By Rhys Buckney
When you talk about legends at a club, they normally display loyalty, outstanding quality and a connection with the fans, Lee Trundle had all of this and more. He was an icon, the first of its kind in these parts, especially for a kid who grew up in the 1990’s when supporting the Swans wasn’t as popular as it has become with success. We were brought up on stories of Alan Curtis and Ivor Allchurch, but had experienced a distinct lack of anyone who had this sort of hero worship amongst fans. Then ‘magic daps’ arrived.
There was an air of optimism surrounding pre-season, we had just stayed up on the final day on the previous season in that unforgettable thriller against Hull, and done it playing some fantastic attacking football. Brian Flynn would implement this style by bringing in youngsters such as Leon Britton and Alan Tate who are still club heroes, and more experienced heads like Roberto Martinez, who would become a future manager and later, a figure of much controversy. Trundle had played under Flynn at Wrexham and despite him celebrating a promotion to Division 2 (League 1), he took the gamble to move to South Wales to link up with him again in a move that would change Swansea City forever.
He started relatively slow for someone who would soon earn and give credit to the loving nickname ‘magic daps’, bagging a rare header against Bury in a 4-2 win. He really announced himself onto the stage though in a following match against Cheltenham. We were losing 3-1, when suddenly the match became the Lee Trundle show grabbing himself a second half hat-trick. Many players in circumstances such as this throw the old cliché ‘there’s more to come’, and having suffered as a Swans fan you’d be forgiven for taking this with a pinch of salt, but he was a man of his word.
Trundlemania would soon sweep Swansea taking us on a cup run to the 5th round including a thrilling 2-1 win against Preston North End in which of course he claimed the winner. A season of highlights saw him propelled into the spotlight through Soccer AM who took note of his enigmatic skills after the audacious shoulder roll against Huddersfield Town which saw Peter Jackson lose his cool and the plot. Although promotion wasn’t achieved, our new hero had truly arrived. Following seasons would see him sign an image deal with the Swans because over 60% of our sales were Trundle merchandise and his own LT10 clothing line.
Having turned down the opportunity previously to join Sheffield Wednesday when subject of a £750,000 bid, he needed to grab his chance.Bristolcame in with a record £1,000,000 bid for our star striker, who left with a heavy heart, but for the right reasons. He didn’t leave for the money, he left to try himself as high as he possibly could, and nobody could deny him that right.
The move didn’t work out, and he finds himself living locally now, a true testament to a man who was as much of a jack as anybody born in the city. For it was not just the goals, it was everything, it was him. He made time for all the fans, regardless of age, suddenly young boys in Swansea were getting the ‘Lee Trundle haircut’, wearing his boots, and even his signature wrist sweatbands. He was an icon in every sense of the word.
He bonded with the fans, and would have not been out of place if thrown in the North Bank. Stories circulated about him doing this good deed or that, and I personally witnessed him turning up to Ashleigh Road playing fields randomly alone to have a kick around with the children who were playing football there. The matches being played suddenly became a sideshow. He was never too busy for the fan, and his autobiography expresses all this and more.
For me, Lee Trundle will always be the very best, he propelled us to where we are now, yes he missed out on the last ride, but he began it all, without him, we could easily be languishing in League 2. A true Swansea hero.