For the entire week building up to yesterday’s “must win” match against Stoke Swansea City Football Club was all mouth, a number of players and coaches wheeled out to make big promises and issue rallying cries to the fans. It was the same leading up to the West Ham and Watford games too, but whereas it was all mouth and failure in those fixtures, this time little Leon made the starting line up…
…and Britts brought the trousers to go with all that mouth in the build up.
It can’t be a coincidence that a side that had talked such a good game only to simply surrender once they walked on to the pitch suddenly found the fight and courage to stand up to Stoke, Britton leading by example as ever with his wholehearted commitment in the tackle allied to his composure on the ball.
Small in stature but big as Kilvey Hill in heart, Britton’s mere presence seemed to inspire those around him on the pitch; and it sure as Hell inspired the Jack Army in the stands!
For all the angst over Joe Allen’s presence in the Stoke rather than the Swansea midfield, the Welsh international “apprentice” was given yet another lesson by his long time football “master”, Britton dominating that area of the pitch until cramp caused him to reluctantly leave the field of battle in the 86th minute. That the veteran managed to last that long despite it being his first football in nearly FOUR MONTHS tells you everything you need to know about his guts and sheer bloody minded determination.
Like many I was critical in the build up to this fixture over the sheer amount of rhetoric pumped out. Player after player pointing out how big the game would be (for the third week running), the club wheeling out Alan Tate for a rallying call, and then Paul Clement finally admitting we’d reached a “must win game” only to then surpass that – and Wayne Routledge’s “bigger than a cup final” speech – by pronouncing this was a “World Cup Final”.
However, this time the fight and commitment was actually evident on the pitch to go with all the big words…Hell even Ki Sung Yeung risked getting his head kicked off to win the ball at one point!
For my money Britton’s presence was a galvanising factor; when you talk about leadership he’s one of the few names in our squad that will instantly come to mind. His experience and know how are vital too and, let’s not forget, his skill and ability on and off the ball make a difference to us.
I also think he dovetailed nicely with the latest man to be burdened with the label of “Leon’s replacement”, Tom Carroll, and Clement could do a lot worse than to leave that partnership in place for the rest of this turbulent season.
Now at this point I could wax lyrical a lot more about Leon, what he brings to Swansea City and what he means to Swansea City’s fans…but why expend my crucial Sunday energy when someone has done all the work for me, and a far more eloquent job than I could have managed to boot?
Some of you will recognise Jack Mael – one of the best Swans fanzines ever – and Pete posts regularly on Facebook on his personal account and on his fascinating and lively Jackmail group. His tribute to Leon came up in my timeline this morning and it pretty much sums up what so many feel. Pete kindly agreed to me stealing his post to include in this article:-
Yesterday was a massive result for us and a lot of credit has to go to Leon Britton. I love the man so much I can’t put it into words but I’m going to try. When you talk about legends of the club he’s top ten easy, second only in the modern era to Robbie James and Alan Curtis in my opinion – you could argue that his achievements and service trump those guys but let’s not get into that.
When he came to us in 2002 he admitted he hadn’t even heard of Swansea, and passing Port Talbot on the M4 he thought he was entering hell itself. The club was on its arse and the fans went round the streets rattling a bucket to raise money to pay his wages and keep him at the club – the ‘Battle for Britton’ they called it. Not many of our “new” fans will know anything about this. But me and my mates do – you know who you are.
15 years later he’s still here, still pulling up trees for his adopted club. His missus is from the area and his nippers have stronger Swansea accents than Bryn Cartwright. I’ve been in his company twice and I’ve never been so tongue-tied. I love him! He’s an honest geezer who likes to get on the karaoke down Wind Street and sing ‘Baggy Trousers’ – no airs and graces with Leon Britton. My mate works for the council and picks his bins up and says it’s the highlight of his week. It’s an honour. He’s lovely apparently. I’m jealous. That’s right, I’m envious of the bloke who picks his bins up!
He turned in a colossal performance yesterday – he’s got history with Hull let’s not forget – and MUST be the first name on the team sheet for the remainder of the season. I love the man – did I mention that?
Leon. Leon. LEON.
There are many that have doubts about Leon given his advancing years (each of our managers since Laudrup for instance) but with just four games left and a week to recover between each I see no reason why our tiny talisman can’t play a crucial part in last ditch fight to stay in the Premier League.
It may not be a successful fight but Leon’s inclusion will at least inspire those on and off the pitch and a fight to the very last is all we can really ask for.
Let’s hope that Clement relies on Leon to bring the trousers to go with the mouth for the last month of the season…
…because we’ve been pants too many times without him.