Aston Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov starts treatment on Monday for acute leukaemia with club manager Alex McLeish claiming the fighting spirit of the midfielder will help him conquer his illness. Petrov's condition was diagnosed following tests after the Bulgarian international developed a fever following last Saturday's 3-0 defeat at Arsenal.
Messages of support for the former Celtic player, known as 'Stan', have flooded in since the news was confirmed in a Villa statement yesterday afternoon. McLeish said: "I spoke to him and he was typical Stan, defiant, but I think obviously he's concerned about how it has affected his loved ones.
"It's that old perspective cliche, but it's so true, and everybody here at Villa 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."
Petrov's representatives confirmed the player was booked into a London hospital last night and will begin his treatment programme after the weekend. McLeish believes Petrov's setback will act as an inspiration to the other Villa players during this afternoon's home Premier League clash with Chelsea.
He said: "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."
Villa chairman Randy Lerner said: "We are completely focused on Stiliyan and his family. Stiliyan is someone who is cherished by many people throughout football. Every ounce of love and support that we have, he will get from the club to help bring this to a positive conclusion."
Villa confirmed the news of Petrov's condition in a statement which continued: "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: "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."
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. We will give him all the help and support we can."