Jack the Lad: Unbreakable bonds

23rd January 2019

Loyal Swans fan and website columnist Jack the Lad reflects on an emotional and nostalgic Sunday in benefit of former midfielder Lenny Johnrose.

The taunt was shouted across the pitch in an unmistakable Liverpudlian accent.

"You need to get your hair out of your eyes, linesman."

Lee Trundle wasn't happy with the offside decision, and he let the bald-headed flag bearer know it. But the line was delivered in a typically good-humoured and mischievous Merseyside manner.

The exchange was just one of many memorable moments as a Swansea City Legends XI took on the Len Johnrose Trust XI in a benefit match for the former Swans star.

The game at Port Talbot AFC’s Victoria Road ground was arranged to raise money and awareness of Motor Neurone Disease, the devastatingly cruel illness which has stricken the former midfielder.

Johnrose will always hold a special place in Swans fans’ hearts after scoring one of the goals in the win against Hull City to famously keep the club in the Football League back in 2003.

Despite the serious nature of the cause, there was plenty surrounding the game to raise the spirits.

As well as dishing out the banter, Trundle was also the butt of it.

When the former Swans frontman attempted a tackle, one of his former team-mates jibed: "That's your first tackle since Rochdale in 2004, Trunds."

One or two of the ex-Swans may have been a little thicker around the middle than we remembered them in their prime, but there were plenty of flashes of the skill which once graced the Vetch and the early seasons at the Liberty.

Andy Robinson may have been carrying a few more pounds and even less hair than his heyday, but he ran the show in midfield for long periods of the game.

The Merseysider was just as competitive and tenacious in the tackle as he was all those years ago when he produced classic performances against the likes of Preston at the Vetch, when he scored a brilliant free-kick in an FA Cup tie.

The "Flying Postman" John Williams, once rated one of the fastest players in the football league, had undoubtedly lost some of his blistering pace, but he still displayed first class delivery as he chipped in with one of the Swans legends’ six goals.

Although his celebration, where he sank to his knees before lying face down on the turf, seemed to be inspired as much by exhaustion as ecstasy.

Then there were those who looked like they wouldn't be out of place in the present day Swans team.

Owain Tudur Jones doesn’t appear to be an ounce over his playing weight, although the hair has a little more salt than pepper in it these days.

And then there was Leon. Last season he had graced London’s Olympic Stadium in the Premier League, having spent the majority of the past decade playing at venues like Old Trafford and Anfield. Now he was turning out at a Welsh League ground in support of his old friend and team-mate.

You sensed that even if Leon was still in the Swans first team, he would have been there for Lenny on Sunday.

The former Swans skipper helped his former team-mate onto the pitch to meet the teams before the match, just as he had helped him from the pitch the previous day when Lenny had been presented to the Liberty Stadium crowd, who gave him a moving and much deserved standing ovation.

These are the kind of lasting bonds that football forges at whatever level you play. They are the kind of bonds that had seen some of the players drive between four and five hours to South Wales in order to take part in the game and support one of their own.

They had the opportunity to show their comradeship for a team-mate, while us fans had the opportunity to display our support and gratitude for a Jack who played a short, but hugely influential part in the club’s history.

It also gave us a chance to see the unexpected pleasure of seeing ‘Britts’ score a hat-trick in a Swans shirt, ‘Magic Daps’ conjuring up a few more tricks and ‘Willo’ proving the postman can still leave his stamp on a game!

This was one of those weekends when football really did live up to its reputation as 'the Beautiful Game'.

C’mon you Swans!