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Why John Swift Is Now Reading’s Most Important Player

Getting the playmaker up and running this season could make or break the Royals.

Reading v Chelsea - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images

It doesn’t really feel like it, but John Swift is one of the senior players at Reading Football Club.

Now entering his fourth year at Madejski Stadium, the midfielder has outlasted all but two of the entire squad that faced Huddersfield in the 2017 play-off final - if we take away the transfer-listed pair of Garath McCleary and Chris Gunter, plus the long-term injured Jordan Obita.

That game at Wembley was one of Swift’s worst in a Reading shirt. Indeed, he has shown himself to be a pretty rubbish big-game player.

Sooner or later, something has to give. A paltry return of five goals and four assists in the league since that day underlines the stunning lack of progress he has made. It’s the sort of plateau, or even decline, that did for Liam Kelly - but so far Jose Gomes has kept the faith in Swift.

It’s easy to see why. From the moment he signed from Chelsea, the ex-England youth international has expressed an aura of composure and a creative edge that probably made the Blues sign him before in his pre-teens.

But he’s also blown hot and cold, been pushed off the ball more times than he’s flicked his fringe back, and embodied the mental vulnerability that has plagued Reading for years - or at least until Gomes arrived.

In the Portuguese boss, the player finally has the right coach. Jaap Stam did a good job but was too stubborn to harness the direct running that Swift needed to take his game to the next level. Paul Clement’s inability to settle on a formation and tactics also hindered him.

At 24, the midfielder’s career follows three facts. Reading’s attack is young and thus in need of leadership, Jose Gomes is employing a style of play that suits him, and he can no longer hide under the ‘young player’ tag.

When Swift plays well, Reading play well. Set to be the central character of the Royals’ creative force for the upcoming campaign, he simply must live up to the moment - or his career and the club could fall far short of their potential.