team ethic, wanting to work with others for the
benefit of everyone. It sums him up perfectly.
His name is Stiliyan Petrov, and the simple fact of the matter is that Number 19 is a hero and
somebody to be admired, a football player that inspires those around him. His real talent has always
been to help others, and while we’ll miss him on the pitch he’s always going to be a part of Aston
Thank you Stan. You know you’ve always got home support here, and it’s the least we can
do after all you’ve given us.