Writer: Chris Heath
Date:Tuesday October 7 2008
The Resurrection Of Stiliyan Petrov
Since his £6.5m move from Celtic in the summer transfer window of 2006; he has in all honesty had a topsy-turvy ride. The expectation fans had of him were high after his successful 7-year spell at Celtic and the fee Villa paid for him. But after an impressive first-outing away at West Ham (1-1) he came under stick from sections of the Villa Park crowd and opposition fans for patchy form and poor performances. But in the last six months he has proved all of his critics wrong by gaining in confidence and on occasions for Villa showing what made him fans favourite at Celtic Park; as of 2008 he is the tenth most prolific goal-scorer in SPL history with 55 goals.
When former Celtic manager Martin O’Neill took over at Aston Villa in August 2006 it was expected that he would bring some of his former players to Villa and one of those was Stiliyan Petrov. With the reputation that came with Petrov thanks to his days at Celtic and his International career with Bulgaria all Villa fans including myself expected in time great things from him and we are currently seeing this but not after it best being described as a very rocky ride for him; this was summed up by harsh criticism from sections of fans and also debatable football pundits.
His debut for Villa against West Ham at Upton Park ended 1-1 but Petrov showed his quality with a very impressive performance which was nearly summed up with a goal but for Tyrone Mears to somehow spectacularly clear off his own goal-line, but this was the only time that season when we were shown glances of his potential. There were theories for his dip in form; he was played out-of-position from his usual role or he was struggling to match the pace of the Premier League? Even him scoring twice in that season against Sheffield Utd and Middleborough respectively wasn’t enough to save him from criticisms which eventually lead to him bringing dropped for the new season.
In the 2007/08 season he started games but then couldn’t hold down a regular starting place which he lost to new signing Nigel Reo-Coker and talented academy graduate Craig Gardner and the games he did start he got criticised by fans e.g. harshly verbally abused from the stands. His longest run of games in the early season was 6 games (28 Oct – 1 Dec) but it stayed the same missing games through either injury or selection.
Then came the changing point in his season and arguably his Aston Villa career; Villa’s worst display of the season in the first-half against Newcastle. Villa were already 1-0 down when Olof Mellberg attempted a flick which Petrov completely miss-read which followed by boos from the crowd and both of them subbed at half-time; this arguably changed Petrov’s mind-frame as he was then left out of the next five games. But then he came back as strong as ever to the surprise of most fans.
This turn around started when Villa faced Derby County at Pride Park on 12 April, Villa easily won the game 6-0 but Petrov scored an absolutely sensational goal. He picked the ball up on the halfway line after a poor clearance from keeper Roy Carroll and on the half volley sent the ball 40 yards into the top right-hand corner. This goal not only being his first that season for Villa also collected accolades such as ‘Furthest goal by an Aston Villa player’, ‘Match of the Day’s April Goal of the month’ and possibility of being goal of the season.
This current season he has implemented that form arguably made more important as he was touted as a replacement for Gareth Barry who was part of the longest running transfer saga of the summer in his unsuccessful move to Liverpool. He has started all of Villa’s 7 league games this season including a man of the match performance against Sunderland and was also for the first time named captain for the Uefa Cup tie against Litex Lovech on October 2nd.
When Petrov first came to Aston Villa he was expected to perform successfully like at Celtic but certain factors weren’t completely put into perspective. When he hit his run of bad form some fans became his critics but in the last six months he has proven all of his critics wrong and made them eat their words. As all loyal Aston Villa fans would admit Stiliyan Petrov has become one of Villa’s most improved players and valued squad members.
Date:Tuesday October 7 2008
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