Celtic legend Stiliyan Petrov has vowed to beat cancer as he prepares to undergo treatment for acute leukaemia in a London hospital.
The former Parkhead hero, now captain of Aston Villa, shocked football when he announced on Friday that he is suffering from blood cancer.
Petrov had felt unwell after a recent game and underwent a series of medical tests for what doctors believed to be nothing more than a fever.
Now the 32-year-old Bulgarian is set to undergo intensive treatment as he bids to beat the killer disease.
The midfielder received a standing ovation from fans when he attended Villa’s game with Chelsea on Saturday with his family.
In a statement released afterwards he said: “I would like to thank all of the people who have left messages of support. The response has been overwhelming and I appreciate it very much.
“This is a difficult time for my family and myself and I ask people to respect my privacy.
“With the help and love of my family, my team-mates, all of my friends in football, Aston Villa and all of the fans, I am sure I will beat this illness and I am determined to do this.”
Petrov also revealed he is taking great heart and hope from the recovery of cardiac arrest victim Fabrice Muamba who collapsed on the pitch during Bolton’s FA Cup clash at Spurs but is now recovering.
“I saw the picture released yesterday by Fabrice Muamba, my fellow player, and it has inspired me as has all of the support in the past 24 hours,” added Petrov.
“For me, football will have to take a back seat for a while, but I’m here to support my team-mates today and I will continue to support them as I know they will support me. Thank you to everyone.”
Villa boss Alex McLeish said after the game: “It was great to see him and his presence inspired a lot of people.
“He came on and shook everyone’s hands and the boys were not sure whether to cry or hug him.”
Former Celtic boss Martin O’Neill, who worked with Petrov at Parkhead, and current Rangers manager Ally McCoist are just some of the football personalities who have wished him well.
“I was shocked when I heard the news but I have spoken to Stiliyan and he tells me he will fight this and beat it which is exactly what I expected to hear from him,” said O’Neill.