Why Stiliyan Petrov began playing in a Sunday League team with David Busst, Maik Taylor and Jude Bellingham’s dad

Stiliyan Petrov
(Image credit: Getty Images)

 When Stiliyan Petrov announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 34 in May 2013 due to his acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, it seemed unlikely he would ever manage to play football again.

Fortunately, it took the former Celtic and Aston Villa midfielder less than 18 months to return to the sport in a playing capacity. Petrov started playing for his local Sunday League Over-35s side Wychall Wanderers alongside some impressive names, as he reveals to FourFourTwo.

"I loved it," Petrov tells FFT. "I joined Wychall Wanderers when they were in the second tier of the Over-35s. We went up to the top level and bossed it for three years in a row. 

"The boys weren’t happy with me because I put rules in place: we’d meet up for breakfast in the morning and I’d tell them not to drink the night before! We had a formidable side and great characters: Maik Taylor, David Busst, Mark Bellingham – Jude’s dad. It was all about the love of football."

It's no wonder that side did so well, considering Maik Taylor is the former Northern Ireland, Fulham and Birmingham City goalkeeper, while Mark Bellingham is a renowned goalscorer in English non-league football. David Busst, the former Coventry player who later earned UEFA coaching badges, managed the side. 

Indeed, Busst's time as Wychall Wanderers manager certainly worked out better than that of John Barnes' ill-fated spell at Celtic, which Petrov experienced first-hand in 1999. 

The Bulgarian explains why it didn't work out, suggesting players weren't putting in the necessary work to help Barnes succeed in Glasgow. 

"I couldn’t understand much of what was going on, due to the language barrier, but there was always fighting," Petrov says. "I could see little cliques and problems. 

"He couldn’t control the dressing room as there were some very powerful characters. It was John’s first job since retiring as a player, and a big one for him. 

"The team was winning, but we had many internal issues. The players weren’t giving everything for him. Sometimes a job can come a bit too early for someone, but that doesn’t mean they’re a bad manager."

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Ryan Dabbs
Staff writer

Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.