How Sidwell scaled the scaffold to a high life at Villa

At Arsenal, there were heated floors. At Chelsea, there was a fingerprint entry system to the training ground.

And while Steve Sidwell was on loan at Brentford? He washed using a hose attached to a hot water tap - the best shower in the place.

Aston Villa's midfielder can now accept the privilege of being with a big club. After spells in Belgium, at Brighton and Brentford, among others, he feels he has earned it.

It could have been so different, of course. Had he managed to crack it in London, he would be with one of the top four. At Villa Park, he's with wannabes. But despite a decent bank balance, his hunger remains.

Why? Read on.

Punching his weight: Sidwell faces former club Arsenal ¿ after a howler against Middlesbrough last Sunday

Point to prove: Sidwell faces former club Arsenal - after a howler against Middlesbrough last Sunday

'My old man has a scaffolding business and, when I was a young lad with Arsenal, he would make me go to his yard,' he explained.

'I'd sweep up and make sure nails on the floor didn't burst his lorries' tyres. He did it to keep my feet on the ground.

'One day he turned to me and said: "You can either work hard and make a great living for yourself - or you can get up at 6am and work to 6pm like me and your brother, slogging our guts out in all weathers".'

So, while with Arsenal, he went on loan to Brentford to better himself.

'At Arsenal, you are taken everywhere. You never take equipment out. You take off your trainers after training, put your flip-flops on and wander around on the heated floor.

'At Brentford, I paid for my lunch. But I loved it. It took me out of my comfort zone. That's what going out on loan does for you.' Sidwell returns to Arsenal this afternoon, his one regret after spending 11 years at the club was that he never made a first-team appearance.

He ended up making plenty at Reading, from where he moved to Chelsea.

'People have said that I shouldn't have left Arsenal, but it was hard in my position. I had two World Cup winners, Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit, in front of me. Then they brought in Gilberto Silva.

'When I was younger, I trained with Wimbledon and Crystal Palace. If I'd gone with them, then I might have got into the first team quicker. Any young players I bump into now, faced with the same dilemma, I say to them: "Go to the big club. It will only improve you".

'And Arsenal were fantastic. I wouldn't change it. I was there from the age of nine. I was watching their Carling Cup game the other night (a 3-0 win over Wigan on Tuesday). It didn't surprise me at all. It's drummed into you at an early age to want the ball.

'Arsene Wenger's secret is that he can get the most out of a player. I respect him. He could have kept me, but he told me I wasn't going to play, that I should go and get some games.

Young Gunner: Sidwell in pre-season action for Arsenal

Young Gunner: Sidwell in pre-season action for Arsenal

'Going to Reading was a step down to come back up. Steve Coppell is one of the best managers and the mentality we had was the same as is driven into you at Arsenal. We knew we would win the Championship that year. We'd turn up to games knowing we would win, it was just a case of by how many.'

Sidwell's form over a four-season spell earned him a lucrative Bosman move to Chelsea, which made him financially secure.

'It was like Fort Knox getting into the car park, never mind the building. That training ground was fantastic. It is the best - and they expect the best. They are given star treatment. It was the Roman Abramovich touch, the fingerprint system.

'The whole club were on a different level. We would go on away trips, head out of the hotel for a walk and have security around us, non-stop.

'They'd smell out photographers, prevent people from getting autographs. It does seem like the players have big egos, a bit popstar-ish, but they are quite shy.

'It doesn't matter about the salaries, they like to be left alone. People can mistake it for arrogance. But you are seen as public property, not private individuals.

'And, after a year there, I could see what the stress that playing for a big club is all about. You have to be a big character to play under that pressure every week. We'd go into every team meeting and it would be: "We need to win this, so get yourself up for it".

'The year I spent with Chelsea, I was away from my family more than I'd ever been. We were on the road five days-a-week. You'd get back at 4am from a Champions League game. Six hours later, you'd be in training. There were no days off. It is full-on.

'Full on': Sidwell in a rare appearance for Chelsea

'Full on': Sidwell makes a rare appearance for Chelsea

'That's why people should have the utmost respect for John Terry and Frank Lampard. Those boys are doing it year in, year out. At first, your body is in shock, playing that number of matches. I thought to myself: "I can't do this", but then you become immune to it. Obviously, I was only there for a week when Mr Scolari was in charge. But he was very much like Jose Mourinho. No one turned up late to his meetings. Training was tough. And Chelsea will win the League.'

And so to Villa. This week, Sidwell needed the philosophical outlook that he developed at Arsenal after a shocking error against Middlesbrough at Villa Park. His late backpass gifted Tuncay the winner.

Howler: But Sidwell is philosophical about gifting Middlesbrough a goal

Howler: But Sidwell is philosophical about gifting Middlesbrough a goal (above)

Sidwell said: 'I've never had to deal with anything as bad as that before. That has to be the worst moment of my career. I didn't get much sleep. It was just a horrible feeling. I watched it on Sunday night about 100 times. I still don't know what I was doing.'

On a more positive note, Sidwell believes that, in attack, Villa can be a match for anyone.

'We're as fast as anyone and we can score goals. We can scrap it out with people and we can play. The consistency is in there somewhere, but we know after two defeats we need a result at Arsenal.'

That should surprise no one. After his education thus far, Sidwell really does not know any other way.

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