Stiliyan Petrov and 3 other great Footballing Comebacks
April 23, 2016
It has been a desperately disappointing season for Aston Villa, but the clubs fans have been lifted recently with the news that former captain Stiliyan Petrov may be set to make a return to first-team action. The fans’ favourite, who was forced to retire after being diagnosed with leukaemia in 2012 , has in fact been training with the U-21 side for months in a bid to compete in next years’ Championship campaign.
While Petrov’s narrative is incredible and heart-warming in equal measure, it is not the only footballing comeback to have defied the odds in recent history…
Eric Cantona, Manchester United
Not all comebacks occur after injury or illness, with the example of Eric Cantona providing a relevant case in point. After being banned for nine months following his now infamous kung-fu attack on Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons in January 1995, Cantona was written-off my the media while his Manchester United future hung in the balance.
Convinced to stay by Sir Alex Ferguson and promoted to the role of club captain, the Frenchman not only returned to the first-team but also hit top form as he led the side to a league and FA Cup double in 1996.
Jamie Vardy, Leicester City
After being discarded as a 16-year old youth player by Sheffield Wednesday due to his small frame, Jamie Vardy seemed destined for a journeyman career through the non-league wilderness. Having played at this level for six years and represented Fleetwood Town as recently as 2012, Vardy was snapped up by then-Championship side Leicester City and has not looked back since.
Now a full-England national and set to win an unlikely Premier League winners’ medal with the Foxes, Vardy’s comeback from the depths of rejection and non-league football is worthy of any script-writer.
In 1996, the unorthodox and immensely gifted Nigerian forward was a star of the Ajax side that lifted the European Cup. His dream was shattered after tests revealed that he had damaged the aortic valve in his heart, placing his career and potentially his life at risk.
Kanu had urgent surgery to repair the valve, however, incredibly returning to action just five months later. He went on to enjoy a long and successful career too, even winning two Premier League titles with Arsenal among other honours.