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The former Aston Villa and Celtic midfielder thanks the footballing community for their support throughout his battle with leukaemia, saying that "the feeling is incredible"

Retiring Aston Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov has expressed his gratitude at the "magnificent" support that he received throughout his battle with leukaemia.

The 33 year-old made 494 appearances for Villa and Celtic in a career spanning 15 years before announcing his retirement from football on Thursday.

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Petrov paid tribute to the support of the "football family" since being diagnosed with the disease in March 2012 – with Villa fans holding a minute's applause in the 19th minute of every game since.

The former midfielder told Sky Sports: "The feeling is incredible. I went through something hard but the support from the football family and around the world has been just magnificent."

The Bulgarian also revealed that he was never concerned that Villa would be relegated from the Premier League, with survival guaranteed after Wigan's defeat by Arsenal.

"I wasn't really worried," he continued. "I believe in these boys. I have seen them in training and have seen the way the manager works.

"The last couple of months have been very good and I think they deserve to be in the Premier League."

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