Emotional Stiliyan Petrov receives standing ovation at Villa Park

Fans have paid tribute to emotional Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov as he attended the home game against Chelsea a day after being diagnosed with acute leukaemia.

Supporters staged a standing ovation, while players from both sides wore "support Stan" messages in the warm-up.

His former club Celtic  have announced they will repeat the gesture on Sunday.

Petrov, 32, who is due to start treatment on Monday said football would have "to take a back seat for a while".

Analysis

"My eldest son George had acute myeloid leukaemia when he was a tiny baby, he is now 20 and doing very well. He is a mini-miracle in many ways.

"In both Stiliyan Petrov's case and with Fabrice Muamba a few weeks ago, the football family has united from all parts of the game and all parts of the world. It is very comforting to see that.

"Through George's illness we had incredible support from right over the world. We had sacks of mail arriving for us every day. The thing that really helped was hearing stories of people who had been in similar circumstances and had come through it.

"What you need is the encouragement to know that it gets better. Petrov is clearly a positive person, you saw him at the game today, and that is the most important thing; to know that the support is there and that people are behind you."

In the 19th minute of the game, chosen to match Petrov's shirt number, the whole ground and both benches stood up in applause and chanted his name.

Petrov said before the match that he had taken strength from Fabrice Muamba's recent battle with ill-health, after the Bolton midfielder suffered a cardiac arrest during a game on 17 March.

The Bulgarian said he had seen a photo Muamba had asked his family to post on Twitter of him sitting up in bed at the London Chest Hospital.

"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," Petrov 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."

A section of Villa fans also cancelled a planned protest before Saturday's game, with manager Alex McLeish calling for fans to be "united".

Petrov learned he had leukaemia on Friday after complaining of feeling unwell immediately after last week's 3-0 defeat at Arsenal.

Villa manager Alex McLeish stated: "Stan came in to see us before the game, we gave him a hug and said it'd be nice to win it for Stan.

"'Stunned' is the word, you don't imagine something like that can happen to one of your fit players.

"We've got to support Stan, he's started his recovery, and I'm sure he can fight it and beat it."

Lineker hopes positivity will help Petrov

Bolton midfielder Martin Petrov, a friend and Bulgaria team-mate, said: "I spoke to him yesterday and he told me. I was in shock.

"I made the decision this morning to play [against Wolves]. I lived with him for two years and we were team-mates."

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill, who coached Petrov at Celtic and signed him when he was Villa boss, commented: "I was devastated to hear the news.

"I've known him for a long, long time - he's a great footballer but more importantly a fantastic character.

"He's upbeat, very strong mentally and we all wish him the very, very best. It's a desperate blow."