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Jan 7, 2013

Given: Petrov an inspiration

Shay Given has revealed that Aston Villa's players received a pep-talk from the stricken Stiliyan Petrov before their FA Cup victory over Ipswich on Saturday.

• Blog: Mixed emotions as Villa halt slide

It was the second visit to the dressing room in a few days by the club skipper, who is undergoing prolonged treatment after being diagnosed last March with acute leukaemia.

"He was in (to see us) on New Year's Eve as well before our game," the keeper said. "It was fantastic to see him and he is a real fighter and a great guy.

"He is still fighting hard with all the treatment he is getting. We are all behind him.

"We know we are in a relegation fight in the League but to see the fight Stan is having is really inspirational."

In the 19th minute of every home game – to denote the Bulgarian's shirt number – Villa fans break out into loud applause as his picture is shown on big screens.

And Given, recalled at the weekend for another welcome Cup appearance at a time when he has gone more than four months without playing in the Premier League, added: "He is still a joker and has a laugh with the lads.

"He comes in as if nothing is the matter. He just has a joke like to me asking if I am playing and if I remember what I am doing!

"He gave everyone a huge lift. The fans again in the 19th minute were fantastic. We are one step away from a Wembley final and it would be great if Stan could join us if we made it there in the Capital One Cup.

"It would be up to the manager and Stan is still going through some difficult treatments, so it would depend on that. But the lads would love it if he could."

Petrov, who developed a fever after last playing when Villa visited Arsenal early last spring, has been at pains to stress that he has not announced his retirement. Villa are at Bradford on Tuesday in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final.

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