The new life of Swansea City cult figure Kemy Agustien, the car crash that almost killed him and ...
After cutting through the noise, it soon becomes clear there's more to Kemy Agustien, too.
On the face of it, the narrative around the Curaçaoan's career is pretty simple and, perhaps easy to write off as a classic tale of what might have been.
Indeed, there can be no denying the man's capabilities with a ball at his feet.
Former team-mate Garry Monk once said of the midfielder: “I think if you could keep him fit and keep him focused, he could be one of the best players in the squad."
However, such glowing reviews inevitably lead to questions.
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Indeed, going from being a shining light against Manchester United to signing on for Northern Premier League outfit Mickleover Sports - Agustien's 12th club in five years - isn't exactly the most ordinary of career paths.
But within minutes of sitting down with him, it's clear his enthusiasm for the game remains as strong as ever.
The 33-year-old has been around the block more times than many others, and has had his fair share of highs and lows.
And, when he thinks of the good times, Swansea City is the first name that springs to mind.
"Football-wise, it was the best time for me," he explains. "It was like a family.
"We had great memories there, so it's always going to be a special place for me."
With a League Cup winner's medal sitting on his shelf, it's easy to see why, but we soon learn his fondness for his spell in SA1 goes beyond simply winning silverware.
Agustien's first taste of English football came in the form of a loan spell with Birmingham City in 2008, where he managed to impress, despite some real injury troubles.
Birmingham were keen to make the move permanent, with Agustien's parent club AZ Alkmaar responding by demanding the Blues cough up a hefty transfer fee.
Agustien returned to the Netherlands, no doubt believing his dream of making it in English football was dead.
"My agent back then went to watch a tournament somewhere and he was in contact with Brendan Rodgers," he explained.
"Rodgers told him that he wanted to sign a midfielder and my agent just said 'listen, I've got a player for you' and, coincidentally, they were on pre-season in Holland."
The current Leicester City boss, according to Agustien, just couldn't hide his admiration for the midfielder and, after finally being released by Alkmaar, Rodgers gave him the chance to impress during a trial out in his native Netherlands.
Frustratingly, adversity wasn't far behind, with Agustien picking up another serious injury, this time to his knee, which kept him out for the rest of pre-season.
"It was the last game of the trial week, the whole game I played well and scored in the second game," he remembered.
"Then the last game we played Den Haag. I made a tackle and got injured about 75 minutes in, then went straight back inside.
"Rodgers left the pitch and came inside. He told me not to worry, that he still wanted to sign me.
"That was quite a calm thing to say for me. I was thinking it was all over."
Agustien's short trial was enough to earn him a place within the club's inner circle and, despite offers from elsewhere, there was only one club he was ever going to sign for.
"After that, I stayed in contact with Ashley Williams and Garry Monk," he explains. "They were texting me the whole time to try to find out what was going on.
"They were really keen to bring me in. They made a group chat between those two, the gaffer and me. So we were constantly speaking.
"I could've gone to Spain. But because they did so much to try and bring me in, the only thing I wanted to do was to be a player with the Swans."
But despite seemingly having his foot in the door, Agustien's injury problems hampered his start to life in SA1, and he played just eight times during his first season.
"After the injuries in the September and October, the team was quite settled already. So for me it was very difficult to get into the team," he added.
"But Brendan was very keen on saying 'I can't let you go because I want you to be part of the team and I need you'.
"That went on and on for a little bit. Then I think in January, I said 'gaffer, come on, it's been two, three, four months now'.
"I'd been playing but I needed to play regularly.
"So he let me go but he told me that I needed to come back."
That March, Agustien went on loan to Crystal Palace, but with his team-mates back in south Wales on the march to a historic play-off final, Swansea was never far away from his thoughts.
"Before the play-off final against Reading, I spoke to Brendan and he said 'listen, Kem. Whatever happens, don't worry. I need you to be here next season, because we're going to the Premier League'," he said.
"Then, I started the first game in the Premier League. That was unbelievable."
Agustien made his Premier League debut in a 4-0 loss to Manchester City, but even a heavy defeat could do little to lessen the weight of his achievement.
"To not really be involved in the season before when they were in the Championship, to come back and start playing in the Premier League," he said.
"No-one can ever, ever take that away from me."
But after tasting such an incredible high, injuries continued to hamper his progress.
After 16 games spent basking in the rays at English football's top table, Agustien's season was ended by an ankle problem.
Timing can be cruel in football, and with Agustien sidelined for the last few months of his contract, he must have once again been fearing the worst.
"I was injured during the final few months of my contract and I met with Rodgers. I asked him 'gaffer are you really going to be here next season?'
"But he told me 'Kem, I'm staying. Just sign a new contract'.
"So I signed and then before he made it public that he was going to go to Liverpool he told me, 'listen, Kem. This is a life-changing opportunity. I can't let this go away'.
"What was I supposed to say? It was his dream and it was an amazing achievement for him.
Perhaps he didn't know it at the time, but looking back, it was the beginning of the end of his time in south Wales.
When Michael Laudrup was appointed as Rodgers' successor later that month, it came with no shortage of fanfare.
Here they were, little old Swansea City, the club that battled back from oblivion to reach the dizzying heights of the Premier League, and now able to attract one of the most famous names in world football.
"Don't get me wrong. I still think he's a very good guy, but as a manager for me, compared to Rodgers, he was totally different.
"Rodgers was there as an observer. His man-management skills were unbelievable. Laudrup was still enjoying playing.
"So every session he was joining in, not really focusing on what players were doing.
