“For me he is a real competitor, a real leader not the ones you have these days who are scared of social media. He has a great personality and character.”
The Senegalese-born French international will lead Crystal Palace out at Wembley for only the second time in the last 20 years.
When Vieira was appointed, following four years with Roy Hodgson and the helm and senior players out of contract, there was concern Palace could be caught up in a relegation dogfight.
The previous season, Palace had finished a respectable 14th without pulling up any trees, crashing out of both cups early on.
In just six months under the Arsenal legend and his coaching team, the Eagles have changed their playing style and recruitment which has earned them a ticket to Wembley in the World’s oldest football competition.
Under Vieira, Palace have thrashed London rivals Spurs and Arsenal at home, and beaten reigning Premier League champions Manchester City away.
Their form has surprised many, but not Petit, who shared a dressing room with Vieira at club and international level, winning the double, World Cup and Euros together.
“I’m not surprised because I played alongside him for a couple of years, but I have known him for a very long time when he was at Cannes in the south of France and I was in Monaco,” Petit told LondonWorld.
“I remember first seeing him at Cannes playing in central defence and I thought to myself who is that guy in defence.
“Tall and energetic in central defence, that day in the south of France, he played with so much maturity for a young player but also with authority.”
And during their time player together at Highbury and for the French national team, Petit remembered Vieira’s hunger to win.
“His hunger during games was something special,” he said.
“When we played together, every time we were winning games, that was not enough for him.
“If we won and conceded a goal he would not be happy.
“He would fight his team mates if they conceded a goal.
“To be precise he was a perfectionist, in that he wanted to win so badly and he worked so hard to achieve that.
“So I’m not surprised, because it’s those principles he’d be applying in the training ground at Palace and the results are there for all to see.”
Vieira the competitor who is ready for a fight
There have been some special moments for Palace fans this season, with the Holmesdale Road Stand staying behind to serenade the players..
Recently the Eagles battered Everton in the cup and beat Norwich, but not many wins would feel sweeter than the annihilation of Arsenal, who came to Selhurst Park on the back of five-game winning streak on the road.
They say a team is a reflection of their manager, and Crystal Palace work hard without the ball and use it better now than they have before, with style and guile mixed with determination.
Want-away players like Wilfried Zaha are now discussing contract extensions behind the scenes instead of threatening to leave, and young players up and down the country are looking on jealously at Copers Cope training ground in Beckenham.
Marc Guehi, Conor Gallagher and Tyrick Mitchell have all been called up to England by Gareth Southgate under Vieira’s watch
But despite the positivity the club is enjoying from taking the chance on Vieira, his former team mate says he will not be getting carried away and players in the dressing room would do well not to cross their manager.
Petit added: “He is very professional, dedicated to football because that is his real passion.
“But beyond the calmness you see on the touchline, he is one who can give a b*****king in the dressing room when people are not doing their job.
“He is a competitor and he knows the way to be successful.
“That doesn’t mean he is going to be successful but he knows the way to be successful and he will demand every one of his players pull in the same direction for the team’s success.
“That I can tell you for free.
“He has that personality and because he’s done so well playing the game he is able to get his players playing for him unless they want to get into his books and we all know he never really hides from a fight.”
The 1998 generation of French players
Vieira comes from a golden generation of French players that conquered the World and Europe.
Most of his teammates have gone on to make a decent career out of coaching, with the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Didier Deschamps leading the way.
But Petit says Vieira, like most of his teammates from that generation, are benefiting from being part of a dressing room that had strong personalities and leadership which is needed in today’s game.
He told LondonWorld: “Listen, that group was really great.
“We won the World Cup and Euros and for almost five years we were unbeaten around the World.
“That tells you two things: the quality of the players and the personality we had.
“That dressing room was full of big characters and personalities.
“We had different character and personality, but in many ways there were all leaders and they didn’t need the armband.
“You could see when you look at people like Laurent Blanc, Zinedine Zidane, Didier Deschamps and Patrick doing their thing as coaches, they did not just want to win one game and go home and celebrate.
“They wanted more, and let me tell you back then our managers did not give team speeches because they knew exactly what our approach was, and they trusted in us.”