Fascinating facts about Steve Sidwell's flabbergasting football journey
Steve Sidwell announced his retirement from playing football on 22 August 2018 and thus closed the chapter on a career in which he soared as high as a seagull, but also saw him suffer from countless red cards, injuries and competition for place. Here are some fascinating facts about Sidwell that will make you squawk as loud as a seagull.
He joined Arsenal, the team he supports, at the age of 9 and was a part of the youth team that won the FA Youth Cup in 2000 and 2001. In the 'Championship Manager 2001- 2002' computer game, Sidwell was described as "a decent young player". The game also valued him at £1m and said that he is good at set-pieces, tackling, pace, bravery, creativity and determination amongst others.
Whilst on the books of Championship side Reading, FourFourTwo Magazine named Sidwell as the best player outside the Premier League during the 2004-05 season and he was later named in the PFA Team of the Year. Therefore, Arsène Wenger, who was the manager of Arsenal's first team during Sidwell's time at The Gunners was flabbergastingly proved wrong by the midfielder. Reflecting on Sidwell's departure from the club, Wenger said: "I told him you're not good enough yet to play for us" but the German manager had since been impressed by the way Sidwell's performances have proved him wrong.
The 2005–06 season saw Reading finally gain promotion to the Premier League with Sidwell's king-sized performances for The Royals again earning him a place in the PFA Team of the Year. In the Madejski Stadium’s first ever top flight match the following season, he scored the second to inspire his fellow troops to a remarkable 3-2 comeback victory against Middlesbrough. Over the course of that season, his performances were so good that Sidwell was as sought after as a limited edition half-and-half football-match scarf. Esteemed clubs, including Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, were linked with the Wandsworth-born midfielder.
It was Chelsea who were more desperate to claim Sidwell's signature and he promptly became Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho's first signing of the summer ahead of the 2007-08 season. Sidwell, who played as a central midfielder, was not known for his goalscoring exploits. However, upon his arrival at The Blues, Sidwell was surprisingly handed the number 9 jersey - which is usually worn by prolific centre-forwards or strikers.
Speaking of numbers, in his first interview as a Chelsea player, Sidwell stated that he had not come to Chelsea to merely 'make up the numbers', and that he believed training and playing alongside first-class players like Ghanaian Michael Essien and Englishman Frank Lampard would only help him improve.
Mourinho admitted that the catalyst for the club's decision to sign Sidwell was due to the fact that both Essien and Nigerian John Obi Mikel would be playing for their respective country in the African Cup of Nations in early 2008.
However, at the end of the season, Sidwell became linked to several Premier League clubs, including Everton, Middlesbrough and Aston Villa. And it was the latter who acquired his services and in the process, Sidwell became manager Martin O'Neill's first summer signing.
Sidwell, who scored an own goal on his competitive debut for Villa, was subsequently sold to Fulham during the 2011 January transfer window. However, he almost did not move to Craven Cottage. Sidwell was close to linking up with his former Chelsea boss Avram Grant at West Ham United in January 2011, but the move was cancelled as it would have breached the Premier League's 25-man squad rule. Furthermore, Sidwell also held talks with Wolverhampton Wanderers before agreeing to join Fulham.
During the 2013-14 season, manager Martin Jol was sacked following Fulham's poor start to the season. Former Manchester United first-team coach René Meulensteen succeeded Jol and Sidwell's own performances improved drastically under Meulensteen, scoring five of his eight goals that season during Meulensteen's tenure.
Stoke-on-Trent was Sidwell's next destination. Upon signing for Stoke City in June 2014, Sidwell stated that there were two factors behind his decision to join The Potters: "The first being the fact that it's a club that is really moving forward. Then there's the manager (Mark Hughes) because he's a man that I have the highest regard for. He signed me for Fulham and I really enjoyed the time I worked with him there".
The Seagulls then came calling for Sidwell. And he answered their call by signing a contract with Championship side Brighton & Hove Albion in June 2016 and consequently reunited with Bobby Zamora and David Stockdale - after previously playing alongside them at Fulham.
Like seagulls are one of the unique animals that are able to drink salt water, Sidwell proved to be one of the unique players that are able to work tirelessly with the utmost dedication to their team.