Routs… a ledge?
A painful journey back in time...
by Chris Leadbeater
Lets take a painful journey back to this time a little more than a year ago….recently relegated Swansea City are readying themselves for a return to the second tier of English football.
When I say readying I can only take a guess at the Board drawing up lists of who will leave, who should leave and who they’d be left with. Our new Manager, the promising Graham Potter is probably doing the same.
Players working out if they would be leaving, be that through choice, desire or by force.
Heartbroken, loyal fans scratching their heads hoping the Chairman had time warped himself back to happier times and pulled off another miracle in appointing Potter. Then wondering what squad he’d have to work with, knowing full well that the American owners wouldn’t be putting many cents in the bucket.
One player I didn’t expect to be sticking around for the 2019/20 season was Wayne Routledge.
Fair enough, I expected the likes of Fabianski to remain in top flight football, he deserved it. I’d have driven him to West Ham with my compliments, hand shakes and good lucks.
For me Routs sat in a bracket of “would probably go”. He joined us ahead of the first EPL season in 2011, made just shy of 200 Premier League appearances, won the League Cup and scored 3 goals in the Europa League for us without ever really setting the world alight.
His exit through being on Premier League wages, 33 years old and with just a year left on his contract was expected. Possibly a move to another Championship club or the MLS maybe?
Come August and he’s still there along with Nathan Dyer. Confusingly, both on big wages yet neither featuring. Seemingly unwanted by the new Gaffer and, it seemed, not wanted by anyone else either!
Routs didn’t feature in the match day squad until he warmed the bench versus Forest in mid-September. A full 90 followed away to Stoke the next week which probably surprised him as much as us, then two more appearances would come to make a grand total of 169 minutes on the field by the 21st league match of the season. He and Nathan Dyer had both by this point been told by Potter they were free to leave in January.
Then suddenly, Twitter was awash with confused fans wondering why Routs (and Dyer) had suddenly come back into the fold for a mid table clash away to Brentford. Having slipped to 12th in the league, 3 defeats on the bounce, just one win in the last 5 (away to Bolton, 1-0 if you’re interested) and Potter giving Claudio Ranieri a run for his “tinkerman” money, the confused faces might have a point… or did they?
It took Wayne just 22 seconds to get the fans cheering his work again! McBurnie and McKay putting early pressure on a Brentford defence to win the ball on the edge of the area. Routs sliding in ahead of the Brentford defence to pop McKay’s ball in the net, GET IN!! He’d put a 79 minute shift in that day, with the Swans racing to a 3-0 lead before the half hour mark, before clinging on to a crucial 3-2 win.
A full 90 followed a week later back at the Liberty against Sheffield Wednesday, with another goal too. Routs provided the winner, the second of a quick fire double in a match turned around by a Celina show. An excellently timed run and a trademark winger’s goal.
From there on in Routs missed just 5 of the remaining 25 league matches, two of which were through injury, popping up with another 3 goals in the process and winning fans over with talisman like performances.
But surely Wayne was just playing for a new contract right?
34 years old now, out of contract at the end of the year?
Well, that may be true as in order to play Routs waived an appearance related auto-renewal clause on his Premier League wage contract. If he didn’t play he was almost certain to be released given those terms the club could ill afford. After a brief period where it looked like he wasn’t going to be retained by the club, that new contract came on a reportedly reduced salary.
As an elder statesman in an inexperienced squad, one of the last remaining reminders of those heady days of League Cup wins and beating Valencia at the Mestella; who better, who more indicative of the spirit currently oozing through the squad under Cooper to stick the ball in the net in the last minute of a tough trip to Elland Road the other day than Routs?
Age is just a number!
A few more Elland Road type winners on the way to a Premier League promotion and yes, Routs will be elevated to full blown LEDGE!