Swift top-flight return is goal for Gosport ace

John Swift celebrates a goal for Reading
John Swift celebrates a goal for Reading
Conor Chaplin could start againsyt Plymouth. Picture: Joe Pepler

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A Premier League dream fulfilled at the age of 18 as the game lauded Chelsea’s new Frank Lampard.

Surrounded by the likes of Eden Hazard, Fernando Torres, David Luiz and Ashley Cole, John Swift had arrived.

John Swift during his time with Chelsea

John Swift during his time with Chelsea

The buzz around the game told of an exciting young English hope from Gosport with the brightest of futures.

And that hype reached a crescendo as the teenage midfielder was sent on by Jose Mourinho for his top-flight bow at the end of the 2013-14 season.

Two years on and his days with one of the powerhouses of the world game were at a close.

A succession of loan spells had seen the 21-year-old go no nearer to making a significant Chelsea breakthrough.

The Forton talent enjoyed a successful spell on loan at Brentford

The Forton talent enjoyed a successful spell on loan at Brentford

That led to the realisation some big decisions needed to be made by a level-headed young talent.

Less than a year on, Swift stands 90 Wembley minutes away from a Premier League return with Reading.

The match known as the richest game in world football stands between the former Brune Park Community School student and the top flight.

The Championship play-off is worth an estimated £200m to the winner of the Royals’ clash with Huddersfield on Monday

John Swift in action during a disappointing stay with Swindon

John Swift in action during a disappointing stay with Swindon

But, for Swift, the rewards lie on the football pitch and not the bank account, as a brave gamble stands so close to speedily delivering a return.

‘It was risky me leaving Chelsea,’ Swift admitted as he reflected on his departure from Stamford Bridge.

‘I had faith in myself but knew I had to do really well in my first season after leaving a club like that.

‘I knew I had to get as many games and starts in as possible.

John Swift returned to Brune Park Community School to meet students

John Swift returned to Brune Park Community School to meet students

‘So to end the season at Wembley is going to be a massive day.

‘It’s been a good first year for me and the manager at Reading. It’s hard to believe. Playing well last season to get interest from clubs was massive.

‘At the end of the day, I’ll do anything to win the game now.

‘I had a target of getting in and around 10 goals this season. It’s nine at the moment and I’ve got one game left.

‘So, hopefully I’ve saved it for the big occasion.’

Swift cut a grounded figure as he returned to his school ahead of the play-off final this week.

He is well versed, of course, in dealing with questions about leaving a club of Chelsea’s stature after being feted as one of the game’s bright, young things.

Last season, the Londoners had up to 38 players out on loan – an indication of the task emerging pros face to make the breakthrough.

Stints at Rotherham, Swindon and Brentford were the path Swift took before Jaap Stam took him to the Madejski Stadium on a three-year agreement.

Swift deals with the topic in affable and honest fashion.

He said: ‘At Chelsea, you see really good players going out on loan, going back and then going out on loan again.

‘I did that three times. The first one I didn’t do that well, the second one at Swindon I did okay and had a run of games and then it was Brentford last season.

‘I knew I had to do well there because I wasn’t going to be staying at Chelsea.

‘It’s hard because you see great players there now going out on loan.

‘Everything is amazing there. The training facilities are unbelievable but I just felt it was right to have my career somewhere else.

‘Hopefully, I can push forward in men’s football and do it for myself.

‘I wanted to be at a club and not go somewhere and then leave for another club in the same division.

‘I wanted to go out and make name for myself.’

That Swift has done after a season in which he received an EFL young player of the year nomination.

He did have a brief stay with Pompey as a child, until being released by Paul Hart as an 11-year-old.

A period of parks football was then the pre-cursor to coming to the attention of Chelsea.

His path didn’t prove a smooth one, however, as he had to deal with initial rejection before moving into the club’s academy at 13.

It was then his progress accelerated being tied down to a scholarship and later a four-year pro deal in 2012.

‘It’s hard to take when you’re young and get rejected,’ Swift said of his early playing days.

‘When I was released by Pompey I was young and just wanted to go and play football somewhere.

‘But then I was at Chelsea for six months and got released when I was 12. That was tough.

‘I went back there a year later but had grown a lot.

‘I was the tallest in the team all of a sudden and after one game I played well and ended up going back.

‘I was there until I left school and signed as a scholar – then at the end of the scholarship signed a pro contract.’

A sell out is expected as Swift walks out under the arch on Monday at Wembley.

It will give the lad from Forton the chance to bury the memory of one of the darkest days in his career.

That arrived in 2015, when his Swindon loan stay culminated in him being axed from the squad for their 4-0 League One play-off final loss to Preston.

That heartache has lingered for a local boy done good, firing a drive to deliver happier times at the home of football.

‘I’ve used it as motivation.’ Swift said of a low ebb.

‘I was really disappointed. I was injured in the two semi-final legs but got myself back fit for the final.

‘Then I was told on the day of the final I wasn’t going to be in the squad.

‘It was a massive disappointment for me.

‘After going there with Swindon and not being able to play, though, this is going to be a dream.

‘I felt I was still young and could get there again – and here we are now.

‘It’s going to be a good game to watch and I’ll do all I can to give everyone happy memories.’