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May 9, 2013

Lambert wants Petrov on coaching staff

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has confirmed he is hoping to persuade Stiliyan Petrov to join his backroom staff following the midfielder's retirement from football.

• Blog: Happy 40th, Villa

Bulgaria international Petrov, who was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in March 2012, has confirmed his retirement from all forms of the game to concentrate on developing his charitable foundation to help fight the disease.

Petrov will also be invited onto the pitch at Villa Park on Sunday to lead Villa's lap of appreciation following their final home game of the season against Chelsea, but Lambert hopes to ensure that is not the last time the 33-year-old will be associated with the club.

Lambert met with chairman Randy Lerner at the club's training ground on Thursday to discuss certain matters ahead of what is expected to be a more thorough meeting in the next few weeks regarding budgets and transfer plans for the summer.

It is thought a possible role for Petrov within the club's academy was discussed, and Lambert plans to hold further discussions with the former captain in the next few days, insisting his experience would be a huge asset to his coaching staff.

"There is something in my head I would like to speak to him about regarding coaching," he said. "I am not sure whether that would be on a full-time or a part-time basis. The door is always open to him here and that has nothing to do with sentimental reasons."

Lambert is full of admiration for the man he has known since Petrov arrived at Celtic as a 19-year-old in 1999, and cannot speak highly enough of the bravery shown by the player over the last 14 months.

"The most important thing is that he has survived that horrible disease," he said. "You cannot imagine what people with that illness go through. I am delighted first and foremost that he is alive.

"The fact he is going out there onto the pitch on Saturday will be incredible. It will be a great occasion. The support for him, including the 19th-minute applause, has been magnificent not just from our supporters but other fans at other clubs and other coaching staffs.

"Everyone has got behind it and it will be a very emotional day for all of us. Missing him as a player has been a huge blow. Trying to replace a fantastic player like him is so hard, but he is a wonderful man. He has a heart of gold. I have known him since he was 19.

"I played with him for nine years and he is a fantastic character. Whatever he chooses to do in the future, we wish him all the best."

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