Stan Petrov – Celtic’s best all-round midfielder this century

Stan Petrov is undoubtedly one of the best all round midfielders to play for Celtic this century, arguably he is the best of them all…

10 Mar 2002: Stilian Petrov of Celtic celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Scottish Premier League match between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox iPhoto Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Twenty-five  years ago this very month Celtic signed a young Bulgarian by the name of Stiliyan Petrov. He would go on to be known as Stan and had just turned 20 years old when he was signed by John Barnes in a £2 million deal from Bulgarian side CSKA Sofia.

Stan would turn out to become the only positive thing to come from the disastrous Barnes reign, despite having a below par first campaign, which wasn’t helped by the rookie Englishman playing the young Bulgarian out of position.

date 17 09 2003. Photo imago..  Bayern Munich v Celtic – Celtic team photo

Young Stan badly struggled in his first season on and off the field, understandably so, having to adapt to life in a new country while also having a limited understanding of the English language.

Stan to his credit faced that problem head on by helping out in a burger van owned by one of his friends in the city to help with the language and loneliness.  That not only helped Stan grasp the English language spoken with the Glaswegian accent, but made him more confident in his new surroundings.

This in turn helped him on the football field and his displays started to improve on the park scoring his first goal in a 6-2 win over Dundee in March 2000. However it wasn’t until the arrival of Martin O’Neill in the summer of 2000 that Stan would fulfil his true potential.

Celtic’s Henrik Larsson (r) celebrates with Stilian Petrov after scoring against Teplice in their third round first leg UEFA football match 26 February 2004 in Glasgow, Britain. (Photo  IAN STEWART/AFP via Getty Images)

The Irishman played Stan in his natural position which was central midfield and the Bulgarian buoyed by his new role and the excellent man management of O’Neill started to put in eye catching displays. His goal in the famous 6-2 win over Rangers was typical of Stans ability. He sneaked into a crowded box and buried a cracking header beyond Stefan Klos. It was the type of goal we would see on a regular basis during Stan’s time at the club.

Stan was the ultimate box to box midfielder. It wasn’t just his goals, but his all round play. He had stamina, he could pass, he could tackle, he was the complete midfielder and he would only improve in each and every game under the guidance of Martin O’Neill.

Ronaldinho tackles Stilian Petrov during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between FC Barcelona and Glasgow Celtic, held at The Nou Camp  on November 24, 2004 n. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Even after suffering a badly broken leg in a match at McDiarmid Park in the spring of 2001, he didn’t let it get him down and just like teammate Henrik Larsson he fought back to be even better than before, which showcased his mental strength.

Stan would go on to make 288 appearances and scoring 64 goals in his seven years at the club, winning 4 league titles, 3 Scottish cups, 3 league cups not to mention playing in the UEFA cup final in Seville in 2003, before joining up with former mentor Martin O’Neill at Aston Villa in a £8 million deal in 2006.

Stan would show those fighting qualities at Villa not just on the park but off it also as he successfully beat leukaemia after being diagnosed with the illness in 2012.

Photo: Andrew Milligan

He had to retire from the game a year later, but more importantly he was healthy and had his entire life ahead of him. Stan still speaks fondly of the club and is regularly seen at Celtic Park as a pundit, and the many charity events he unselfishly arranges in a bid to raise cash for those who need it most.

Stan Petrov, what a man and what a player for CSKA Sofia, Celtic,  Aston Villa and Bulgaria They say we’ve never replaced Henrik Larsson, and in my opinion we’ve never replaced Stan either. To me he is undoubtedly the best all round midfielder we’ve had at Celtic this century.

Just an Ordinary Bhoy

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About Author

An ordinary everyday Celtic supporters hailing and still residing in Govan in the shadows of the enemy. I’m a season ticket holder. I Witnessed my first Celtic game in 1988 and have attended when I can ever since. Growing up in the 90s I witnessed Celtic at their lowest, and now appreciate the historic success we enjoy today. I enjoy writing about this wonderful football club and hopefully will continue to do so. I’ve always been a keen writer and initially started this a hobby. My ambition is to one day become as good an author as my fellow Celtic Star colleagues.

1 Comment

  1. Thomas Mckay on

    I couldnt agree with this opinion in more if I tried. I loved Stan and his all action performances. Definitely never replaced his energy and fight, also his quality.

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