Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov has spoken for the first time after it was confirmed he is now in remission from leukaemia.
Petrov, 33, was quick to thank Aston Villa club masseurs Alex Butler and Andy Smith for their efforts after they completed a 400-mile Pedal for Petrov cycle ride on Sunday. It was a fundraising effort with former England midfield player Geoff Thomas for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research as they aim to raise £250,000.
The cycle ride began at Parkhead, the home of Petrov's former club Celtic, and finished at Villa Park.
"I'm fine but it's been hard and tough so far but, thankfully, everything is going in the right direction," Petrov said. "I've been looked after really well by the people in the hospital and so far everything is going in the right direction. I'm really grateful to them and I'm grateful to all of the people who have sent messages of support to me. I appreciate all of this very much.
"Alex and Andy have put themselves through a lot of work and hardship to try to raise money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. They have worked so hard and they want to cheer me up and they want to show me how much they love me. It is great to see something like that and, of course, it is for a great cause as well.
"I know how hard it has been for them and I have been speaking to them every day. I know the other day they found it really tough with the wind against them.
"But they kept going and I hope that in the end they will achieve what they set out to do by raising £250,000 for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research because the funding is important for all of this research, which is much-needed.
"I've experienced something that a lot of people don't experience and I know how important this research is because it helps with all the drugs which help people need to get better and to get better more quickly. I hope the cause will receive as much money as the boys are able to raise so that the people can go to work on the research.
"I asked them to cycle to Bulgaria but they said it was too far to go - so they decided to cycle from Celtic Park to Villa Park instead. It has been tough for them. Geoff Thomas has done a lot of bike rides and he is fit but Alex and Andy have only had a few months to train and prepare for this. It has been great for them and it's been great for me too. I hope they will feel very satisfied with everything they have done.
"I really appreciate all their efforts. They've been texting me and calling me along the way and that has helped me.
"At the moment I am going through a minor cycle of chemo and it's been great between cycles to see the nice pictures of the lads on their bikes, stopping off at Everton and Newcastle and other places. It's been really good."
• To support Alex and Andrew in their Pedal for Petrov challenge, please donate via their JustGiving page at: http://www.justgiving.com/pedalforpetrov or text "STAN91 £3" to 70070