Stiliyan Petrov thanks Aston Villa fans for their support
Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov has thanked the fans for their support during his battle with acute leukaemia.
Last Updated: 11/05/13 4:54pm
The Bulgarian midfielder has not played since March 2012, when he was diagnosed with the disease, and announced his retirement at the age of 33 earlier this week.
His final column in the club's matchday programme for Saturday's Premier League clash with Chelsea, focused on the club's future and the efforts of manager Paul Lambert this season.
But in his closing comments, Petrov made an emotional tribute to the fans, who have risen in applause in the 19th minute of each match, in reference to Petrov's shirt number.
He wrote: "Aston Villa will always remain in my heart.
"I am so grateful for the opportunity I was given here and, to the fans, I am so grateful for the way you have supported me over the years, especially during the past 14 months or so when you have stood with me and everything I have gone through, during the 19th minute.
"This has touched me profoundly. To have been part of this for seven years was enough to know that I have been part of something unique and special. Up the Villa!"
In his notes, Lambert added: "The 19th minute has become a symbolic expression of the special bond between Stan Petrov and the club. His retirement from football is secondary, ultimately, to his health and that he is winning his battle makes us all really happy.
"That he is here (at the game) today is inspiring to everyone associated with Villa. But the truth is that we know he'll always be here."