FORMER Celtic midfielder Stilyan Petrov has admitted that adapting to life in the goldfish bowl of Glasgow was difficult for him after he signed for the Parkhead club back in the summer of 1999 – and insisted that picking up language pointers at a burger van helped him to master English.

The Bulgarian midfielder joined Celtic from CSKA Sofia in his homeland when he was just 19 years old, and pitched up in Glasgow unable to speak a word of English.

It was an intimidating experience for the future fans’ favourite and while things didn’t exactly go to plan at the start of his seven-year stay in Scotland, Petrov soon got to grips with the new language – something that he says really helped him to be accepted in the dressing room.

“It was a really, really difficult start for me,” Petrov told YouTube channel Fore Hole Challenge. “But now, looking back, it’s quite hilarious!

“I remember the first time I had to travel to Glasgow to join the team. I had to travel on my own. I got lost in Brussels in the airport! I turned up at Glasgow Airport and there was so much media there, all asking questions and I didn’t speak a word of English.

“I was 19 and it was the first time I had travelled on my own abroad, never mind answering questions. I had so many media representatives and I was like, ‘Oh my god, what’s happening here?’.

“Then everything went from good to a lot worse. I couldn’t speak the language, I wasn’t adapting to the situation. Celtic was a huge club. Further down the line I realised how big a club it was. That’s why for me, it was important to adapt and adjust very quickly.

“Sometimes people talk about failure; I use it as a kind of a chance to get things right, not to fail but to learn. I had to adapt and make sure I did the right things and mainly to learn the language because that was the big thing for me.

“If the dressing room don’t accept you, you’ve lost. It doesn’t matter how good you are. Sooner or later they’ll find you out and you’ll be out the club.”

Settling into his new environment took time, Petrov stressed, and he became more confident as he became more fluent in his second tongue.

His arrival signalled a change in approach at Celtic, with the club appointing a player liaison officer to help new recruits acclimatise to life in a new country in the months after Petrov joined the club – something that he feels is very important, given the impact that failing to adjust can have on the first-team squad.

“I’ve seen it and I’ve seen it become a big issue,” he said. “Clubs are now more switched on about it, they have a player liaison officer to make sure players are looked after, but before that role wasn’t there. There was a lot of misunderstanding.

“I remember after my situation, Celtic appointed their first player liaison officer, which made the transition when players came into the club without speaking the language, they made sure that they’re comfortable with it and start the right way, and integrate themselves into the club quicker.”

Learning English was Petrov’s top priority upon landing in Scotland, but the way in which the former Aston Villa midfielder went about the task was a little unorthodox. Rather than hiring a tutor or attending language lessons, Petrov picked up what he could from frequent trips to the cinema and days spent hanging around a burger van to hear how punters conversed.

Petrov laughed: “I had a few burgers as well!

“Listen, it’s about finding a way. There was a security guy at the club and he just wanted to help. He didn’t know how to help but he tried to find different ways.

“His wife was working at a burger van and I thought, ‘You know what? I’ll just go and listen to how people place their order, how they answer – sometimes politely, sometimes not very politely’. It was a different experience for me but I had to find a way. A lot of people laugh about it and poke fun but I found a way.

"I used to go to the cinema. I used to watch three movies every day! I would listen to every phrase; the questions, the replies. The next day I would use it.

“I changed very quickly and the boys were like, ‘Fair play to you. We want you in here. We see you want to grow and you want to develop’. And you know what? I found out how important this club is – the meaning, the DNA of the club.

“I wanted to be there and I wanted to be part of it. If you don’t want it you can never achieve it and I wanted to be part of it. I was a very lucky guy – first of all to be there – but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity.

“It was a very difficult start. I was very close to saying, ‘You know what? I’m going back to Bulgaria. Everybody loves me there, my life is good’. But I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to achieve and make sure that further down the line my kids would look at me and say I’ve done something.”