STILIYAN Petrov believes that Martin O’Neill and Kenny Dalglish, two of the men who had charge of him during his seven years at Parkhead, will return to football management when the right opportunity arises.
The pair will be in charge of a Celtic XI and Petrov’s own XI for this afternoon’s charity match at Celtic Park, and the Bulgarian is sure they will be back managing teams competitively sooner rather than later.
“It’s really good that Martin [pictured] and Kenny will manage the two teams,” he said. “They will work again. These type of managers always look to work. There are times when there are no suitable jobs, but something will happen. Chairmen don’t have patience anymore. In a few months, they could have six or seven offers. They will manage again.”
Petrov, who has been in remission from leukaemia for more than a year now, revealed the secret of O’Neill’s success – the better the team’s results were, the more say the players got in how things were done. “Martin’s success was very simple. He told us to go out and win the games for him. And he had the teams to do it. At Celtic and Aston Villa, you could see that Martin built his own team and brought players who would play for him and go out and win on a Saturday. It wasn’t important to Martin what you did during the week – it was what happened on a Saturday that counted.
“He would say, ‘Win the game, you rule. Lose the game, I rule’. We always preferred it when we ruled, because it was really bad when he ruled.
“Martin would make us watch videos, he would put on double sessions and didn’t speak to anybody until we won the next game. We didn’t want to see him grumpy but, when we won, everyone was in a good mood and the manager was happy.
“He kept it simple. He picked his strongest team and you knew his players. Even if we were playing badly, he knew we would stay in the game and that we had special players up front to go and win.”
Forced to stop playing for Aston Villa when diagnosed with leukaemia, Petrov, now 34, is close to being healthy enough to go on holiday with his family. But, even if his progress continues, he will not go back to playing and, at present does not want to think about a possible return to football as a coach.
“At the moment it is just maintenance, so you just take tablets and every three months you have a little chemotherapy and an injection,” he explained. “At the moment it is taking a bit of time to find the correct dose – when I get the dose right I can start travelling and go on holiday. I haven’t been on a holiday with the family yet, so I’m really looking forward to that.
“One of the doctors said to me ‘There is a chance you might be able to go back to football once you have finished your treatment’. I said, ‘Don’t even put those thoughts in my head’. I was thinking about it, but my wife said to me, ‘You were getting a bit slow in the last few years, so imagine how slow you would be if you went back’.
“She had a point and I can say I had a very good career and I should leave it that way. I might play five-a-sides and maybe the Masters tournaments and things like that.”
n The Celtic XI v Stiliyan Petrov XI kicks off at 2pm today at Celtic Park.