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Thursday 06 September 2012

Villans hit road for recovering Petrov

Aston Villa masseurs in group cycling from Celtic Park to Villa Park in aid of leukaemia research

  • Smith and Butler were joined by some of the Newcastle team before leaving St James' Park

  • Andy Smith, Geoff Thomas and Alex Butler are riding from Glasgow to Birmingham

Two members of Aston Villa's backroom staff are among a group of riders cycling from Scotland to the West Midlands in aid of the Pedal for Petrov initiative.

Club masseurs Alex Butler and Andrew "Smudger" Smith, along with other "Villans" and friends of Stiliyan Petrov are cycling up to 80 miles a day over five days to complete a 400-mile journey to raise money for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.

"He's a friend of ours and to do something like this just to keep his mind going while his treatment is going on is important to us"
Alex Butler

The Pedal For Petrov peloton, including former Wolverhampton Wanderers and England midfielder Geoff Thomas, who successfully waged his own fight against chronic myeloid leukaemia almost a decade ago, departed from Petrov's former club, Celtic, on Monday.

They journey takes in several Premier League football clubs en route to Villa Park, including Newcastle United, Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City.

The initiative was launched after the Aston Villa captain was found to have acute leukaemia in March 2012. Although Petrov recently said that he is in remission his football career remains on hold for life-saving treatment.

"Like many at the club Andy and I were devastated to hear of Stiliyan's diagnosis," said Butler. "As masseurs for Aston Villa, we've grown to know and love Stiliyan over the past five years and, boy, has he kept us busy during that time. We miss him in our little batcave and we, like so many others, want him back as soon as possible.

Token of gratitude

"Stiliyan has always been there for both Smudger and myself and we will always be grateful for everything he has done for us. As a small token of our appreciation we have decided to embark on this epic challenge.

"He's a friend of ours and to do something like this just to keep his mind going while his treatment is going on is important to us."

"We've had great support from clubs, fans and people in general," added Smith. "When something like this happens, the whole football community all come together because it's a great cause.

"It's great what they're doing, first of all for leukaemia research and for me as well"
Stiliyan Petrov

"Hopefully we can make Stan laugh when he sees us struggling on the bikes and it will be worth the effort."

The 33-year-old midfielder, who has been included in Aston Villa's 25-man Barclays Premier League squad, commended Butler and Smith for their generosity in taking part in Pedal For Petrov.

"They've been very close since I came here," said Petrov. "It's great what they're doing, first of all for leukaemia research and for me as well. It's going to be tough for them but they've been working really hard."

Jonathan Andrews, Fundraising Director at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, was also full of praise for this latest money and awareness-raising initiative.

"We are so grateful that they are supporting Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research’s life saving work," he said. "The valuable funds they are raising will help us find better treatments and cures for patients with blood cancers including leukaemia, lymphoma and myloma."

Watch Aston Villa's Pedal for Petrov video >>>

Pedal for Petrov

Stages include:
4 September    Leave Celtic Park, Glasgow
5 September    Arrive Sports Direct Arena, Newcastle Utd
6 September    Leave Sports Direct Arena, Newcastle Utd
7 September    Arrive Anfield, Liverpool
8 September    Arrive Goodison Park, Everton
9 September    Arrive, Villa Park, Aston Villa

Fans who wish to support Alex and Andrew in their challenge can donate via their JustGiving page at: or text “STAN91”, followed by the amount you wish to donate in pounds, to 70070.

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Key Points

  • Aston Villa masseurs taking part in cycle ride from Celtic Parl to Villa Park
  • Group will stop at Premier League grounds to raise awareness for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research
  • Initiative conceived after Stiliyan Petrov was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in March