Wayne Routledge, the man who refused to turn his back on Swansea City, has been hailed as inspiration to the youngsters who have taken the club to the top of the Championship.
The 34-year-old was due to join the mass exodus from the Liberty Stadium over the past 18 months when his contract expired at the end of last season, but agreed new terms, and a much reduced salary, to stay for another year.
At the time Tweeted he was “beyond happy” and three months on he was able to add after his last-gasp winner at Elland Road last weekend that if you “keep working, special things can happen.”
Yet it could all have been so different when Routledge’s contract ran out at the end of the season and the cash-strapped Swans were forced to show him the door after eight years.
But new chairman Trevor Birch somehow worked out a new deal and last week he repaid the faith shown in him with goals against Cambridge and Leeds.
“I met Wayne before pre-season had started and I knew from that conversation he would be an asset in so many ways. He is a footballer who can make a difference,” says manager Steve Cooper.
“He is brilliant to have around and I am pretty sure he is pretty proud to be a part of it. He is still athletic, makes good decisions in hectic moments and that’s what he gave us – he has been a role model from day one.
“He doesn’t have a bad day at work and his support to the young players is a real asset. We sometimes forget how good he is.”
Routledge had been told by his boss Cooper, before the 1-0 win at Leeds that he would be coming off the substitutes bench to score the winner. And that’s exactly what he did.
“I said to him ‘you’ll come on and you’ll score in the 90th minute and we’ll win 1-0’,” said Cooper after Swansea’s first win at Elland Road in 70 years.
While Routledge is still proving his value to the Swans, so, too, are strikers Andre Ayew and Borja Baston after the club kept both under lock and key when the European transfer deadline passed on Monday evening.
Birch has issued a statement on the club’s website, admitting the fact that both players are still with the club has surprised him – but applauding their attitude and commitment.
“The two unexpected bonuses have been Borja Baston and Andre Ayew,” said Birch.
“To see them still part of our squad when the European transfer window closed last night was great news for everyone associated with the club.
“That last sentence is not one I thought I would be writing! But as we know, football is a funny old game and there are many twists and turns along the way and you must be flexible to adapt to the changing circumstances.
“Everyone was aware at the end of the season that we had to reduce our wage bill quite substantially to meet our financial targets, but the fact that we received decent fees for Dan James and Oli McBurnie gave us some flexibility on that front.
“With both Borja and Andre performing so well and expressing their desire to stay and fight for this football club, we are delighted with their commitment and that they are still part of Steve Cooper’s squad.
“They have both stated that they believe in what the club and Steve are doing and have bought into his ideas and plans.”