Fresh off committing his future to the club until 2019, Fabian Delph has told Aston Villa’s official website of his immense respect for former teammate and captain Stiliyan Petrov.
Signing from Leeds United in August 2009 for around £6 million, Delph saw a series of injuries hamper his first few seasons at Villa, with some doubting whether he would make the grade in the West Midlands at the time.
The midfielder made his long-awaited breakthrough during the 2013-14 campaign, however, showcasing his clear talent and establishing himself as an irreplaceable part of Paul Lambert’s line-up.
Going on to earn his first three England caps at the start of this term, the Three Lions international has revealed that Petrov’s mentorship has played a big role in his development at Villa Park, and even sees the Bulgarian as his midfield idol.
“I was a massive Stan Petrov fan when I arrived at Villa,” he said. “I was so excited at even training with him. I knew all about him. I was just really excited to meet him and learn from him.
“I couldn't wait for that first training session, but he took me to school. It was the first session of 11 v 11. I couldn't get anywhere near him. It's something I will never forget.
“It was a massive lesson. I learned so much from training with him in those subsequent years. I developed as a midfielder thanks to him.
“He was always so generous with his time and his advice out there on the training field. He was inspirational. I still chat to him now. We get on really well. I still bring that first session up with him now. He just smiles!
“I also tell him he's my idol. That's when he tells me to shut up.”
If manager Lambert is to be believed, Delph could also follow in Petrov’s footsteps in taking on the captain’s armband in the future, with the Scot declaring his week that his midfield talisman has all the qualities of a claret and blue leader.
He has certainly shown is commitment, having been linked to both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, per the Mail, prior to re-signing with the club at the weekend, and fans will hope that keeping him around is a sign that management is set on building a winning formula.