Tim Sherwood believes Petrov has the character and ability to make a comeback, but will need a manager who knows how to handle him.
Former Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood has had his say on the potential comeback of former captain Stiliyan Petrov, telling the Birmingham Mail that the Bulgarian has it in him to return but will need the right manager to guide him carefully.
Petrov retired from professional football in May 2013 after being diagnosed with acute leukaemia 14 months earlier and has since made short-lived returns to the club to be part of the coaching staff.
The 36-year-old has fully recovered from his cancer and has been playing amateur football and training with the Villa youth team to get fit, and he announced earlier this week that he is intending on making a comeback to the professional game.
The Bulgarian announced that he would be offering Villa first option on signing him this summer before considering other options, and Sherwood, who added the midfielder to his coaching staff last year, believes he has what it takes to be successful in his return.
However, he warned that Petrov will need the right kind of manager to know how to treat him, and compared the situation with how former Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp managed older players during Sherwood's spell on the boss' coaching staff at White Hart Lane.
Sherwood told the Birmingham Mail: "First of all I think it’s great for [Petrov] and I wish him all the luck in the world. He’s had some really tough times and it won’t get any harder than what he’s been through. He’s got it all up in his head still and he’ll have plenty of offers because he’s such a good character.
"But keeping fit will be his main task and I know how hard that is when you get to a certain age. When I went back to Tottenham on the coaching team with Harry [Redknapp], me and Les [Ferdinand] would always see if we could get back to the level.
"You never want to let it go and you always think you can still compete. But I’d be able to train for an hour, play a couple of 11v11 games with the development team and then whenever I went to step it up I’d break down with a soft-tissue problem. It was always a calf or hamstring issue.
"Harry was brilliant, he knew how to handle the older players and when anyone questioned why I was doing a shorter training session, he’d put them in their place. Stan will need a manager like that, someone who understands his needs and knows how to handle him.
"He’s a good character so he’ll command respect anyway but the right manager is essential. He’ll know himself that he won’t be able to feature in every game if he does get back.
"Stan knows the fabric of the club and is great to have around the place. He’ll probably see himself as a No.6 now rather than a No.8. It’s not like he’s coming back relying on his pace, he knows the game. Whether he can do it will be down to him."
Petrov scored 12 goals in 218 appearances for Villa before his diagnosis, and is highly regarded by Villa fans for his passionate displays and apparent genuine feeling for the club.