By David Williams
Swansea City legend Leon Britton has stepped down from his role as the club’s sporting director.
In a shock move, the former midfielder, who only took the job nine months ago amid much fanfare, has announced he is walking away just a week before the season’s re-start.
The 37-year-old said he wanted to spend some time out of the game, having been involved with the Swans behind the scenes following his retirement from playing in May 2018, first as an advisor to the board and then as sporting director from September last year.
“I’m obviously disappointed to leave,” Britton said on the club website. “But the time is right for me to take a break, spend some quality time with my family and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of a ‘normal’ life.
“From the time I joined Chelsea as an eight-year-old, moved to Arsenal at nine and became a full-time apprentice with West Ham at 16, football has dominated my life.
“I was always going to take some time out when I finished playing, but Trevor (Birch, chairman) asked me to help him in his restructure of the football side of the club when he arrived; a task that escalated following the departure of Graham Potter to Brighton.
“I said I would help because I love the club, always will, but it was always my intention to step back once things had settled down, which it has following the arrival of Steve (Cooper, head coach) and Andy (Scott, head of recruitment).”
“I’ve enjoyed the role and it has given me a real insight into how a football club operates behind the scenes. It’s been a great experience and I’ve learnt a lot from Trevor and Andy; they’ve been a massive help, together with Steve (Cooper) and I would like to thank them for the opportunity
“But the job is 24/7, all-consuming, and now is the time I have to keep the promise to myself and my family to take a break from the game after nearly 30 years.
“I will keep in touch with the club and help wherever I can because the Swans and the fans mean everything to me. I really hope it’s not the end of my close relationship with the club and I can come back in some capacity sometime in the future.’’
Britton played in all four divisions for the Swans after arriving, initially on loan, from West Ham in 2002, and helped the club escape relegation from the Football League in 2003. He also spent time on the coaching staff under former manager Paul Clement, plus two games as the club’s caretaker boss and a season as club ambassador.
Swansea chairman Birch admitted he was disappointed with Britton’s decision to leave after less than a year.
“We are all sorry to see Leon relinquish his role,” said Birch. “He has made a huge contribution in helping to restructure and drive the football operation forward.
“While he always wanted to take a break from the game, he didn’t hesitate in agreeing to my request to help out when we needed his knowledge, intelligence and passion for the club. I was hoping he may have changed his mind over the lockdown period, but he is focussed on taking a break from the game and we must respect that.
“He has really impressed me over the last 18 months and is respected by everyone at the club. He is an icon of the club who typifies what Swansea City is all about and I’m sure his relationship with the club is not over. The door will always be open for him.’’