What classifies a legend? Is it someone who hangs about a club for many years? Is it a fans favourite? Or is it someone playing for the jersey, giving everything they have for the fans? In my eyes Stan Petrov is all of those.
The young Bulgarian rolled into Glasgow during the summer of 1999, being probably John Barnes’s only shining light. The young Stan had a lot of issues settling in Scotland, due to the language and a dysfunctional team where he was constantly played out of position. He featured prominently during his 1st season with having a League cup winner’s medal in his pocket and eventually started to grow to love Glasgow.
The next few seasons were the making of Stan, during the summer of 2000 Martin O’Neill would take up the reins of trying to take this Celtic team forward, and we all know what happened next. Petrov was pivotal. Season 2000-2001 saw him pick up the SPFA Young Player of the Year award and part of Celtic’s 1st Treble winning side in decades. He would go on to have another 4 successful seasons at Celtic Park, winning the SPL four times and also won both the Scottish and Scottish League Cup 3 times each. With 312 appearances later, 65 goals, Stan would move on to join Martin O’Neill at Aston villa where he would go on to Captain the side, however the graft and energy he would use to drive his team on would be needed more than ever just to keep himself alive.
I had the privilege of meeting Stan in the winter of 2001, I was standing outside Celtic Park after the stadium tour in the snow when he came out. Now any other individual would have made a B-line for their car as the weather was awful, not Stan. He made sure everyone who was there got an autograph or a picture then only once he had got round anyone wanting to see him then he went on his way.
That day came back to me when I heard the news in early 2012 of what Stan had been diagnosed with. Anyone I spoke to couldn’t believe the news, someone so young, fit and healthy and been struck down in his prime with such a life threatening illness. What Stan would go through over the next year not many of us can imagine however it is a testament to the character of him how he fought his way through this and he has mentioned on many occasions how the Celtic families support gave him strength to fight another day.
I was delighted to hear that Celtic were putting on a charity match to assist in getting Stan’s foundation up and running. It will be great to see him back out in the hoops even if only for a cameo performance. I hope we get a sell out and show our appreciation to someone who gave us everything, now it’s time to give everything for Stan.
All the best Stan #19