SERIAL Chelsea loanee John Swift is on the brink of completing an alternative route into the Premier League.

Turning his back on the Stamford Bridge high life can’t have been easy for a young man who, not so long ago, was playing for Totton-based Pace Youth in the Southampton Tyro League.

But after loan spells with Rotherham, Swindon and Brentford, the 21-year-old midfielder with an eye for goal felt ready to ditch the Fulham Road bright lights for a club he could call his own.

Now, less than 12 months after penning a three-year deal with Jaap Stam’s Reading, he stands just one game away from the Premier League promised land.

Victory in tomorrow's (Monday’s, 3pm) winner-takes-all Championship play-off final against Huddersfield Town at Wembley would make the bold decision to part company with Chelsea one of the wisest of his fledgling career.

Swift’s Southampton-based agent Barry Wilson said: “John had three different contracts offered by Chelsea. If they think there’s talent there, they’ll try and keep hold of it.

“But being a loan player is very different from being a signed player and John made the very tough and brave decision to break away.

“He had to say thanks very much to Chelsea for the education they had given them, go away and play at a smaller level. Hopefully he’ll then come back and play for one of the top five or six clubs - maybe even Chelsea again one day.

“For John, the target has always been to play in the Premier League. Ultimately it’s where he can play his best football.

“Hopefully Reading will go up and he can push forward in his career.

“It’s better than he would have done if he’d stayed at Chelsea and kept going out on loan.”

Swift, back in Hampshire this week visiting his old school Brune Park in Gosport and meeting up with a couple of Reading fans in Hedge End, reckons he made exactly the right move joining the Royals.

“I could have stayed at Chelsea, but I didn’t want to go out on loan again, so I decided not to sign a contract. I felt it best for my career to get first-team football elsewhere,” he said. “I wanted to sign for a team and do well for myself.”

After a bright beginning with the Royals, Swift rolled his ankle playing for England U21s against Italy at St Mary’s last November and spent around six weeks sidelined with damaged ligaments.

He returned to action on Boxing Day and rapidly made up for lost time.

Having won the EFL young player-of-the-month award for January, he marked his first full season as a Championship player by being nominated for the EFL young player-of-the-year.

A refreshingly modest and grounded young man, Swift recalled: “Coming back from injury, I had to get up to speed and fight my way in again.

“I got the award for January because I was getting on the end of things and scoring, but it took a while to get my performances up to scratch.

“I’m still young and I can always get better.”

In former Manchester United defender Stam, Swift has found the ideal mentor.

The Dutch master is a man of few words, but he is excellent at getting his message across.

When Stam took over at the Madejski Stadium last summer, Reading had just finished an underwhelming 17th in the Championship.

This season they came third before eclipsing Fulham 2-1 on aggregate in the play-off semi-final.

“I get on really well with the manager,” said Swift. “He doesn’t talk much, but when we do tactics or anything to do with training, he makes sure we’re all switched on.

“He isn’t going to shout at you if you make a mistake. He’s all about showing you how to improve and making you a better player.”

A former Ajax man, Stam’s footballing ethos was key to steering Swift in Reading’s direction.

Swift made his name at Chelsea as an energetic box-to-box player in the Frank Lampard mould.

These day he classifies himself as more of an attacking midfielder.

“He (Stam) wants to play football and that suits my game really well,” he said.

“At the beginning of the season people doubted whether we’d be able to carry on playing like that because teams would clock you and stop you playing.

“There are certain games when it’s not coming off that we have to change things up and play a different way.

“If we’re in trouble, we have the option of an out-ball up to Yann (Kermorgant, six-foot frontman) and he holds it up or flicks it on.

“I’m more of an attacking midfielder these days. I stay high and look for areas to get on the ball.

“I’ve got nine goals this season, eight in the league and one in the cup.”

Swift will be cheered on by 23 family and friends - including nine of his old mates from Gosport - in a bumper Wembley crowd on Monday.

“It’s going to be the biggest game of most of our careers so we’re all going to be a bit nervous,” he confessed. “But, in another way, it’s just another game and we have to go out, do what we’ve been training for and get the win.

“I’ve never played at Wembley before. The first time I walked out on the pitch was other day when I went up to have a look around.

“I got there before when I was on loan at Swindon (the League One final v Preston in 2015) but I didn’t get into the squad. It was disappointing but I’ve got the chance to make up for it now.”

During his time at Swindon, Swift played in the same side as Saints’ Jack Stephens, his England U21 room-mate.

The pair are among the 28 players invited by head coach Aidy Boothroyd to St George’s Park next week in the build-up to the UEFA European U21 Championship Finals in Poland (June 16-30).

Should Swift make the cut for the travelling 23, it means he won’t get much of a summer off.

But sun, sea and sand can wait for now – particularly if there’s Premier League football to look forward to next term.

“I’m friends with Jack Stephens, Matt Targett and James Ward-Prowse and it would be massive for me – and Reading – to join them in Premier League,” smiled Swift.

“Just having a year in the Premier League would be amazing and if we managed to stay up – even better.”

Getting past fifth-placed Huddersfield holds the key to those dreams and Swift admits it won’t be easy tomorrow with honours currently even between The Royals and The Terriers.

“We’ve had 1-0 wins both ways this season, so it’s a hard game to call,” he said. “It’s how both teams play on the day.”