Ryan Sidebottom, the teenage reject who became an England hero


Last updated at 20:16 10 May 2008

If Ryan Sidebottom was a

vindictive man, this would be the

time for naming and shaming

and the settling of scores.


for the Yorkshire Under-15 coach who told the adolescent

left-arm swing bowler that he would

never make it as a cricketer, he is not.

Since returning to Test cricket after a

six-year absence a little less than 12

months ago, Sidebottom, now 30, has

taken 53 wickets in 12 matches with

beautifully controlled late swing

— earning a place among Wisden's

Five Cricketers of the Year and a glowing

endorsement from New Zealand

and Nottinghamshire legend Sir

Richard Hadlee that probably means

just as much.

But while his focus is set on the first

Test of the summer against New

Zealand at Lord's starting on Thursday,

that moment of rejection 16 years ago

still burns in Sidebottom.

He was 14 and making his way with

Holmfirth CC near his home town of

Huddersfield and where his father —

former Yorkshire stalwart, England

one-cap seamer and Manchester

United full-back Arnie — was the club

professional. Young Ryan had been

thrilled to get the chance to impress at

the county's Under-15 trials.

He thought he had bowled well

enough, taking 2-32. But the coach

thought otherwise, taking the trouble

to offer the young hopeful the following

well-chosen words of encouragement

in front of his team-mates: 'Find

something else to do, lad. You'll never

be good enough at cricket.'

Ryan's mother Gillian thought something

was up as he was unusually quiet

in the car on the way home. When she

stopped to drop off one of the other Huddersfield-based boys, she found

out why — between the sobs and

gulps and tears.

'I cried my eyes out,' admitted Sidebottom.

'I was just a schoolboy like

any other, wanting to do well for my

mum and dad and my grandad,

who had been driving me

all over the place to play.

'It was hard enough to be

told I had no chance of

making it. But to do it in

front of all the other lads, that was


Are we naming the coach in question?

'No. He knows who he is,' is all

Sidebottom will say.

In fact, Sidebottom has had enough

experience of cricketing rejection to

fill the pages of a self-help manual.

After making his England Test debut

against Pakistan at Lord's in May 2001,

when he struggled with nerves and finished

wicketless as Darren Gough,

Andy Caddick and Dominic Cork set

up victory by an innings.

Sidebottom was left to

return to county cricket

with Yorkshire without so

much as a 'keep at it' from

England's management at

the time.

Next, he moved to Trent

Bridge in 2004 and the following

year took 48 wickets at 22.83

to help Stephen Fleming's Nottinghamshire

win the County

Championship for the first time in 18

years. While he knew the wild celebrations

of Ashes victory meant no Test

places were available, he dared to hope

his performances might win him a

place in the England Academy, or at

the very least a word of hope from the

powers-that-were. Nothing.

Then, as day after day in the international

wilderness dawned, so did the

realisation that when England coach

Duncan Fletcher spoke of Test quicks

needing to be able to bowl near to 90mph, that

did not

include him.

All of which

may explain a

few things

about Sidebottom

now. In particular,


vein-bulging, hair-flying,


determination to

make the most of every chance

left to him since he was called up

by England for the injured

Matthew Hoggard for the second

Test against West Indies last May.

His recall, as a 'horse for course'

selection at his former home

ground Headingley, followed the

change in attitude that came with

Fletcher's replacement by new

coach Peter Moores.

It may also explain why,

although happily settled off the

field and recently married to

Katie, his partner of eight years,

Sidebottom looks as though his

fiery head is about to burst into

flames every time he takes a


And why the soft-spoken manner

that befits someone with the

nickname Sexual Chocolate —

given to him by Gough after an

appalling club singer portrayed

by Eddie Murphy in his film Coming To America — gives way to a

raging ranter whenever he bowls

a bad ball or, more controversially,

when he is let down by he

efforts of a ham-fisted colleague

in the field.

And why, when he took his hattrick

in the first Test against New

Zealand in Napier, the only people

in the ground more pleased than

him were Arnie and Gillian.

'I suppose you could say I might

not be here now if it hadn't been

for the support of my dad,' said

Sidebottom. 'Right from that day

with the Yorkshire Under-15s,

whenever I got another knockback,

he just said: “Forget

about what other people

say, keep doing your thing

and keep enjoying it.

Prove people wrong”.

'This past year has been

a bit surreal. I never did

give up hope and obviously

there was talk of

how things might be

different under the

new regime. But

when Mike Newell

called me into his

office at Trent Bridge

this time last year, my

first thought was that I

might have done something

wrong in a nightclub.

'So when I picked the phone and David Graveney

was on the other end, telling me I

had been selected for the next

Test, I was a bit taken aback, to

say the least.

'But I'm sure my experience of

having to wait so long for a second

chance means I'm not taking

anything for granted.

'I did think I might have a squeak

in 2005, maybe an opportunity to

get back in the fold and show what

I could do because the move from

Yorkshire to Notts had done me

good. I had been benefiting from

opening in both forms of the game,

learning all the time and

swinging the ball regularly.

'Duncan Fletcher is entitled

to his opinion, but I

don't think I'm that much

of a better bowler now

than then and I'm definitely

not bowling at

90mph, so maybe

I could have


given the

chance earlier.

'As for my

aggression on the field, I'm sure the experience

of playing at this level is more

intense for me because of the six

years I had to wait.

'I have been asked by Peter

Moores to try to cool it on the

pitch and while I totally understand

the reasons, I don't want to

change the way I am. I believe I'm

a better bowler when I'm angry

or fired up.

'I hate bowling badly,

so a lot of what you see is me taking

it out on myself.

'As for my reaction to catches

going down, if a batter is upset, he

can get back to the dressing room

and smash things around and no

one outside will be any the wiser,

but the second thing the cameras

pick up when a ball goes to

ground is the look on the bowler's

face and I'm not very good at hiding

my feelings.

'Generally, as a team we are all

fine; someone will take the ****,

someone will do my accent or

Kevin Pietersen will just tell me

to shut up and get on with it. But

the lads realise how desperate I

am to do well and take wickets

because for me, at 30, this is not

going to last for ever.

'Starting a career at my age, just

pulling on an England tracksuit

and running round the ground is

special. I just want to make the

most of it.'

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