Wayne's world is a happy one
30th March 2013
From the outside looking in, it would appear as though Wayne Routledge is something of a footballing journeyman.
But in reality, that couldn't be further from the truth.
The Swans winger is now at his ninth different club in a career that began back in 2001 at Crystal Palace, making his debut as a fresh-faced 16-year-old.
Following 110 appearances for Palace and a number of excellent displays, Routledge was tipped for a bright future.
12 years and seven clubs later, his 56 appearances for Swansea since arriving in the summer of 2011 is now the most he has made since leaving Selhurst Park for today's opponents back in 2005.
"That's quite an amazing stat," said Routledge. "A lot of people have mentioned the fact that I have had a lot of clubs, but I've always just wanted to play football - for me that is the most important thing.
"But the football I'm playing now is up there with the best I've ever played in my career, and it's no coincidence that this is a club where I've played the most number of games since I started my career.
"The style of football we play here is a massive help. Not only that, but all the players here are very comfortable on the ball.
"Playing with those sorts of players are crucial to helping you play that way and the fans here are seeing the best of me."
After arriving at the Liberty Stadium in the summer of 2011, Routledge featured 30 times as the Swans finished 11th in the Premier League last season.
However, a number of those appearances came from the substitutes bench and it is only now that the winger has been able to showcase his fledgling talent in SA1.
His impressive displays didn't go unnoticed by the club's hierarchy, as the 28-year-old penned a new contract back in January.
"You go to some clubs and it is difficult to implement your game, but here I feel as though it is a lot easier to do the things I'm good at," he said.
"The gaffer gives us all the freedom we want, particularly at the top end of the pitch. Obviously we have a certain shape and an understanding of how to play, but at the right end of the pitch you stick to the principles that there is a licence to create and be free.
"I was delighted to get the contract all signed and finalised. I'm playing some of the best football of my career and hopefully that can continue."
This afternoon sees Routledge come up against just one of his former clubs.
After bursting onto the scene at Crystal Palace, he was one of the hottest properties outside of the Premier League.
Promotion with the Eagles in 2004 enabled Routledge to test his credentials in the top-flight - a test he passed with flying colours as Tottenham made their move in July 2005.
His career at White Hart Lane began well, but a broken foot on his league debut curtailed his progress, with loan spells as Portsmouth and Fulham following.
"It was the start of a good time there," he recalls. "The team was about to kick on and I joined the club when that was in progress.
"I signed at the same time as the likes of Tom Huddlestone and Aaron Lennon - two players that have gone on and done well for Spurs.
"Unfortunately it didn't quite work out for me there, but they are still progressing as we speak and the team at the moment is a very, very good one and one that is only going to get better."
Spurs arrive at the Liberty this afternoon on the back of consecutive league defeats against Liverpool and Fulham.
The north London club currently sit fourth in the Premier League table - just four points ahead of rivals Arsenal in the quest for Champions League football next season.
But with the Swans looking to get back to winning ways, Routledge knows all too well about the threat that the visitors will pose this afternoon.
"There are certainly no easy games in the Premier League," he said. "Especially when you play against a side that is so good going forward.
"Not only that, but they are solid at the back and they have a strong midfield. They are an excellent side and we know we are in for a tough game. But we'll prepare for it in the right way and hopefully we can come out of it with a positive result.
"You only have to look at their substitutes bench in recent weeks to see just how strong a squad they have. They have the likes of Hudds (Tom Huddlestone) and Jake Livermore in their ranks - two players that are technically very, very good."
Today's game will also see a couple of familiar faces return to the Liberty Stadium.
Both Steven Caulker and Gylfi Sigurdsson played an integral part in the Swans' success last season as the club finished 11th in their maiden Premier League campaign.
Caulker has since gone on to make 27 appearances for Spurs this year, as well as earning a call up to the senior England squad.
Sigurdsson, meanwhile, who scored seven goals in 18 games while on loan at the Liberty, is now finding his feet at White Hart Lane after his summer move from Hoffenheim.
"Caulks has done so well," said Routledge. "He came here last year and had a really, really good season and did very well for us.
"He's gone back to Spurs and despite the competition and the quality of squad they have, he has made an impression when given the chance and that has earned him a call up to the England squad.
"The future is looking very bright for him. If he keeps his head down and works hard then I don't see why he can't become a regular on the international scene."
With just eight games left to play, the season now enters an exciting climax at both ends of the table.
But with the Swans heading for another mid-table finish and a first domestic trophy already in the cabinet, it has been another year to remember in these parts.
And Routledge paid tribute to his fellow team-mates as they look to end the campaign on a new high.
"As a team, this is the best I've played in," he said. "I've been fortunate enough to play with some great individual players, but as an all round team this is by far the best.
"We work hard for each other, we know where we are going and what we need to achieve in order to get there."