Aston Villa club captain Stiliyan Petrov has spoken publicly for the first time since it was confirmed his acute leukaemia was in remission and thanked fans for their overwhelming messages of support.
Petrov's comments came on the day Villa masseurs, Alex Butler and Andy Smith, completed their 400-mile 'Pedal for Petrov' cycle ride with former England midfielder Geoff Thomas in a fund-raising effort for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research . The trio have pedalled from Celtic Park - Petrov is a former Bhoys player - to Villa Park and are aiming to raise £250,000.
The Bulgarian international said: "I'm fine but it's been hard and tough so far but, thankfully, everything is going in the right direction. I've been looked after really well by the people in the hospital and so far everything is going in the right direction. I'm really grateful to them and I'm grateful to all of the people who have sent messages of support to me. I appreciate all of this very much."
Petrov is full of admiration for the efforts of Butler, Smith and Thomas.
He said: "Alex and Andy have put themselves through a lot of work and hardship to try to raise money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.
"They have worked so hard and they want to cheer me up and they want to show me how much they love me. It is great to see something like that and, of course, it is for a great cause as well.
"I've experienced something that a lot of people don't experience and I know how important this research is because it helps with all the drugs which people need to get better and better more quickly.
"I asked them to cycle to Bulgaria but they said it was too far to go so they decided to cycle from Celtic Park to Villa Park instead!"
If you'd like to support the Pedal for Petrov challenge, you can donate via the JustGiving page at: http://www.justgiving.com/pedalforpetrov or text "STAN91 Â£3" to 70070.