Wayne Routledge: Swansea City winger relishes senior role

Wayne Routledge
Wayne Routledge captained Swansea City in the 6-0 Carabao Cup win over Cambridge in August

Wayne Routledge is reminded of his senior status at Swansea City each time he steps into the dressing room.

It is almost two decades since Routledge, aged just 16, made his senior debut for Steve Bruce's Crystal Palace.

But he has not forgotten a conversation he had at the time with Eagles team-mate Dougie Freedman, who was not a fan of rap.

"I used to walk into the Crystal Palace changing room and they would be playing DMX and stuff like that," Routledge tells BBC Sport Wales.

"I remember Dougie Freedman saying to me, 'Why have you constantly got that music on? Wait until you get to my age and you will change'.

"I have started to understand what he meant.

"But it's cool. The young players keep me motivated. It's good for them and it's good for me."

Routledge, who will be 35 in January, smiles as he considers his position as the most experienced player in a Swans squad packed with youngsters.

He may not play as many games as he once did these days, but Routledge is a key figure at his club.

He sets an example for others to follow, and is admired by players and coaching staff alike.

"It's nice for anybody to be respected in any profession," Routledge says.

"When it's your team-mates and they look up to you, it's nice because it feels like you are doing the right thing.

"You are showing them the way forward, how things should be, how you should work every day, what you should aspire to.

"It's nice because we have quite a young squad. I see some of the frustrations sometimes and I see times where people can do more or they can improve or they are doing really well.

"If I am here I can help them, talk through where they are at. If that accelerates their development, I get a little bit joy out of that."

Routledge was a nomad in the first decade of his career. Having come through with Palace, his local club, Routledge had stints at Tottenham, Portsmouth, Fulham, Aston Villa, Cardiff, Queens Park Rangers (twice) and Newcastle before signing for Swansea.

Eight years since Brendan Rodgers brought him to south west Wales, Routledge has clocked up 266 Swansea appearances.

He has found a footballing home.

Yet with his contract up last summer, there were serious doubts over Routledge's future, with the club initially announcing he had been released before offering him a new deal. So did he think his time was up?

"To be honest with you, yeah," Routledge says.

"It was all up in the air. But credit to the club and the chairman when he came in. He said, 'If we could sort something out, we would like to keep you'. That's what transpired."

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The uncertainty was partly down to the fact that Routledge had been on a Premier League contract and Swansea needed to cut costs.

But while others in a similar position - such as Wilfried Bony, Leroy Fer and Martin Olsson - departed, Routledge stayed on.

Swansea wanted to have him around and, despite interest from elsewhere, Routledge was willing to commit to a new one-year deal on Championship wages.

"It's well-documented, the finances of the club," he says. "Obviously I have taken a significant drop, but that wasn't the be all and end all for me.

"The be all and end all was that I didn't know what was happening with the club. There were lots of people leaving. We came to an agreement that I could stay and I am happy to be here."

While Routledge remained, Swansea lost key forwards Dan James and Oli McBurnie to Premier League clubs having seen manager Graham Potter leave for Brighton.

After the progress made last season, Swansea's first back in the second tier following relegation in 2018, they were three heavy blows for the club to take.

Yet under Steve Cooper, the former England Under-17 coach who took charge in June, Swansea have maintained momentum.

"Last year we made big steps, trying to re-implement a football philosophy here," says Routledge.

"The manager has carried that on and brought in his own aspects. I feel we are going in the right direction.

"Obviously it's a work in progress, but the fundamentals are in place."

Wayne Routledge
Wayne Routledge scored a decisive late goal when Swansea won at Leeds United in August

Cooper calls Routledge "an asset in so many ways" because he "does not have a bad day at work".

Routledge, meantime, says his 10th Swansea boss has made a big impression.

"We have a lot of young players and he has a hell of a lot of experience with young players and their mentality," Routledge says.

"He is helping them come along and the boys are willing to learn so it works really well. The environment here is perfect for a footballer."

Fourth in the Championship ahead of their weekend trip to Barnsley, Swansea will head north in a positive mood despite an unexpected home loss to Stoke last time out.

It has been an encouraging opening to the season, particularly after that turbulent summer left fans wondering what 2019-20 would bring.

But Cooper's side have done enough in the first quarter of the campaign to suggest they can compete at the top end of the table right through until May.

"That's the challenge," Routledge adds.

"If I can help the team and the squad achieve our goals and keep us high up in the table, I am happy."

That is Routledge - a footballer who appears content. Except when the music is turned up in the dressing room, of course.

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