Petrov praised by Villans chief

Petrov is defying the discomfort of Achilles and ankle problems to

keep Villa’s midfield engine room ticking over and his contribution

to the side has not been lost on O’Neill. “I must admit I would

have given him no chance of playing in the FA Cup game at Crystal

Palace last weekend,” said the Northern Irishman. “He came off

against Manchester United and came in the next day for treatment.

“He was very sore and hobbling. I really could not have seen him

play the FA Cup game against Palace but he did and he scored a fine

equalising goal. “It was a genuine injury and he did remarkably

well to recover and play at Palace.” O’Neill is impressed with the

impact Petrov has made in his two years at the club, not only on

the pitch but off it. He said: “In the last two seasons he has

played here at Villa he has been absolutely fantastic. “He is very

modest about his game. He always says that he has to play so well

to make up for lost time when he did not play so well when he first

came to Villa from Celtic. “But his last two seasons have been so

consistently excellent. I think he has taken on the mantle of

captaincy not just on the field but also off the field. “He tries

to get things organised for the players and he takes care about

certain things. “He is also incredibly generous as well with some

of the things he has done for other players. “He wouldn’t mention

that and I think the other players have a healthy respect for him.”

O’Neill believes a match at Pride Park could have been significant

in Petrov’s development. He added: “The turning point to his career

might well have been the back end of the season before last when he

scored a really good goal against Derby. “Basically, he was coming

in to play a more central role in midfield. “He had been previously

playing on the right hand side when maybe when we only had one wide

player at the time. “He was coming in as a third midfield player

having to break wide and not being in a central position. “I think

his form now is mainly down to his own confidence which he had to

regain and which he has done splendidly.” Petrov has also had to

win over the Villa fans after the slow start to his career in the

Midlands when O’Neill signed him from Celtic in the summer of 2006.

He has now become a crowd favourite and O’Neill would love to see

Petrov reward the Villa fans for the backing they have given the

team by lifting the Carling Cup next weekend when Villa face

Manchester United in the final. O’Neill added: “It would be

difficult for me to demand certain things from the crowds. “Whether

the crowd gets impatient with us they still turn up in their droves

to support us and you cannot ask any more in this day and age when

money is hard to find. “From that point of view it would be unfair

of me to start asking fans to do something else. “Their response

has been through the turnstiles. If there are certain things that

irritate them through the course of the game, well so be it. “This

is the nature of the game but you have to treat this on its merit

with tickets for Wembley being very expensive. Even the cheapest

are very expensive. “I am hoping that when Wembley comes around the

fans will have a really fine day. “It will not be what we are going

down for. We are going to Wembley to try and win the Cup.”