No rest for Paolo after survival
Wed, 15 May 2013 19:07:00
Stiliyan Petrov has expressed his gratitude to everyone who has supported him in his battle with acute leukaemia after announcing details of a charity match.
Petrov announced his retirement last week, having not played for Aston Villa since being diagnosed with the disease in March 2012.
The fans have continued to remember him and rise to applaud the Bulgarian in the 19th minute of each match, in reference to his shirt number.
"The feeling is incredible," Petrov told Sky Sports. "I went through something hard but the support from the football family and around the world has been just magnificent."
Petrov's experience has made him want to help others and there will be a game in Sofia on May 26th between old Aston Villa stars and Bulgarian legends, including Hristo Stoichkov.
The match will raise money for the 'Support Stan' campaign, which helps children with leukaemia.
Petrov added: "I am an adult and am stronger and I can go through that, but to see a kid go through something like that, I can't imagine. It causes something horrible.
"To raise money and help these kids will be great."
Villa have had a difficult season without Petrov but Wigan Athletic's defeat at Arsenal on Tuesday ensured their Premier League survival.
"I wasn't really worried," said Petrov. "I believe in these boys. I have seen them in training and have seen the way the manager works.
"The last couple of months have been very good and I think they deserve to be in the Premier League."
The 19-year-old made 10 appearances for the club and came into the first team for the first time this season for the Scottish Communities League Cup semi-final against Inverness.
Mullen looked set to play in the final but his season was ended by a broken foot suffered the previous week against Hibernian.
He wrote on his Twitter account tonight: "Not being offered a contract for next season at hearts.
"Enjoyed being at the club since I was 12 but annoyed the way last few months ended with the injury.
"Absolute gutted at leaving some of the boys gona miss them a lot."
Hearts have previously confirmed that Danny Grainger, Darren Barr, Gordon Smith and Denis Prychynenko would not be offered new contracts, while club captain Marius Zaliukas is also set to move on as the club look to cut costs again.
Motherwell last week opened negotiations with the Scotland squad goalkeeper and St Mirren boss Danny Lennon admitted he looked likely to move on.
But the 29-year-old's destination is unclear with Shiels setting his sights on a deal to bring in the former Ayr player, who began his career at Rugby Park but only made one first-team appearance.
Shiels told BBC Radio Scotland: "The agent has spoken to my chairman as far as I know.
"Craig Samson is a player we would really like to get here because he's a Kilmarnock boy, but besides that he's a really good goalkeeper."
Shiels has already secured Inverness keeper Antonio Reguero on a pre-contract agreement but has not finished his search for experienced shot-stoppers.
Kilmarnock are set to lose first-choice goalkeeper Cammy Bell, who is expected to join Rangers. His previous number two, Kyle Lethern, left the club last month while Anssi Jaakkola's contract expires in the summer.
Shiels added: "We need another goalkeeper, we need two vying for the one position. We have one at the moment and we've got a kid coming in from Ireland.
"Of course I'm interested (in Samson) and I'm also interested in other goalkeepers whose contracts are up."
Hope Powell's side already face world champions Japan at Burton on June 26 ahead of their departure for the tournament.
Powell has selected 23 players for a preparation camp at St George's Park, with Everton's Lucy Bronze selected for the first time.
The 44-year-old Italian completed the first phase of his mission on Wearside last night while sitting in his armchair as Wigan's defeat at Arsenal guaranteed the Black Cats their place in next season's Barclays Premier League.
However, if the players he inherited from Martin O'Neill expected a pat on the back as they prepared for Sunday's final day trip to Tottenham, they were soon disabused of the notion.
Di Canio said: "I told them we can win, draw or lose with dignity, respecting the club's name and the fans who follow them. But if not, I will reduce their holiday.
"I will give them the minimum I can give to them, which is four weeks, 28 days instead of probably 38, 40 or 41.
"It depends because in some way we have to start to change the mentality. Just because I fell in a trap against Aston Villa, I don't want to fall in a trap again.
"I am sure that four or five individuals don't need this kind of situation, but many others have to realise we need to change mentality or we have to use punishments in some way.
"It's not fair, but until the day I am sure that my players can go on the field and in some ways I can remain at home, I have to use anything I can to help change their mentality."
Survival, the very minimum requirement for the season, has justified owner and chairman Ellis Short's decision to replace O'Neill with Di Canio at the end of March, and the new manager has been delighted with the response he has had from his players.
He said: "It was important to maintain this club in the Premier League. I am very happy for the people who gave me the chance to deliver the job, for Ellis, for the Board, for the environment, for the fans, for the players because they were the protagonists.
"They pushed very hard because it was difficult for them to change habits and mentality, but in the end we delivered a great job and we are happy."
However, the improvements he wants to make on the pitch will be backed-up by changes in attitude and discipline off it, and several offenders have already fallen foul of Di Canio's strict regime.
He said: "If you think that, not because they are bad guys, but in the last five days, I have given into my players' hands individually seven fines for silly things - seven, it has never happened before - for very bad things.
"Every Friday morning, there's a signing session upstairs, seven steps - one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, a table - and people forget.
"It is a rule in the contract - it is crucial for the club, for the people, children who, even if they can't see you, hope to have a shirt with 20 signatures - and you forget.
"It's not fair. It has happened many times, but they didn't get fined. Now they are fined because you have to start somewhere, otherwise we are never going to change.
"Small things like this become big problems. We have to respect the rules, otherwise we are never going to change.
"For some, it was easy, for a few of them. For many of them, it was and is still difficult because what I ask is very heavy for some of them.
"For me, it is normal; for John O'Shea, it is normal - he came from an environment [at Manchester United] where people used to throw away boots in people's faces, the best manager in the world - thanks Alex - if they didn't behave well."