Today’s game between the Swansea under 21’s and Wrexham at Landore may be the last time Leon Britton is seen in a Swansea shirt, writes Fraser Watson.
ONE of the great Swansea City career appears to be drawing to an end after Leon Britton opted not to travel with the first team squad for their tour of Germany this week.
Instead Britton, 32, is set to be involved today (Wednesday) when the Swans under 21’s take on Wrexham at Landore, 3pm kick off.
The occasion may be low key, but its significance could be huge. It may well be the last time the iconic Britton is ever seen playing in a Swansea shirt.
Of course Garry Monk, and the vast majority of the Jack Army, will still harbour hopes of a late u-turn – reluctant to lose a player whose contribution to the club over 12 years, and 494 appearances, has been invaluable.
However, the former West Ham youth product is reportedly reluctant to spend his final football years in the background, and sure enough, injury problems, not to mention the vast depth Monk can now boast with his midfield options, severely limited his opportunities last season.
Regardless, the legacy that Britton will potentially leave at Swansea is already cemented.
He arrived on loan from Upton Park in December 2002, with the club battling against relegation from the old Third Division. The season of course culminated with the famous 4-2 win over Hull, keeping Bryan Flynn’s men in the football league.
Since that day, Swansea have risen in stature immeasurably, and so has Britton.
A five month stint at Sheffield United aside, which the Englishman later dubbed a ‘mistake’ after returning to South Wales under Brendan Rodgers, he remains the only player to have been a regular performer in all four professional leagues for the Swans.
And yet there has never been anything flash about his style and playing manner. Britton possesses the qualities that sound so generic on paper – he wins tackles, he works hard, he keeps possession, he distributes well, he makes himself available to teammates. His qualities are simple, but incredibly effective.
Furthermore, he has been able to adapt and indeed raise his game as the Swans have moved through the divisions – and one cannot help but feel that had he reached the top flight earlier in his career, he would be heading for the Liberty Stadium exit door with an England cap in his possession.
Perhaps a minor criticism has been the lack of goals, and just 16 league and cup strikes in all his time suggests a lack of predatory instinct in the opposition area.
Although ironically, one of Britton’s greatest moments at the club was a goal in the 2010/2011 Championship play-off semi final second leg against Nottingham Forest at the Liberty Stadium – when he curled in a left footed 25 yard shot to out his side ahead.
The fact he scored was a surprise, but the fact he was standing up to be counted in a pivotal game for the Swans, was not.
And yet it appears the final chapter of a great club career is nearing an end. His next destination is yet to be confirmed, with rumours growing of a possible move to the MLS in America.
Regardless, Britton won’t leave South Wales as simply a good club servant and fan favourite.
He will do so, rightly regarded as one of the club’s greatest ever players.