By Fraser Watson
His time at Swansea has yielded more than 300 appearances over 10 consecutive seasons, but Wayne Routledge looks set to be cruelly denied the send-off he merits.
The 36-year-old was stretchered off in the second half of last night’s 1-1 play-off draw with Barnsley, a result that ultimately sealed a final date with Brentford at Wembley next Saturday, having seemingly landed awkwardly on his knee.
It’s an occasion Routledge is now almost certain to miss out on, and given he is out of contract in the summer, the scenes afterwards which saw him applauding the returning fans at the Liberty Stadium may inadvertently turn out to be his farewell to them.
Swansea manager Steve Cooper stopped short of labelling the night the winger’s last in a Swansea shirt, but paid tribute to a player who has surely earned a place in club folklore.
“First and foremost, just massive respect for the guy,” said Cooper.
“He was the biggest talking point in the dressing room when I just spoke to the players.
“It looks like he is going to be injured for next week but the guy just deserves so much credit and love.
“I have been lucky to have him and I have just said in front of the group that I will forever be indebted to him, because the support he has given me over the last two years has been incredible.
“I am really fond of him. I think he is a really good guy.
“I said before, he sits between the dressing room and the management team and he plays both the roles really well because he is a brilliant bloke.
“He has had a great career. He sees the game well. He wants to help. Ten years at the club – I think everybody thinks the world of him.”
But when asked if this was the end of Routledge at Swansea, Cooper insisted it wasn’t the time to be making declarations.
“I don’t want to say that. I just want to show him respect.
“He is 36 years of age, started the game, doing the job we wanted. It’s a moment not to be negative and call the end, it’s a moment to go. ‘thanks Wayne, for what you have given the club and what you continue to give.’”
Routledge appeared the last time Swansea were at Wembley, starting the 5-0 League Cup final win over Bradford in 2013 – and had admitted this week he “didn’t know” if the Barnsley game would be his last at the Liberty.
He went out with a bang – shielding the ball under immense pressure to win a vital free-kick for his side that led to Matt Grimes’ opening goal just before half-time.
Routledge’s calm determination to bring the ball under his control sparked the one moment of measured composure amid a hurly-burly first-half.
If it proves to be his last contribution for the club he has served with distinction, then it was a hugely valuable one.