TOMMY Johnson is the latest player to sign up for the Stiliyan Petrov’s #19 Legends’ match in September and he´s relishing the chance to return to Paradise.
The former Celtic striker has joined the likes of Roy Keane, Lubo Moravcik, John Hartson and Neil Lennon in agreeing to take part in the event, which will benefit a number of good causes.
And he´s particularly looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and playing in front of the Hoops faithful once again.
‘I can’t wait,’ Johnson told the official Celtic website. ‘It´s not the best circumstances but Stiliyan has pulled through it thankfully and we will get to see him, and it would be good to catch up with everyone. Players come and go from Celtic but the staff are still there and it will be good to catch up with them, too.
‘The Celtic fans always turn out. You go back to Phil O´Donnell´s game and Tommy Burns’ game. It will be great, especially with it being international weekend, with the likes of Lubo and maybe Henrik being there, it will just make it a bit more special.’
As someone that also played for Celtic and Aston Villa, Johnson knew how much of a popular figure Stan was at both clubs.
And he understands how difficult it must have been for the Bulgarian to call time on his football career while still at the peak of his powers.
But the former Hoops striker is just glad that his former team-mate and his family can look forward to the future following his battle with leukaemia.
‘It was just unfortunate he had to stop as he had a great time at Villa and the fans loved him down there,’ he said.
‘I know what they’re like at Villa as I played there, and they are the same as the Celtic fans, but this will be a celebration more than anything else in September.
‘I still speak to Lenny quite a bit and he rang me up with the news. He was probably one of the first to know and I was absolutely devastated and it just shows it can happen to anyone.
‘Stiliyan was always a strong lad anyway as a young player when he came to Celtic and I am so glad when he pulled through. Obviously for his wife and the kids it´s been very hard but 18 months down the line he´s in remission which can only be good.
‘He was only 19 when he signed for Celtic so he was very young,’ he added. ‘It was Kenny who signed him and he obviously saw the potential in him. Playing-wise he was unbelievable, once he had settled in and got used to the pace.
‘He was a box-to-box players, so athletic and just so enthusiastic. It must have been hard for him coming from Bulgaria but he was just one of the lads. He´s had a great career and unfortunately had to stop at 33. But if you have to stop to save your life and carry on living, anyone would.’
The match takes place on Sunday, September 8, (2pm KO) – tickets are now on general sale, on a first come first served basis priced at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions. They are available to purchase online HERE, by calling 0871 226 1888** or by visiting the Celtic Ticket Office.
Premium tickets (£25) and corporate packages (£100+VAT) are also available by calling 0871 226 1888**, Option 4 or emailing matchd[email protected]
Net proceeds of the game will be passed to Celtic Charity* and will support Stiliyan Petrov’s nominated charities plus a range of other projects and worthy causes within the local community and beyond.
The funds raised will help others across the country facing a similar diagnosis to Stiliyan and also some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
* Celtic Charity is the ‘known as’ name of Celtic Charity Fund, a registered charity in Scotland, number SC024648.
** Calls cost up to 10p per minute, telecoms provider dependent. Mobile and other provider charges may vary.