Leon Britton: How long can midfielder enjoy the Swansea buzz?

By Dafydd PritchardBBC Wales Sport
Leon Britton and a young fan
A young fan takes a selfie with Swansea veteran Leon Britton

New kits, new signings, pristine pitches, Leon Britton in a Swansea City team. Some things about the start of a new season never seem to change.

Swansea have had more campaigns with Britton in their squad than they have had years at their Liberty Stadium home.

He has played more than 500 games for the club, spread over two spells stretching back to 2002 and spanning all top four tiers of the English football pyramid.

To say Britton is a part of the furniture at Swansea would be to overstate the permanence of the club's chairs and sofas.

But at 34-years-old, even Britton has contemplated life beyond the Swans' midfield.

At times last season, it seemed as if former managers Francesco Guidolin and Bob Bradley were trying to phase him out of the side.

With the team sinking deeper into relegation strife, the future looked bleak for the diminutive passing metronome who had helped Swansea avoid relegation from the Football League in 2003 and rise to the top flight.

Did Britton ever wonder that his time might be up?

"Yeah, the probably are times like that, I'm not going to lie," he says.

"All players train so they play on the weekend, and if you're not playing on the weekend, then… as much as I love training, there's no better buzz as a footballer than stepping out on the pitch on Saturday and playing in a match."

That buzz was back by the end of last season, as Britton reclaimed his place in the team to play his part in a remarkable escape from relegation.

'I still feel fit, I still feel strong'

He then signed a new one-year contract in the summer, with the option of a further 12 months.

"I don't know what's going to happen this season," Britton adds.

"I've got this year with the option of another year, depending on how many games I play so, if the worst case scenario was I didn't hit the amount of games, then we'd have to see what happens at the end of the season.

"But I still feel fit, I still feel strong.

"When you play in some of those games with the atmosphere and what's riding on those games, there's big pressure, but it's enjoyable.

Paul Clement thanks Leon Britton for his efforts against Sunderland in May, 2017
Paul Clement thanks Leon Britton for his efforts against Sunderland in May, 2017

"When you get the result of course it's more enjoyable - it's just what you want to be involved in.

"It does make you think, if there was any self-doubt or anything in your mind, you can still play at this level."

Swansea start their Premier League season at Southampton on Saturday, and Britton is expected to captain the team in his usual place at the base of their midfield.

His focus remains on playing during this campaign, but his new contract also guarantees Britton a coaching role at Swansea after he retires.

He has been studying for his coaching badges with the Football Association of Wales and has completed his A Licence, one rung below the highest qualification, the Pro Licence.

In head coach Paul Clement, he has a useful source of advice for his career once he has retired.

Clement's mug read: 'Keep calm and play Britton'

And in turn, in Britton, Clement has a trusty lieutenant on the field.

While the midfielder was inspiring Swansea's bid for survival last season, Clement was given a mug adorned with the words 'Keep calm and play Britton'.

"He brought it down and showed it to me. I was in the gym and he was having a cup of tea in it," Britton says, laughing.

"He asked me if my Mrs sent it in! It's funny and was just a bit of banter.

"He came down and made a joke about it, it was quite funny to be fair. Maybe it did work in the end.

"The experienced players are the ones the manager looks to maybe not for advice, but to speak to. I speak to him on different bits and pieces when he feels he needs to.

"I'm always here for him if he ever needs me to do anything to try and help. He knows he only needs to speak to me, it's no problem."

The motto on the mug is one which has served Swansea well over the past 15 years.

Cherishing every moment

And while Britton does not know how much longer he has in a Swans shirt, he is cherishing every moment he has left.

"When you're 20 or early in your career you have a long way ahead, but when you're at the back end of your career, you don't know when it could end," he says.

"You have to make sure you enjoy it because if you speak to any ex-pro they tell you you're a long time retired and that you should keep playing as long as you can.

"It will be hard to replace the buzz, so you have to savour every moment because you don't know when you're going to finish."

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