When Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov was diagnosed with leukaemia in March 2012, after a match at The Emirates versus Arsenal, the footballing world was rocked by the news. There was an outpouring of sadness and support for Petrov. Perhaps the most well recognised show of support for Stan was the 19th minute applause, started by Aston Villa fans in the following game against Chelsea at Villa Park, the applause in the 19th minute being a nod to Petrov’s favoured shirt number – 19.
This has continued in every game since with (most) opposition fans respecting and joining in with the applause. It’s been absolutely magnificent and I’m sure it has helped Stan through his terrible battle to regain his health.
However, with Stan now thankfully in remission and on the road to recovery, the question has been asked whether it’s time to discontinue the applause. It’s something I’ve thought about quite a bit during games over the course of pre-season. I attended matches against Luton, Walsall and Malaga. I for one definitely sensed it losing its importance and that people were only really doing it out of habit and no longer just for Stan, which I think is a shame.
I spoke to several people who also attended yesterday’s game against Malaga at Villa Park: most of them said they either didn’t join in the applause or only did so because they felt obliged as the people around them were doing so.
Unfortunately, I cannot claim to know Stan personally but in my estimation he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would want this to continue; it’s my belief that he would want us, now that he’s getting better and moving on with his life with his coaching and charity work, to also move on and concentrate on the team and the players on the pitch.
Manager Paul Lambert said during his Fans’ Forum on Monday night that he believed it was the time to stop now: “Stan is getting better now, he’s won, I don’t think he needs to be reminded of it every game now”. He also included a point which I very much agree with, that perhaps Stan needs to come out himself and say whether or not he’d like it to stop. All he’d need to do is say something along the lines of, “The support has been fantastic for myself and it has meant so much to me and my family. However, I now believe it is time to move on and show that same support to the lads on the pitch. Thank you”. I’m sure he could word it better than that though!
The 19th minute applause towards the end of the 11/12 and for the entirety of the 12/13 seasons was a moving show of support and respect for one of football’s favourite men and it earned the club and the Aston Villa fans a lot of respect from outside B6. However, I believe, now that Stan is getting better and moving on with his life, away from his illness, that we should do the same before it loses its importance and just becomes something we do out of habit.
It’s come full circle. We go back to where it all started for the first game of the season – The Emirates versus Arsenal. What better place to end it: let Stan get on with his new life as a coach, which I’m sure he’ll be excellent at, and let us concentrate on the lads on the pitch who are starting a new and exciting era for the club, an era which, thankfully, Stan will be a part of.
I’d love to hear people’s opinions on this so please comment below. Cheers!
Thanks for reading!