Leon Britton: Swansea City great announces playing retirement

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Leon Britton said: 'It's the right time to go'

Swansea City icon Leon Britton will retire at the end of the season.

The midfielder, 35, has made 536 appearances for the Swans since initially joining from West Ham United in 2002 on a one-month loan.

In two spells with the club over more than 15 years, Britton helped the Welsh side avoid relegation from the Football League and then win three promotions.

Swansea fans will get a chance to say goodbye to Britton and fellow club icon Angel Rangel on Sunday.

Britton was part of the side that won Swansea's first major honour, the 2013 League Cup.

The midfielder, who played in all four divisions for Swansea, also spent a two-game spell as caretaker manager before Carlos Carvalhal's appointment in December.

Swansea have offered Britton the chance to take up another coaching role at the club but he has instead opted to become a club ambassador.

It is thought the fan favourite has made the call having struggled to overcome a succession of niggling injuries. The decision was made some time ago and before Swansea's likely relegation to the Championship was all-but confirmed.

The playmaker has only featured once - in an FA Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday - since Carvalhal's arrival, having stood down from a player-coach role when the Portuguese took over.

Britton's contract expires at the end of the campaign and he has not made enough appearances to trigger an automatic extension.

It is believed the decision to quit playing has been made by the player who has been told he can have a coaching role at the club, though Britton is currently considering his options.

Leon Britton is mobbed by fans after helping Swansea beat Hull City in 2003 to preserve their Football League status
Leon Britton is mobbed by fans after helping Swansea beat Hull City in 2003 to preserve their Football League status

It brings an end to a remarkable career for a player who was once the most expensive schoolboy in British football, when Harry Redknapp paid £400,000 to take the Lilleshall graduate to Upton Park from Arsenal.

Britton was signed by then Swansea manager Brian Flynn on loan from Premier League West Ham, with the Swans struggling at the foot of League Two in December 2002.

He went on to play 25 times - including in a crucial final-day victory over Hull City, winning a penalty in the process - that preserved Swansea's Football League status.

Britton was signed permanently that summer following contributions towards his wages by fans in a Swansea Supporters Trust initiative labelled 'The Battle for Britton'.

The popular figure - who has played under 11 permanent and two caretaker managers during his time at the Vetch Field and the Liberty - went on to win promotion to League One in 2005 and then the Championship in 2008 before leaving for Sheffield United as a free agent in 2010.

But he returned under Brendan Rodgers six months later as Swansea won promotion to the Premier League.

Britton also featured in the club's Football League Trophy win in 2006 and started in their League Cup triumph in 2013, playing in their run to the Europa League last 32 the following season.

'I count myself very lucky'

Leon Britton celebrates promotion to the Premier League after winning the play-off final in 2011
Leon Britton scored 13 goals for the Swans since first joining on loan in 2002

Britton, who has not ruled out returning to a coaching role in the future, said he wants to spend some time away from the game before making any decisions.

"At the moment I just want to have a bit of time away from the football side of things to spend with the family and think things over," he said.

"In the future coaching is something I will definitely think about. I have had a little taste of doing stuff in the academy and the two games as caretaker manager."

Britton added: "To play as long as I have done and to have been on the journey I have with Swansea has been a privilege.

"I count myself very lucky to have the career I have had."

Final flourish

Rangel, who announced he was leaving the club on Thursday at the end of the season, and Britton are set to be part of the Swansea squad that face Stoke on Sunday at the Liberty Stadium as Carvalhal's side face relegation from the top flight.

Britton will take Renato Sanches' place on the bench and will play some part, while Rangel is also likely to be a substitute and will come on if circumstances allow.

"Leon will play part of the game," confirmed Carvalhal.

"Angel will not be in the beginning. In special circumstances things can happen. What I have in my head, and I will talk to both, is try and put them on.

"I want them to have that feeling because they deserve to put the shirt on for the last time and get the applause of the fans."

Swansea will only avoid relegation if they defeat Stoke and overcome a 10-goal swing with Southampton who host Premier League leaders Manchester City.

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