Aston Villa fans hail inspirational Stiliyan Petrov after club welcome ex-captain back to training

Stiliyan Petrov - Aston Villa

The former Villa captain has spent four years out of the game due to a battle against leukaemia but will join the squad for pre-season next week.

Stiliyan Petrov - Aston Villa

After a season labelled by many as the darkest in the club's history - certainly in the last few decades - there have begun to be hints that things could be on the way to getting better for Aston Villa.

The recent takeover by Dr Tony Xia saw Randy Lerner's prolonged attempts to sell the club finally completed, and the appointment of a management team of Roberto Di Matteo and Steve Clarke was an encouraging one.

On Thursday another reason to celebrate arrived as the club announced that beloved former captain Stiliyan Petrov would be linking up with the squad when they return for pre-season next week.

Petrov played 218 games for Villa between 2006 and 2012 before halting his career upon being diagnosed with leukaemia but after overcoming the illness he has been rebuilding his fitness and announced his intention to make a comeback to professional football earlier this year.

Stiliyan Petrov celebrates after scoring the second goal for Aston Villa

Whilst his integration into training at Bodymoor Heath does not necessarily mean that he will be handed a playing deal at the club, it will see the respected and adored veteran become part of the club's relegated squad on a day-to-day basis.

Having Petrov back, even just for training, could have huge benefits for Villa's young squad as they look ahead to the Championship slog, and if he can prove his fitness there is a very strong case for him being handed a playing contract, even if just on a pay-as-you-play deal.

Petrov's illness and recovery have only cemented his idol status for Villa fans, and supporters on Twitter were delighted with the news that their former hero has been welcomed back with open arms.

Stiliyan Petrov - Aston Villa

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