Aston Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov believes he is through the hardest part of his battle against acute leukaemia.
The Bulgarian was diagnosed with the illness in March, ruling him out of the conclusion of Villa’s season, and has since undergone regular chemotherapy.
Petrov visited the club’s Bodymoor Heath training ground on Thursday – his 33rd birthday – and spoke of his determination to overcome the problem, telling the club’s official website: “I’ve been a strong character since the start of my career.
“I am just not going to stop fighting. I have always been a fighter and I will just keep fighting.
“I always believed that you need to be patient and you need to believe in things, and I believe I will get better.
“I know I’ve got a few more months of chemotherapy and I need to go through it, but I think that the hardest bit is over and from now on I just need to wait for the result to be positive.”
The former CSKA Sofia midfielder joined Villa from Celtic in 2006 and has since gone on to make 186 appearances for the Birmingham club, being named captain in 2009.
It is a role that new manager Paul Lambert has confirmed he will retain and the former Norwich City boss stressed the importance of the player’s health over football issues.
“The main thing is Stilian being okay in his life. Football is a secondary thing and doesn’t even come close to it. It’s his life and that’s the most important thing,” Lambert said.
“I went to see him the day before Arsenal played Norwich and there was a bit of trepidation when I first went in because I didn’t know what I would be walking in to. But when I saw him I thought he looked great. His wife was there and I was delighted for him.
“To see him coming back today was great. It will be great too that, God-willing, he will be totally okay. That’s the most important thing. It is for everyone to see him about the place.
“The support of the fans is vital. Villa fans have done great by him and he’ll certainly still need them and their support. There’s no doubt about it.
“He is a young guy with a wife and two kids and my main concern is his health. He will need that support.”