Let’s be honest, I could’ve written this piece in August last year. In regards to John Swift’s career at Reading, the writing has been on the proverbial wall for some time.
Despite Mark Bowen’s 11th-hour efforts, there was no chance Swift was ever going to sign another contract with us, bringing to an end his six-year association with the club. Six years may not sound like a long time, but in modern-day football, it really is. Not many players stick around for that long at one club these days.
I think it’s fair to say that Swifty had more than his fair share of criticism at Reading. His time at the club has coincided with some of the worst years in the Royals’ entire history, and I think Swift was made a bit of a scapegoat because of that.
He’s not a player that will cover every blade of grass and throw himself into 50/50 tackles left, right and centre. And, in my opinion, it’s unfortunate for him that - more often than not - the club has found itself in situations where that has been needed more so than the qualities that Swift does have.
Then comes the clear and obvious injury problems he’s had. Even by his own admission in his farewell social media posts, he has spent far too long in the treatment room.
Throw all of the above together and I really don't think Swift has been given the appreciation he deserves from us as fans. At least not before this season anyway.
They say you only truly feel the importance of something or someone once it or they have gone, and I feel we’ll be wishing we showed Swift a bit more appreciation whilst we had him come next season.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s been numerous occasions in the last six years when I’ve wanted more from Swifty. There have been too many times when games have drifted him by. But that’s not because I don’t rate him as a footballer. The polar opposite, in fact.
On his day, when he’s fully fit, he is an imperious footballer - the kind of player that can run a game from start to finish. When he wants to, the game is dictated to his tempo and how he wants it to be played.
You need look no further than the first half of last season to understand just how good the bloke is. Without him and his performances, we would be in League One right now, of that I am 100% certain.
He has produced some unspeakable, unimaginable moments of quality in a Reading shirt. The free-kick against Coventry, the hat-trick and Boxing Day screamer against QPR, countless ridiculous assists and the sexiest pass of all time against Preston in 2018/19 come to mind.
But away from the headline-grabbing moments, he is just a joy to watch. He glides across the pitch when he is in full flow. I will truly miss watching him play in the blue and white hoops.
I don’t know if recency bias has come into play a little (with the second half of his season not hitting the heights of the first half), but I truly believe he could and should be playing for a Premier League club next season.
Swift going to West Brom certainly raised a few eyebrows. Ultimately, we will never know the ins and outs of the deal, whether there were any Premier League clubs in for him or if he’s just picked the biggest pay package.
I am not one to sit here and judge Swift for his career decisions. I'm sure he’s done what he thinks is best for him and him going to West Brom doesn’t change my opinion of him in the slightest. It does annoy me that we’ll have to play him next season though and, of course, he’s bound to score in at least one of the games.
I don’t blame him at all for not signing on again with us either. For me, it just reiterates the need for us to sort out how the club is run. He is the latest in a long, long line of players who have left for far, far less than they should’ve.
If were even a half decently run club, we would either have the financial strength to offer him an acceptable new deal or be in a position where we’d be getting some pretty pennies for him rather than absolutely nothing.
But, hey, that’s life. Swift has moved on and I for one will truly miss him: a wonderfully talented footballer who we have had the pleasure to watch for the last six seasons and one who will be incredibly difficult to replace.
You don’t stay at a club for six years unless you have some kind of affinity with it. Another thing that’s been thrown at Swift a lot during his time here is that he ‘doesn’t care’ and is ‘lazy’, which, of course, is absolutely codswallop.
He had offers to leave in January but wanted to stay to help us survive (as if we would’ve accepted those offers anyway to be honest). But, if Swift didn’t care about the club, it would’ve been very easy for him to kick up a fuss and leave a lot earlier than he actually did.
A true professional and a truly wonderful footballer. I think we took you for granted a bit Swifty, and for that I apologise. But I also thank you for keeping us in the division and for being one of the most technically gifted players I’ve ever seen in a Reading shirt.