Aston Villa club captain Stiliyan Petrov believes he has conquered "the hardest bit" in his battle to overcome acute leukaemia.

Petrov admits he has taken inspiration via messages of support from other people who have won their fight to conquer the illness while undergoing treatment for the past three months. The Bulgarian international celebrated his 33rd birthday by attending Villa's first day of pre-season under new manager Paul Lambert at Bodymoor Heath on Thursday.

Petrov said: "I've been a strong character since the start of my career. I always believed that you need to be patient and you need to believe in things - and I believe that I will get better. I know it is hard and I've been through a hard time but the doctors, nurses and everybody in the hospital have been great to me."

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