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Legend Leon to retire

Britton, who will be 36 in September, believes the time has come to call it a day after one of the greatest Swans careers of all.

The midfielder has racked up 536 appearances, scoring 13 goals, since he first arrived at Vetch Field on loan from West Ham United back in 2002.

Having joined the fight for Football League survival under Brian Flynn in the 2002-03 campaign, Britton quickly established himself as a firm favourite among Swans fans.

Nothing has changed over the last 16 years, with the Londoner playing a central role in the Swans’ climb from the Football League basement to the top flight and the Europa League.

Britton feels he could go on for at least one more season but, after a campaign in which he has managed only five appearances, the former club skipper has opted to hang up his boots after this weekend’s Premier League game against Stoke.

“I have decided that this year will be my last as a Swans player,” he said.

“It’s a sad day obviously, but this season has been very difficult for me. I have had a lot of niggling injuries and I haven’t played a lot when I have been fit.

“I have pushed my body through a lot, playing with injuries and injections and what have you over the years, and I think now is the right time.

“I probably could play on, but this year on the first day of pre-season I did my calf in the warm-up. That kind of set the tone for the season.

“I don’t want to spend another year in the physio room and not playing. If I am being honest it’s been difficult this year and my body is telling me to stop.”

Britton became a darling of the Jack Army because of his passion, commitment and his immense quality.

He was regarded as an attacking midfielder when he arrived in Wales, and had a spell excelling on the right wing under Kenny Jackett.

But Britton will be best remembered for his sterling contributions as a midfield anchor who shielded the defence and set the tempo for his team thanks to his superb passing ability.

Having helped the Swans avoid the drop to the Conference in his first few months at the club, Britton joined on a permanent deal.

He was part of the side that won promotion from League Two in 2004-05 and was a central figure in the 2007-08 League One title triumph.

Having established himself in the Championship, he joined Sheffield United in the summer of 2010 only to return a few months later after admitting he had made a mistake when leaving the Swans.

Four months after Britton was re-signed by Brendan Rodgers, the Swans won promotion to the Premier League courtesy of Wembley victory over Reading in the Championship play-off final.

Britton took the step up to the top tier in his stride, helping the Swans establish themselves as a Premier League club.

He collected a Capital One Cup winners’ medal in 2013 and was part of the following season’s Europa League adventure.

Britton has not been a first-team regular in recent times, although he was hugely influential in the Swans’ successful fight against relegation last season having been recalled by Paul Clement in the closing stages of the campaign.

This term, Britton has had a succession of injury issues, while he took on coaching responsibilities for a spell under Clement and then had two games as caretaker boss before Carlos Carvalhal was appointed.

“Calling it a day makes this a strange day for me,” Britton added.

“Football is all I have known and when I was a kid, playing football was all I wanted to do.

“I have been very fortunate to be able to play professionally for as long as I have. It is going to be strange for me, especially when the team come back for pre-season in July.

“But I have to look back and say I have been very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had. To play as long as I have done and to have been on the journey I have with Swansea has been a privilege.

“I count myself very lucky to have the career I have had.”

 

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Leon Britton

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