STEVE SIDWELL juggles a football on his knees in the back garden of his Surrey mansion as children’s clothes hang from a crossbar behind him.
Sound odd? To Sidwell, the only strange part is that he’s kicking a ball around, without pain, just months after struggling to get up in the morning and brush his teeth.
After two operations on his back, a tearful night with wife Krystell saw the decision made that his playing career would end and the next chapter begin.
“I’m spinning plates,” Sidwell says, as he lists current projects while sitting in his dining room.
“It still feels like the honeymoon period.
“One day I’m doing the business, next day it’s studio work, next day on the radio, and next day coaching.”
He is eloquent, knowledgeable and down-to-earth, one of the key reasons Brighton wanted to retain his services as a coach in the Under-16s and appoint him club ambassador.
And then there’s the children’s clothes.
“My wife has had a passion for kids clothing, and every time we went to functions the kids looked smart and got compliments thrown our way,” the father-of-four tells SunSport.
“So it was a case of going for it and starting a children’s boutique with clothing and import ranges at the start with a view to designing clothes.
“We’re taking baby steps at the moment.”
This is not something Sidwell has just thrown money at, though: “My wife turned around and said ‘Let’s sell the Bentley’.
“We had money to start the company but she said let’s do this properly, let’s sell the car and that’s the budget.
“We sat down at this table with spreadsheets, pictures, cut-outs from magazines and talked to the kids about what they like to wear, colours.
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“It escalated really quickly. It seemed like a conversation at the start and the next thing you know the company is set up.”
And so, in January this year, Blousey Baby was born.
“The funniest thing was the name,” Sidwell says, laughing.
“Krys has an uncle who calls her Blousey from when she was a tiny baby.
“She was so small she couldn’t fit into any children’s clothes and he would buy dolls for the clothes.
“Everyone was sat around here brainstorming. I was over there on the chair and suggested Blousey Baby. It was one of those lightning bolt moments.”
He is now an academy coach and ambassador for Brighton[/caption]
Sidwell spent time playing for Aston Villa in the Premier League[/caption]
His big move came when he was bought by Jose Mourinho to play for Chelsea[/caption]
Sidwell had more success at West London neighbours Fulham[/caption]
A few months later, the couple shared a moment that wasn’t quite so cheerful.
Having been together for more than 20 years, Krystell saw Sidwell cry for the first time ever.
An operation on his back had not resolved his injury.
Another one was needed and Sidwell succumbed to the fact he was going to have to retire.
“I was doing rehab and working so hard but I was hitting a brick wall all the time,” he says.
“Sometimes I was getting out of bed in the morning and shuffling to the loo.
“I couldn’t even brush my teeth properly because of bending over. It was horrific.
He developed a reputation at the Madejski Stadium with Reading[/caption]
“I was thinking a hundred things, really: I needed a rest, I needed to come away from it, I needed to give my body the chance to shut down.
“I remember the night. My wife was in the bath. I went in there. The kids were in bed.
“I sat down and it all just came out. I was like, ‘I need to pack up’. It was brilliant, it was a weight off the shoulders.”
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As Sidwell’s recollections of that night come to an end, the only sound that can be heard is the snoring of his three-year-old French Bulldog, Blue, on a nearby sofa.
Sidwell had planned to finish his career in the MLS but is now focused on recovering so he’s able to play with his children: “The last three or four weeks I’ve done a real turn.
“This operation was the same as before but the rehab process was going to be much slower and longer. We had to make it stiff.
“Then, at the 12-week safety mark, manoeuvre it and get to the gym.
“That’s where I’m at now. The football club have been brilliant with me.”
Time spent at Brighton’s training complex in Sussex keeps Sidwell “sane”.
He enjoys media work but the sudden full stop on his playing career brought a jarring end to his daily routine.
“I had boots on everyday for 20-odd years since I left school and then I’m not wearing them. That was my day-to-day uniform,” he says.
Sidwell says it is strange not to be wearing boots after 20 years in them[/caption]
Sidwell was part of the record-breaking Reading team in 2006[/caption]
“With the coaching, you get a balance of being inside then outside on the grass. I love it all.”
A career in management is a possibility as well. Sidwell will have completed his Uefa A license by the end of the year.
“It’s nice to see players I’ve played against in my lifetime getting a shot – the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lamaprd, Kevin Nolan, Harry Kewell,” he says.
“Football is a business and it’s very hard to give a novice or newcomer a shot because there’s no time in football now.
He is pleased to see former colleagues and opponents like Frank Lampard stepping into management[/caption]
Sidwell also came up against Rangers manager Steven Gerrard[/caption]
“It’s all about tried-and-trusted, but I do think the circle of tried-and-trusted is slowly falling out one by one and hopefully the new crop will get a chance.”
For now, Sidwell will carry on spinning plates – although he’s not quite done with football.
“A lot of friends of mine around here do [veterans] football,” he says.
“There’s a friendly coming up on Sunday but that might be a bit too early for me.
“Get through Christmas and New Year and I’ll put my boots back on.”