Since Jordi Gomez took a monumental tumble at the DW Stadium when Nathan Dyer faintly caught him with a high challenge that saw referee Andre Marriner waving the red card at him, Dyer’s misfortune has turned into Wayne Routledge’s good luck. In the four games that have followed Dyer’s sending off, Routledge has been given the run in the side he has long yearned for since Brendan Rodgers signed the much travelled winger from Newcastle, whilst Dyer has had no option but to cool his heels in the stands.
There is a truism trotted out by many of sport’s positive thinkers that a person must make the very most of every opportunity that comes their way. Failure to grab those chances in football, an industry as cut-throat as any you can think of, will potentially see a player being farmed out at some point down the road, while being widely regarded as an under-achiever. Having watched Wayne Routledge closely in the games he has been given by Rodgers, namely the two victories against Manchester City and Fulham and the subsequent defeats by Everton and Tottenham, I have no doubt whatsoever that here is a player who is in no way an under-achiever, but rather a very talented player, more than capable of making the most of the opportunities that are presented to him.
Yet sometimes, even doing the very best that you can, may still lead to disappointment and ultimate frustration.
Take the Tottenham game. Routledge was excellent. In the seventh minute he produced a wonderful trick from a pass by Leon Britton to flick the ball over the head of the on rushing Benoit Assou-Ekotto before getting a cross in for Scott Sinclair. A minute later he followed that up with a crisp, edge of the box shot just wide of the Spurs goal after being set up by Joe Allen, and in the second half, had the strength to hold off the combative Assou-Ekotto to roll the ball into the path of Gylfi Sigurdsson for him to gleefully slot home and continue his recent rich vein of goal scoring. Yet after this important assist and in a match in which he again performed to a very high level, just 12 minutes later, the fourth official lifted the electronic numbers board to inform Routledge that Dyer was to make his comeback, and his work for the day was done. There were no Andy Carrollesque histrionics from Routledge, but you get the feeling that we would have all understood his frustration if there had been.
Swansea City are in the very fortunate position to be blessed with three wide players of fantastic ability, namely Scott Sinclair, Nathan Dyer and Routledge. In the first half of the season it was clear that Routledge would have to play second fiddle to the other two, and maybe he even understood that himself. Sinclair and Dyer had been irresistible last season in getting Swansea into the Premier League, and this season, Dyer has continued to grow so much so that he has been talked of in terms of an England place. The development has not been so stark for Sinclair. He is obviously a player of rare quality – pace, quick feet, good vision – but there have been many times this season when the impression has been of him sometimes selecting the wrong option and when chances have been delivered to him, frustratingly, a high percentage of them have been blasted high over the bar. Yet it seems that under Brendan Rodgers, Sinclair is the first name on the team sheet, and one of the last Rodgers will consider taking off when it comes time to make a change. That approach means that generally, it is between Dyer and Routledge for the other flank, with Dyer usually coming out on top in that particular battle.
When I saw Routledge’s number go up yesterday, I understood that Dyer had to come on, but I couldn’t help feeling that maybe it was Sinclair that should have made way and not Routledge. Was that a fair supposition? Let’s have a look at the stats.
Next Page: Stats from the loss to Spurs… (click below right)