So, Steve Sidwell looks set to slink softly off towards the Villa Park exit. But, with Fulham thought to be favourites to secure his signature, is Sidwell a worthwhile signing or is he, in fact, a busted flush?
A successful spell with Reading marked him out as a player of aptitude and top-level potential. Developing through the Arsenal youth team, Sidwell found himself unable to break into the first-team and, following loan-spells at Brentford and Brighton, he eventually joined Reading in 2003. Establishing himself as a prominent figure at the Madjeski, he was increasingly pin-pointed as one of the finest players outside the Premiership and thus found himself included in the Championship team of the year for the second consecutive season in 2005/06. This was also Reading’s Championship winning season and probably Sidwell’s zenith; the crux of the side, scoring 10 league goals from midfield.
With his contract due to expire the following year, Sidwell attracted the advances of a plethora of clubs. However, despite Sidwell rejecting a contract extension, Reading kept hold of their asset for the Premier League campaign, resigned to the fact he could well leave on a free at the end of the season… and, of course, he did. If those last two years we’re his zenith, he was now to reach his nadir. Joining Chelsea on a free transfer (cue many a raised eyebrow) he was never likely to fully infiltrate a midfield boasting truly world class pedigree. With beautiful old hindsight, he could probably look back at the move as a mistake, a step too far; particularly since clubs perhaps more suitable in stature (but still prestigious clubs, where Sidwell could potentially prosper) showed acute interest.
Making only 15 appearances, he inevitably found himself superfluous at Chelsea and ‘did one’ (the technical term, I think) to Villa in 2008, joining for £5million. Ah, phew, it’s all going to be alright, yeah? This is the move where Sidwell can resurrect his career and finally become a Premier League regular, a formidable force, a midfield maestro… oh. Indeed, Sidwell hasn’t really been able to force his way into the Aston Villa starting line-up; illustrated by the fact he has only made 23 league starts in two years at Villa Park. Despite some notable performance – scoring on his league debut against Wigan, and after only 31 seconds in the entertaining 3-2 victory against Everton – he has been largely underwhelming. Thus, he now looks set to make a premature exit, as Martin O’Neill seeks to re-coup some of the £5million outlay, take unnecessary baggage off the wage-bill and secure funds to strengthen his squad.
Which leads us to the mysterious land of now. At 27-years-old, Sidwell has been mostly living off the clout garnered at Reading. Unable to hold-down a first-team place for three years, Sidwell is out of favour and, hence, he is something of a gamble. Moreover, you wonder what exactly his impact would be. Despite this, Sidwell to Fulham could be practical move for both. He would, of course, have to work hard to establish himself in a strong and consistently improving side, but you still get the feeling he could do so.
A combative midfielder, capable of getting box-to-box, if he realised his early potential, Fulham could benefit from a sturdy team-player. Certainly, Roy Hodgson seems to have a knack at reviving players and squeezing out the best bits, but whether Hodgson himself will still be at Craven Cottage is a major question. Given it’s very unlikely Villa will recoup the full amount they paid, a fee of around £3million is probable. In todays market this represents reasonable value, but not if he is simply set to fix his buttocks on the bench again.
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