Tom Cleverley reveals long-time admiration for Aston Villa legend Stiliyan Petrov

The Manchester United loanee was a big fan of the Bulgarian's even before getting the chance to work with him on the training ground.

Aston Villa’s Tom Cleverley has revealed his admiration for club legend and former captain Stiliyan Petrov to the club’s official website.

Petrov, 35, first joined Villa in August 2006 to reunite with ex-Celtic manager Martin O’Neill, overcoming a slow start to establish himself as a firm fan favourite and earn the captain’s armband in the summer of 2009.

He made 218 total appearances for the claret and blues until 2012, when he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia, but has remained close to the club ever since and even accepted an offer to join new boss Tim Sherwood’s coaching staff in March.

Manchester United-owned Cleverley believes the Bulgarian to be one of the best Villa players he faced prior to joining the club himself on a season-long loan in September and has since been more than impressed with his work on the training ground.

“Stiliyan Petrov was one of the very best Villa players I played against - and it's great to be working with him now at Bodymoor Heath,” said Cleverley. “I remember the one game when I was at Wigan Athletic [on loan] and Stan was in the heart of midfield for Villa.

“It finished 1-1 and ironically Charles N'Zogbia scored the Latics goal on the day. Ashley Young scored for Villa with a free-kick. I was actually technically playing on the left side of midfield that day and came up against Kyle Walker.

“But you didn't have to be a genius to see that Stan could really play,” he continued. “Stan was a very clever player, great technique and led the team very well as a skipper. My best mate growing up was a Celtic fan and he always raved about Stan Petrov.

“You can see his desire at the club now - his love of Villa shines through when he's at the training ground. It's great to have him around. He's a top guy, which everyone told me before I met him properly.

“But seeing it first hand, you realise he's a real genuine person, brilliant and it's a real morale booster to have him around the place.”

Like Petrov, Cleverley also made a somewhat slow start to his Villa career, as the England international increasingly came under criticism from fans over the first half of the campaign for his less-than-stellar performances.

In similar fashion to his midfield predecessor, though, he seems to be finding his feet after being given some time to settle and even grabbed his first goal since December 2013 in the weekend's narrow 3-2 defeat at Manchester City.

With his United contract also expiring in the summer, there could be the chance to become a long-term student of Petrov's, as Sherwood has made it known that he’d like to secure his loan star's services on a permanent deal.

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