Aston Villa's Ashley Westwood hails inspirational Stiliyan Petrov

Aston Villa midfielder Ashley Westwood says former skipper Stiliyan Petrov has been a true inspiration to everyone at the club.

Aston Villa midfielder Ashley Westwood has hailed Stiliyan Petrov as a “true inspiration” after seeing the former skipper return to football following treatment for cancer.

The 35-year-old Bulgarian was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in 2012 and retired in May 2013 , but is now playing Sunday League football for Midlands side Wychall Wanderers.

His story was recently told by BBC Sport, and Westwood admitted his pride at witnessing the club legend make such an inspiring comeback.

"I follow Stan on Instagram and he posted up a video of him back playing again. It was brilliant to see,” he told the club’s official website.

"I am sure he doubted whether he would ever be back playing again at any level. He's obviously enjoying it with his mates - and it's genuinely fantastic to see.

"He's a top, top guy. We chat when he pops into the training ground from time to time. He's such a nice, humble, genuine lad.

"As soon as you walk in to the training ground and see him, he puts a smile on your face - he's great to have around the place.”

Joining Villa in August 2006 for £6.5 million to reunite with ex-Celtic manager Martin O’Neill, Petrov overcame a slow start with the Claret and Blues to establish himself as a firm fan favourite, making 218 total appearances and earning the captain’s armband in the summer of 2009.

"He was a great player. I used to watch him whenever Villa were on Sky Sports. He was an unbelievable player, an unbelievable character and an unbelievable leader,” Westwood added.

"Now I have got to meet him and hear him sing my praises, it means a lot to me.

"It's an incredible journey he's been on. The season I joined was the time when he was going through his big battle.

"You look at the Premier League Years on Sky and see how fit he was. He went through the stage when he was struggling.

"But he's looking back to his best again now - and it's just fantastic to see.”

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