Lee Trundle reflects on his Swansea City career
10th October 2016
Lee Trundle glances across at the grass-covered mound which was once the North Bank.
"If I'd done a trick over on that side of the pitch, I would turn to the fans and give them a wink or a wave," Trundle recalls.
"I always liked to try to get the fans involved in the game. I think turning to them like that helped make that happen."
Trundle is back at Vetch Field a little over 11 years since he played in the final game at Swansea City's long-time home.
As he turns 40, the Scouser who was long ago adopted as a Jack remains very much part of the Swans, where he serves as the club's ambassador.
Trundle landed the role three years ago as a result of the spectacular part he played in the Swans' history.
It all began for Trundle in 2003, when Brian Flynn had just kept the Swans in the Football League and persuaded a player he had worked with at Wrexham to join him in South Wales.
"I remember coming down and going for some pasta with (Flynn's assistant) Kevin Reeves in Verdi's, then he brought me to the Vetch and showed me around," Trundle says.
"Sue (Eames), the kit woman, was at the ground and asked me if I was signing.
"At that point I wasn't sure - I was speaking to a few clubs - but Sue said I had better sign here because this would be the best club for me.
"To be fair to her, she was right."
There was a feeling of excitement among Swans fans from the moment Trundle put pen to paper.
This was a player who had proven he could score goals at Wrexham - in the third tier as well as the fourth - and the Swans were crying out for happier times after the trauma of 2002-03.
But nobody could have imagined the size of the impression Trundle would make in these parts.
"When I joined, I only signed a one-year contract because it was the first time in my life I had lived outside Liverpool," Trundle recalls.
"But within a month or two of joining, I was signing a new deal to keep me here because I knew it was where I wanted to be."
Trundle was 26 when he became a Swan, yet he had only been playing professional football for a couple of years.
Before that, he had been doing the rounds at various non-league clubs in the North West of England and North Wales.
Why did he not get picked up by a Football League club sooner than he did?
"It was my attitude," Trundle concedes.
"I saw football as a bit of fun, not a career. There were league clubs interested in me - Preston, Blackpool, Blackburn, Crewe.
"I played in reserve games for them on a Tuesday and would score a couple of goals. Then they wanted me to go back on the Thursday.
"I would have to get the train and I just wouldn't turn up.
"David Moyes even came to my house when he Preston manager. He picked me up for a reserve game, I scored twice and he dropped me back home in Liverpool.
"He said come in on the Thursday, but I couldn't be bothered. I loved playing football - but I loved playing with my mates. I didn't see it as a job at that stage."
Trundle's attitude changed when his girlfriend at the time became pregnant with daughter Brooke.
"I grew up a little bit then," he says. "I knuckled down and started training hard, and within three months I had signed for Wrexham."
Trundle did himself a favour when he scored a 20-minute hat-trick against Wrexham for Rhyl.
Within days, he had signed a contract at the Racecourse.
"Brian Flynn played a massive part in my career because he was the manager who gave me a chance," Trundle says.
"In football everyone talks and I am sure people would have been saying I was a let-down and that I didn't turn up, but Brian took a chance.
"That was my opportunity in professional football. I remember looking forward to seeing what my number would be and seeing my name on the back of a shirt."
Trundle was not overawed by the jump from League of Wales to what is now League One - he scored seven times in his first four Wrexham appearances and continued to impress after that.
But it was when Trundle got to Swansea that he really started to get noticed.
"Every club loves a goalscorer, but I think the way I liked to get involved with the fans and my tricks helped me at Swansea," he says.
"I was living in the city too, so after training or a game I would go into town and talk to the fans about football. They were special times."
Trundle's tricks were central to his success, for Swans fans had never seen anything like it.
And Trundle believes his late start in the professional game helped make him the showman he was.
"As a kid I would have a ball with me all the time, whether I was walking to the shop or to school," he remembers.
"I would mess around in the back garden, trying different things on my own.
"I think the fact that I wasn't picked up by a league club helped because there was nobody coaching those things out of me.
"I wasn't getting told to do this or that or to pass and move - some of my team-mates would tell you that I didn't pass at all!
"But that's how I played - the way I enjoyed playing, the way I'd played in the playground."
Trundle scored on his Swans debut - with a header, unusually - but it was a late hat-trick the following weekend at Cheltenham Town which really sent tongues wagging.
"We were 3-1 down in that game. I remember at half-time in the game Flynny kept me back when all the other players were going back out," Trundle says.
"He said 'Go and win me the game'. When somebody believes in you like that, it gives you an extra boost.
"I scored three with the Swans fans behind the goal, and I think that really started my relationship with them."
By the end of Trundle's debut Swans season, Flynn had been shown the door.
But the goals continued to flow under Kenny Jackett as the club said farewell to the Vetch by winning promotion from the basement division.
Jackett built a Swans team with more structure and defensive nous, but there was still room for Trundle's flair.
"Defenders knew I was going to go on my left foot - I rarely went on my right - but that didn't mean they could stop me," Trundle says through a smile.
"I enjoyed it when they tried to stop me, and I enjoyed scoring a lot of goals!"
There are plenty of stunning Trundle goals which live in the memory.
So too do the tricks, not least the 'shoulder roll' against Huddersfield Town.
"Soccer AM picked up on that - I think that was the one that got people outside Swansea noticing me," reckons Trundle.
"I didn't plan it. I had done it once in a game at Rhyl and when the ball came out of the air, I thought I would do it again.
"If I see a player doing something like that on the pitch, it brings a smile to my face, so that's why I wanted to do it myself."
After promotion in 2005, some questioned whether Trundle could play the same game at the higher level.
In each of the Swans' first two seasons at the Liberty Stadium, Trundle passed 20 goals, just as he had done in the last two campaigns at the Vetch.
It was that remarkable contribution which persuaded Bristol City to stump up £1million to secure Trundle's services in 2007.
With his 31st birthday approaching, Trundle took the chance to play Championship football for the first time, but the move would not work out as he hoped.
"Some people said I couldn't score goals at that level, but I believe it was the way Bristol played which was the problem for me," he says.
"Swansea suited me. I look at Fernando Torres, who scored loads of goals at Liverpool but went to Chelsea - who were in the same league - and couldn't get a goal.
"If Swansea had got promoted to the Championship while I was at the club, I would have stayed, no doubt about it.
"I think if I hadn't come back on loan when Paulo Sousa was manager, the decision to go would have eaten away at me.
"But after that loan spell, the club didn't offer me a contract, so I had left once and then they had let me go."
Nevertheless, Trundle wishes his Swans story had taken a different turn.
"You look at Leon Britton, Alan Tate and Garry Monk, who played for the club in all four divisions," he says.
"I wonder what it would have been like if I had progressed through the divisions with the club as they did.
"I would have loved to play for Swansea in the Premier League. If I could change one thing in my career, that would be it."
Still, Trundle is not one for regrets.
In his ambassadorial role, he wears the club crest on his chest every day, getting people talking about Swansea City just as he once did with those tricks and flicks.
"It's nice to be part of things even though I'm not playing anymore, and it's great to have played a part in the rise up the divisions," Trundle says.
"It's brilliant to see how far the club has come since the days when we were playing at the Vetch."
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