Premier League

Agbonlahor hails brave Petrov

Stand-in skipper shocked by illness blow

Gabriel Agbonlahor: Shocked by the news of Stiliyan Petrov's illness

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Gabriel Agbonlahor says Aston Villa were hit hard by Stiliyan Petrov's leukaemia diagnosis but has backed the skipper to overcome the illness.

Petrov began treatment this week in a London hospital, with Agbonlahor installed as Villa captain in his absence.

But the England striker would be more than happy to hand the armband back to Petrov as it would mean the Bulgarian has made a full recovery.

"The news about Stan (Petrov) was a massive shock," Agbonlahor told Absolute Radio. "For someone who's as healthy as Stan, it was very shocking. But he showed bravery to come to the Chelsea game at the weekend.

"He knew he would have been asked a lot of questions and came and showed what a big effect he is to the players and also what a big captain and we're all ready for him to battle through this.

"It's hit the players hard. I think they showed great fight on Saturday for Stiliyan and were unfortunate not to get the right result. I think everyone's close to Stan anyway and everyone's been in contact with him, and he's going to keep in contact with everyone on his progress.

Great example

"He's done fantastic for this club, he's been a great example, and everyone is hoping that he can get through this and then come back and captain us all again."

Petrov's tragic absence left Villa without eight senior players against Chelsea and, with Alex McLeish's men now just five points above the drop zone, the pressure is building on the team.

But Agbonlahor insists: "We're not looking at it like that. We're just looking at every game, trying to win the games and hopefully can get the results we need.

"We're going to go there looking for a result. I think they'll be looking to get the fans on their side after some disappointing results for themselves.

"We know it's going to be tough but, as long as we start the game in a good manner, then hopefully it will be a good outcome.

"People mention Liverpool's recent results but, then again, you can say they won the Carling Cup so it's hard to judge them on their season. They've had a lot of new players come in as well."