Aston Villa have made clear that midfielder Stiliyan Petrov will continue to be the captain of the squad, as he continues to battle acute lukaemia in the hope to return to the field.
The Bulgarian international was diagnosed in March with the disease, and has been undergoing regular treatment since then. He was forced to miss Villa's season finale. He did manage to come back to Bodymoor Heath training complex in order to celebrate his 33rd birthday with the squad, as they went through pre-season training.
After Petrov was greeted with a cake and a chorus of “Happy Birthday,” new manager Paul Lambert made clear that Petrov would retain the captain's armband this season. Lambert made clear that the midfielder's health was most important, and that the club would continue to support Petrov and his family through this difficult time.
"The main thing is Stiliyan being OK in his life. Football is a secondary thing and doesn't even come close to it. It's his life and that's the most important thing," Lambert said. "I went to see him the day before Arsenal played Norwich and there was a bit of trepidation when I first went in because I didn't know what I would be walking in to. But when I saw him I thought he looked great. His wife was there and I was delighted for him.
"To see him coming back today was great. It will be great too that, God-willing, he will be totally OK. That's the most important thing. It is for everyone to see him about the place.
"The support of the fans is vital. Villa fans have done great by him and he'll certainly still need them and their support. There's no doubt about it.
"He is a young guy with a wife and two kids and my main concern is his health. He will need that support."
Aston Villa begin their new Premier League campaign against newly-promoted West Ham, at Upton Park.