I truly, truly believe that John Swift is the best football player at our club and - on his day - one of the best in the division. He has consistently been criticised for being too much of a luxury player, one that doesn’t get his hands dirty or stuck into challenges. My answer to that is this: why does he need to?
We are so caught up in the perception that he should be defending more that we forget how much of a joy he is to watch in full flow going forward - his goal on Saturday against Nottingham Forest being a prime example of this.
I also feel he’s been used as a bit of a scapegoat, especially in the first half of this season - when he was no worse than any other player. He became an easy target when things were going horribly wrong because he was never going to fit into how Paul Clement wanted to play.
From the get-go, Clement wanted to play direct football with a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3, and that was always going to be difficult for a player like Swift to fit into. The former boss even tried to get him into the team as one of the front two, but it never really worked.
It’s no coincidence that, as soon as Jose Gomes came in and started playing Swift in his best position, we see the best he has to offer. I’m a big believer in playing your best players in their best positions, and we’re seeing the fruits of that theory now.
I also saw a lot of fans blaming Swift for Man United’s second goal in the FA Cup game. Every player makes mistakes, and everyone will give the ball away every now and again - not to mention that there was a lot of football played between Swift giving it away and Romelu Lukaku slotting home.
It’s clear to see that he's Gomes’ man. Everything goes through the former Chelsea man, and it looks as though the Portguese boss is really building his team around Swift. With the security of Andy Rinomhota and whoever may be playing alongside him deeper in central midfield, John Swift has the freedom to create chances in the final third - which is where he comes to life.
A key component of Gomes’ style of play is how he encourages his attackers to find little gaps and spaces in-between the lines before turning and running at the opposition. When you have just that kind of player in Swift, someone who can receive the ball on the half-turn and pick a pass, he was always going to be a key player for the former Rio Ave manager.
Swift is a quality, quality player. Now Gomes has taken over and imprinted his style of play on this team, we need Swift to play a starring role if we want to stay in the Championship. He is key to how Jose Gomes wants to play, and we’re beginning to see the best of him.
Swift, like any other player, will lose the ball every now and again as the whole squad develops their learning of ‘Gomes-ball’, but he will also create and hurt the opposition in this position, as he has the talent to do so.