Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert considers Petrov role

Stiliyan Petrov has received great support since being forced to take time away from the pitch. Photo: PA

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert is considering plans to offer Stiliyan Petrov a new role at Villa Park after the club captain confirmed his retirement as he continues his fight against acute leukaemia.

The Bulgarian midfielder, who was diagnosed with the condition in March last year and is now in remission, today announced he will not play again.

Tributes poured in for the fans' favourite, with former Celtic team-mate Lambert describing his friend as a "fantastic player" and "a nice guy with a heart of gold".

Petrov's priority will now be his health and work for his leukaemia charity, but Lambert revealed he is already mulling over a role for the popular captain.

"He'll be missed here but the door will always be open for him," said the Scot.

"I have some things in my head which I'm running over.

"I've something in my head I'm thinking about at the minute and it's not a sentimental thing at all. It's just some things my staff and myself spoken about, they know what I think."

Petrov will lead Villa out for their traditional lap of appreciation after Saturday's final home game against Chelsea.

Villa fans and their opposition counterparts have shown support for Petrov with 60 seconds of applause in the 19th minute of every game since he fell ill, in tribute to his squad number. Lambert knows Saturday's farewell will be particularly poignant.

"For him to lead out the team will be a great occasion," said the Villa boss.

"I think it will be pretty emotional for him when he does it on Saturday."

Lambert added: "Not having him around here during his illness has been huge blow, it can never be underestimated.

"Him not playing has been massive for this club. Having to try to replace someone like that - a footballer who is a fantastic player - has been hard.

"He has a heart of gold, he's nice guy. I knew him since he was 19 years of age and he first came to Glasgow and I had a good friendship with him.

"I played with him for nine years and he was always someone you knew you needed to be in the trenches with you."

In a statement released by Villa, 33-year-old Petrov, who signed for Villa from Celtic in 2006, said: "I've never been a person for making grand statements.

"I've only ever got on with my job, while remaining grateful to have great team-mates, great people around me and, most of all, a fantastic family.

"They have been powerful pillars of support when I have needed them most over the past year.

"To my wife, Paulina, and my sons, Kristiyan and Stiliyan, I love you very much and I will always for your constant love and support.

"Also to my mum and dad, my brother and Paulina's mum and the people who have been closest to me throughout this time - you know who you are and I love you all.

"Each and every day I thank God for giving me the opportunity to still be with my family.

"Football has been the other great love of my life, so it is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my retirement from the game.

"The emotions are overwhelming really, but the continued support of family, friends and the great people I have come to know will make it easier for me to move on from the only life I've ever known."

Supporters had also been planning further tributes at the last game of the season at Wigan.

Fans were planning to wear Villa, Celtic or Bulgaria kits and hold banners displaying 'Petrov 19'.

Petrov said: "I wish to thank the fans of Aston Villa and the Villa chairman, Randy Lerner, chief executive Paul Faulkner and manager Paul Lambert, also the fans of Celtic, the Bulgarian fans and fans of football all over the world who have helped me through the past year with their incredible displays of support and with their personal, moving messages.

"I would also like to thank all of the managers I have worked under and all of the team-mates I have played alongside."