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Raghunandhanan Narasimhan writes a detailed scout report about John Swift, the England and Reading midfielder.
Chelsea have enjoyed near total domination in recent years in the FA youth Cup winning it a remarkable 5 times in the last 7 years. They have also won the UEFA youth cup over the past two seasons. The highlight of their achievements is that they had predominantly English players in their squad with only four of the 25 who were in the squad not qualifying as Home Grown.
But these players hardly make it to the senior squad with Ruben Loftus Cheek being the exception and the club coming under criticism for not integrating these talented youngsters into the first team. A phenomenal 38 players are out on loan this season from the club showing how limited the opportunities are for a player to break into the senior squad. One such player who came up through these youth ranks is John Swift. A highly rated midfielder, Swift left Chelsea earlier this season to sign for Reading on a permanent basis after a series of loan spells.
Born on June 23, 1995 in Portsmouth, Swift showed great interest in football at a very young age and began his career at Fareham. He had a spell at another County club at Eastleigh before joining his local football club Portsmouth in 2005 as a ten year old. He was soon released and later joined Chelsea in 2006 as an U-13. He had spells at the Southampton Pace Youth academy and was subject to interest from Portsmouth, Fulham and Southampton. However he rejoined Chelsea after a successful trial in 2007.
His youth years at Chelsea saw steady improvements from him as he made his U-18 debut during the 2009-10 season. He was a major part of the squad that won the Milk Cup in 2010. He was also part of the squad that won the 2011-12 FA Youth Cup. Swift kept interchanging between the U-18, U-19 and U-21 during the next season while winning the U-21 Premier League title. As the 2013-14 season progressed, Swift was called up to the senior squad to train with them. He made his only appearance in a Chelsea shirt coming on as a substitute against Cardiff.
Swift left on loan to Rotherham in the 2014-15 season where he failed to make an impact. His loan spell at Swindon the next season was a bit better as he had 18 appearances scoring two goals, helping them to a playoff spot finishing fourth in the league. His loan spell at Brentford last season was a success as he made 28 appearances over the course of the season scoring an impressive 7 goals. He joined Reading at the start of this season already scoring three goals in eleven appearances so far.
The 21 year old is a versatile midfielder who is predominantly a box-to-box midfielder. He is an excellent dribbler with an eye for goal. Swift is very versatile and is capable of playing as an attacking midfielder and also on the flanks when asked to. He has a good range of passing and likes to shoot from distance. Though he covers good ground, his defensive contributions are negligible. His technique is excellent and evident from his shooting and dribbling abilities. He has the knack of arriving late into the box and scoring and reminds us of Chelsea icon Frank Lampard having been a youth academy graduate of the club.
Swift links defense and attack well and helps in quick transitions. He is versatile and capable of playing both as a number 8 and a number 10. This is impressive for a youngster this age as he has an understanding of the game by playing with his back towards his goal while as a central midfielder and towards the opposition goal when playing as an attacking midfielder. He has excellent dribbling skills with good close control and first touch. Last season, of players to attempt 75+ dribbles in the championship only Moses Odubajo(67.3%) had a better success rate than Swift(64.9%).For a midfielder who plays in the centre this is very impressive showing he is resistant to pressing and can dribble his way out of trouble in a congested midfield. He is also a good free kick taker as was evident from his excellent free kick against Brighton this season. He has great right foot and capable of scoring stunners from long range. In the match against Barnsley this season, Swift collected the ball from midfield and drove towards the box producing a couple of stepovers to free space and unleashing a shot from 30 yards. He also scored a terrific goal against Bosnia in an U-21 match for England. He has a very good return of goals scored with 7 goals from 27 appearances for Brentford last season while he already has 3 goals for Reading this term from 11 appearances with two of the goals being the above said ones. He has averaged 1.4 key passes a game this season and also an impressive 3.5 long balls a game for Reading this season according to whoscored.com.
For a midfielder who can cover as much ground as Swift he is very poor defensively and lacks proper defensive intelligence. Another aspect that serves as a blip is that he gets dispossessed 2.5 times a game according to whoscored.com. As a midfielder, when he loses the ball trying to dribble in the center of the pitch, it can lead to a counter attacking threat from opponents and this is something he has to work on and track back. For such a technically gifted player Swift can improve on his positional play. He has good instincts to arrive late into the box and it would be beneficial for him and his team if he can improve his overall positioning.
One can expect Swift to be playing in the Premier League within a year or two as he is unquestionably improving. He plays a crucial role in Jaap Stam’s team who are currently 8th in the table with 19 points from 12 matches, 7 points off the top in the Championship. English fans would want Swift to evolve into a great player in the future with England lacking genuine quality in the department in recent years, having seen the likes of Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard in the last decade.
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