I’m not overly convinced by the argument of “never go back” when it comes to signing your former players. Granted, there are plenty of cases when returns don’t work out - see the returns of Glen Little and Dave Kitson for two Reading examples, but that principle won’t necessarily apply across the board.
The reason I raise this - which you already know, presuming you’ve read the title - is that a team mate of Little and Kitson, Steve Sidwell, is now without a club. The midfield linchpin of that famous 2005/06 side announced on Monday afternoon that he would be leaving Brighton and Hove Albion after a two and a half-year spell at the Amex, during which time the Seagulls have won promotion to the Premier League and then stayed there.
At 35, Sidwell is no spring chicken, but the flip side of that is a wealth of first and second tier experience accrued not only from Reading and Brighton, but also Chelsea, Aston Villa, Fulham and Stoke City. Experience and leadership, particularly in the midfield, is exactly what Reading lack right now. Liam Kelly and John Swift add youthful flair, whereas Leandro Bacuna adds a reckless energy, but Paul Clement currently can’t call on any calm head in the middle of the park to keep the team in check.
Why shouldn’t that be Steve Sidwell? The Englishman has racked up more than 450 appearances in his 17-year career and, quite simply, has the know-how that was sorely lacking last season. How we could have used a proper leader when Cardiff City pulled it back to 2-1, Ipswich Town went 1-0 up at the Madejski Stadium, or on countless other occasions when game management failed.
Giving a one year contract to Sidwell, who’ll know Clement from their shared time at Chelsea, will make the manager’s job next season that bit easier (irrelevant side point, both were born in Wandsworth). To impose the discipline needed to whip Reading back into shape, Clement needs a proven leader - Sidwell is that man.
Re-signing Sidwell would also give a huge boost to a fanbase that could really use one. Even if he doesn’t play that much - he didn’t appear once last season - seeing his name on the team sheet again after a decade would give the supporters something to chant about, something to really get behind.
When I floated this on Twitter on Monday afternoon, it not only seemed that there was a clear majority in favour of bringing Sidwell back, but there was real enthusiasm for the idea.
“100%. Model professional.” @burts89
“In a heartbeat. Type of character needed, knows the club and values that come with it, and most importantly can still do a job at Championship level.” @TomWHall
And my personal favourite:
“I would rip all my limbs off and crawl to Brighton on my tongue to give him a piggy back the whole way back here.” @Persandwichman
You can see all the other responses right here.
In all likelihood, the move won’t happen - after all, Clement doesn’t have the same sense of nostalgia that we do, but I’d love it if it did.
Come home Steve.