"For him, the most important thing was the 11 players and the rest, he didn't really care about. That's how I felt.
"As a manager, the 11 or 12 players outside the starting XI are the most important players for you. If you keep them happy the rest will follow."
Having enjoyed such a close working relationship with Laudrup's predecessor, Agustien feels he was never really given a fair crack of the whip under the Dane.
"For me personally, he never really spoke to me," he added.
"Every player needs to get something from the manager to keep going.
"With Laudrup it never really happened like that."
Then, in September, came a moment that arguably placed everything in perspective.
While back in the Netherlands, Agustien was involved in a very serious car accident - one that very nearly cost him his life.
The incident was kept under wraps for about two months, with the official line being that Agustien had come down with a calf injury.
When the real story came out, Agustien said: "It was bad - I am lucky to be alive.
"I was back home in Holland and driving my car but for no reason it slipped and hit a ditch. The car went into a cornfield and flipped over a couple of times.
"And I've been saying my prayers ever since. I thank God every day anyway but I had my angel with me when it happened."
Agustien recovered, but his relationship with Laudrup remained frosty.
"Holding things back? That's not me," he says, looking back. "Perhaps I need to sometimes to keep my mouth shut more, but that's not who I am and I think he [Laudrup] didn't like that."
"Myself, as a player, I say what I think and if they don't like me I'd rather have a discussion to speak about it.
And yet, while Agustien was seemingly doing his best not to blow up at his new boss, Swansea were enjoying one of their greatest ever seasons - and the man himself did have some moments to savour from it.
Agustien's football still did the talking for him. His superb man-of-the-match appearance against Manchester United is still a part of Swansea folklore, and was enough to give him cult-hero status with the Jack Army.
And, despite not playing in the League Cup final, the winner's medal from that day is still one of the most prized pieces of memorabilia from his career.
Assessing that success, he says: "The players were sort of doing everything, and I think because we had that group of players, we got away with it.
"We won the cup, but we did it as players. We didn't really have the manager coming in and doing tactics or anything because we did it by ourselves."
Another ankle injury shortly after that momentous afternoon at Wembley undoubtedly harmed his chances of fighting his way back into the team, and by the summer of 2013, his departure was more or less confirmed when he, Leroy Lita and Alan Tate were left out of the club's pre-season tour.
Indeed, he tells of how a difficult two-year stint at Brighton pushed his love for the game to the very limit.
"There was a certain pressure coming out of Swansea and going to Brighton," he explained.
"I had a meeting with the manager back then, and he told me how he wanted to play a certain way and that he wanted me to play in a certain position, as a number 10.
"For me, to start in that position was like adapting to a new style, and I wasn't really fit because I didn't really have a pre-season because of what happened with Swansea. I came quite late and I was overweight.
Brighton proved a struggle, with Agustien playing just 13 games for the Seagulls, although his efforts weren't helped by yet more injury woes, including a thigh problem that saw him sidelined for seven months.
When he was released in 2015, it must have felt like he'd been chewed up and spat back out.
Short spells in the Philippines, Denmark, Scotland and his native Netherlands followed, but for one reason or another none of them really amounted to anything.
"I went without an agent and went back to Holland and I did everything on my own.
"Then one of my good friends became an agent and I asked if he could help me."
In 2018, Agustien earned himself a short-term deal at non-league Barrow, where he said he "had a good time", but left after the club failed to agree a long-term deal.
"That wasn't a good move. At all," he recalls.
"I thought they'd play a certain way that would suit me.
"I went there, and they put me straight into the team, but I think the players couldn't deal with the pressure of promotion or being in the play-offs.
"They were so scared and they just constantly went direct. That's not my type of game."
After a testing summer, and a fleeting spell at Bradford Park Avenue, Agustien now believes he has settled down again, so much so he is ready to pass his love of the game on to the next generation.
"I'm at Mickleover on a non-contract basis. I'm just trying to get my fitness up. I've brought my family over because my son's got a big chance of signing for Villa.
"He's a good player, but I'm always telling him how much we love him, how much we trust him.
"I tell him to do whatever he feels is best for him and to make sure he loves football every day, because you want to love what you do and work hard every day."
When looking at his own career, many will understandably point to Agustien's injury record as a key hindrance, but the man himself is pretty philosophical on things.
"I take the blame on myself. Most of the stuff I always take on myself.
"At the end of the day, it's my career, my way of thinking. I can say a lot about someone else, but at the end of the day it's all my responsibility.
"Back then if I'd given a little bit more, eaten a bit more healthy, just little things - I think it would have helped me and benefited me.
"I probably wasn't doing everything possible in that way, so I have a responsibility on myself."
However, the memories of the good times ultimately endure, and Swansea is never too far away from his mind.
"I keep my eye on all the players that I used to play with, but I'm still quite close to Ashley [Williams].
"He actually brought me in at Birmingham to train with the under-23s.
"I started doing really well and I was close to signing actually, but because of the transfer ban they couldn't do anything.
"That's why I was playing for Barrow. I was playing my games for the under-23s with Birmingham to get fit.
"Garry said 'Kem, I've known you from the first day you came to Swansea, and I respect you for the person you are. We all make mistakes in life, but I think you deserve a second chance'."
Were it not for a transfer ban, Agustien may well have been back in the Championship.
Football is littered with these sort of sliding doors moments, but as our chat comes to a close, there's the feeling those words have really stuck with Agustien, who despite everything, clearly has no intention of walking away just yet.
"As long as my body can keep going. I'll keep going.
Source: Football/Soccer News Online