SID­WELL: I’ll help the Seag­ulls soar... again!

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By Paddy von Behr

STEVE SID­WELL is tak­ing a trip down mem­ory lane with Brighton and, if he can repli­cate the form of his last visit, he might just help the Seag­ulls into the Premier League.

In 2002, a teenage Sid­well joined Brighton on loan from Arse­nal and the move proved a kick-start for his ca­reer as five goals in 12 games earned the mid­fielder a move to Read­ing.

Fast for­ward more than 13 years and he is back on loan at the South Coast club, this time from Stoke City as a 33-year-old with just one Premier League ap­pear­ance this sea­son and once again vy­ing to prove his worth.

He finds Brighton in a very dif­fer­ent po­si­tion, how­ever, chal­leng­ing for pro­mo­tion to the top flight rather than fight­ing to pre­serve their sta­tus in the se­cond tier – some­thing they failed to do af­ter he moved on.

“I had a spell down here be­fore, many moons ago, which did in­flu­ence my de­ci­sion,” said Sid­well.

Ad­ven­tur­ous

“I re­mem­ber it very well. It was short and sweet – 12 games and a few goals. I re­mem­ber the goals and I re­ally en­joyed my time, but the Read­ing thing came along.

“We were in and out of rel­e­ga­tion at the time and we def­i­nitely had a squad good enough to stay in the divi­sion.

“If I had stayed on, you never know what would have hap­pened and what path my ca­reer would have taken.”

The path it did take is an ad­ven­tur­ous one, with the Lon­don-born mid­fielder help­ing Read­ing to the Premier League, be­fore spells with Chelsea, As­ton Villa, Ful­ham and now Stoke.

He ar­rives at the Amex Sta­dium with plenty of top-flight ex­pe­ri­ence and joins a cou­ple of old mates from his Ful­ham days, in­clud­ing in-form striker Bobby Zamora.

“Bobby and I are close friends out­side of foot­ball, and David Stock­dale as well,” he con­tin­ued. “I spoke to them in depth about the club and they had great things to say.

“I am quite lucky in that I’m nat­u­rally quite fit and I look af­ter my­self. I have just turned 33, but I would de­scribe my­self as a young 33 and peo­ple will see that when I get on the pitch. I am sure I can take the chance and hit the ground run­ning.

“They are a good bunch of lads and it’s a lovely place to come and work ev­ery day. I have had a bit of time on the train­ing pitch and I’m look­ing for­ward to it.

“There were one or two in­ter­ested clubs and Brighton was among them. They were wait­ing qui­etly in the wings and, when things started heat­ing up and progress was made, I came to the sta­dium and spoke to the man­ager. It was a no-brainer.”

Chris Hughton rolled out the wel­come mat for Sid­well, and the Brighton boss will be hop­ing to see his new man – on loan un­til the end of the sea­son – re­turn the favour.

The Seag­ulls be­gan the week­end fourth in the Cham­pi­onship, back on track with a cou­ple of wins fol­low­ing a wor­ry­ing run of seven league games with­out a win and five with­out even find­ing the net.

A loss to Mid­dles­brough in De­cem­ber, how­ever, ended a streak that had seen them avoid de­feat in each of their first 21 league games this sea­son.

Sid­well ad­mits he feared for the Cham­pi­onship points record set by his Read­ing side in 200506.

“With the run of form they were on at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son and that un­beaten record, even I was look­ing over my shoul­der at the Read­ing 106 record we still hold,” he added. “There was a lit­tle blip over Christ­mas, but things are back on track and it’s just about churn­ing out re­sults on a weekly ba­sis.”

PIC­TURE: @FCOf­fi­cialBHA PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

FLASH­BACK: Sid­well in his first stint at Brighton FRIENDS RE­UNITED: Steve Sid­well is swap­ping Stoke for Brighton and, bot­tom, link­ing up with old mate Bobby Zamora

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