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Shay: 'Fighter' Stiliyan is an inspiration

SHAY GIVEN admits Aston Villa's players have taken inspiration from club skipper Stiliyan Petrov, who is battling acute leukaemia.

Goalkeeper Given hopes the Bulgarian will be at Wembley for the League Cup final should Villa overcome Bradford in the two-legged semi-final.

Petrov is undergoing regular courses of treatment for the illness but is still a regular visitor to the training ground and was in the dressing room before Saturday's FA Cup tie with Ipswich. Given, who helped Villa to a 2-1 success, said: "Stiliyan was in before the game. He was in at the training ground as well on New Year's Eve before our game (at Swansea).

"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 know we are in a relegation fight in the Premier League but to see the fight Stan is coming under and showing is really inspirational."

Given added: "Coming in the dressing room before the game was fantastic and gives everyone a huge lift. He comes in as if nothing is the matter.

"It's great to see he has still got his sense of humour. It puts everything in perspective and it gives everyone a huge lift."

Given is taking nothing for granted as regards the semi-final tie with Bradford but would dearly love to see Petrov at Wembley should Villa overcome Phil Parkinson's side.


He added: "Would I like to see Petrov at Wembley? I hope so. It is down the line and we don't want to get ahead of ourselves. We know we've got a difficult two-legged tie to get through -- but it would be great for Stan."

Villa manager Paul Lambert hailed the contribution of fit again striker Darren Bent against the Tractor Boys.

Bent has endured a frustrating season because of injuries and losing his place to Christian Benteke.

But he showed his finishing instincts with a trademark equaliser against Ipswich to put himself in contention to be involved against the Bantams in tomorrow's first leg at Valley Parade.

Lambert said: "Darren is a natural finisher. You have to give him credit for the way he performed."