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There’s more to Stan Petrov than a bit-part role as Aston Villa’s talisman

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I think we all believe in them, no matter the religion or deity we follow. Either that or we all want to believe in them.

Then there’s the opposite of miracles.

Driving down the road, you’re going too fast. You may lose control of your car and swing into the path of an oncoming transport truck, or you might simply skid out. You might be crushed whilst the blaring horn of a truck serenades the impact, or your car might simply be glanced to the side of the road by the metal monster.

S**t happens.

There’s honestly no other way I can describe that disease triggered by cell structure changes on a microscopic level. Cancer.

It can be triggered at almost anytime, but almost anything. Carcinogens, bad food, lack of exercise. The point is, we know a lot about cancer, but it’s also hollow knowledge. We can cure cancers, but not all of them, we can diagnose cancers, but not all the time. Frankly, it seems like we’re shooting into the damn dark.

The way a cancer works is that it is formed by a trigger. It can then spread around the highways of your body, depositing itself in your internal organs. It’s very much an unwanted passenger, hitchhiking onto your system.

In a way, could cancer just be nature’s own cruel way of controlling the population of Earth? Maybe. But I can’t abide the suffering that people have to go through in it’s name.

Stan Petrov of Aston Villa football club is one of those. One of those people who suffered.

As I said, cancer spreads around the highways and passages of your body. If it gets into your spinal cord, that’s bad news. But what if it’s in your bloodstream? You know - the very transportation system travelling so very fast along those highways?

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood. Stan Petrov would be diagnosed with acute leukemia following a match with Arsenal in which the Aston Villa midfielder contracted a fever back in 2012. The below is an account of Stan’s diagnosis taken from his website.

"When I first came to Villa, people were talking to me about the ­captaincy and whether I should change it," said former Villa manager Alex McLeish. "I said that I had a lot of respect for Stan and didn’t see why I should take it away from him. Whatever I did, he was right behind it. It was always team first with him. The thing is if Stiliyan hadn’t been running around playing football that day at Arsenal - even though he was really tired - his illness might not have been spotted quite so quickly. I said to him at half-time, ‘You are off the pace a wee bit.’ That was unusual because he was always such a driving force. But rather than agree with me and say, ‘You’re right, boss, I’m coming off because I’m tired’, he didn’t, he went back out there. That’s the ultimate sign of the bravery and determination of the guy. He went back on because we were struggling with one or two injuries. And even though he was about to confront a far more serious battle - for his life."

Stan’s blood, was quite literally, trying to kill him. You see, leukemia involves your bodies white blood cells. These are the soldiers of your body that grit their teeth and fight infections. They grow, separate and disband when your body needs them to do so. In people with leukemia, their bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells - so you can see the damage this can cause if the body’s defense mechanism is performing abnormally.

We all know the story by now. Stan Petrov contracted leukemia, Stan Petrov retired from Aston Villa and professional football, Stan Petrov beat leukemia, Stan Petrov helped others beat leukemia and other cancers, Stan Petrov started playing Sunday League football in Warwickshire (and won the league), Stan Petrov started coaching at Aston Villa and now, in 2016 - Stan Petrov is playing for Aston Villa.

Frankly, this shouldn’t happen. Everything we are told by how life is, tells us this is almost wrong. It’s in defiance of statistics, sciences and analysis. It’s firmly against everything we know about 21st century football.

So if Stan Petrov joins up with Villa for their Championship season, he’s not there as a mascot, or for moral support - he’s there because he saw a team in crisis and took it upon himself to help them out.

He could have chose the easy life after beating his cancer, but he didn’t. He’ll get paid for this, and paid well - but it won’t be easy to wake up at 4am for training or drag his battered body home after a bruising match. He could have chosen to turn out for Walsall, or even Sutton Coldfield Town FC in the lower leagues, but he didn’t. He wanted Aston Villa.

For that Stiliyan Petrov stands alone, right now as the single greatest Aston Villa player to have graced this football club in it’s 142 years of existence.

Remember what I said about miracles?