Lenny looking forward to first Liberty visit

18th January 2019

Lenny Johnrose cannot wait to experience the Liberty Stadium for the first time as the former Swansea City favourite returns to South Wales for a charity game being played in his honour.

The 49-year-old was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in March of 2017, and has set up the Len Johnrose Trust to raise awareness of the condition, which currently has no cure.

A fixture between a Swansea City Legends XI and their Burnley counterparts was held at Bamber Bridge FC in November, and a return fixture will see the Swans Legends face a Len Johnrose Trust XI at Port Talbot Town FC on Sunday (1.30pm).

All proceeds from the day - which includes live music and an auction including items of sports memorabilia - will go to the Len Johnrose Trust.

Before that the former midfielder - who made 44 appearances and scored three goals for the club - and his family will be guests as the Swans take on Sheffield United in their tea-time Championship clash on Saturday.

"I have to say I cannot wait to go to the game," said Johnrose, who also played for Blackburn, Preston, Hartlepool, Bury and Burnley.

"I have not been to the Liberty, so it's the first time. I have my family coming down with me and they are looking forward to it too.

"I have been telling my children about some of the history of Swansea because, when I played for the club, my wife was pregnant with my daughter and my son was born after I had left.

"We loved living in Swansea, it was just the best place, so we cannot wait."

One of the trio of goals scored by Johnrose during his time with the Swans came in one of the most important games in the club's history.

With victory required against Hull to retain Football League status in 2003, Johnrose added his strike to James Thomas' hat-trick to ensure survival.

From that desperate battle, the club went on a remarkable climb up the football pyramid, enjoying League Cup glory and European adventure during a seven-year stay in the Premier League.

Johnrose has inevitably followed their progress with interest, even if he humbly downplays his own role in helping start that sequence of events.

"For me, that was a case of job done," he recalls of the famous day at the Vetch.

"Not that I would ever want to downplay the significance of that day, nor take all the credit for it.

"On a personal level it was great to be part of, from the moment I signed for Swansea the fans were fantastic with me, as were the players.

"But the goal was probably my favourite Swansea memory, because keeping the club up was the reason I was there. That was what Brian Flynn had brought me in to help with.

"I didn't end up staying to celebrate as I had to shoot back home but it was a great experience.

"I had not been sure about signing for the club because it was a really long way for me to come, but Brian Flynn played a key part in convincing me.

"We had signed Roberto Martinez and we had a good squad there.

"It was a great time and it carries so many fond memories, I will never forget.

"It's been fantastic to see how well the club has done since then. I often joke about how I left and all of a sudden Swansea started climbing the divisions!

"Obviously it was disappointing to be relegated last season, and it's been a bit up and down this season, but I always keep an eye out for the results and I am sure it will not be long before Swansea are back where they belong."

A number of Johnrose's former Swansea team-mates will be involved in Sunday's fixture in Port Talbot.

The likes of Leon Britton, Kris O'Leary, Ferrie Bodde, Lee Trundle, Andy Robinson, John Williams, Michael Howard, Andrew Mumford, Tom Butler and Owain Tudur Jones are among those set to feature.

And Johnrose admits he has been humbled by the support he has received from the football community.

"It's been incredible. People have been so good and so positive and it has made everything so much easier," he said.

"If you think I was only at Swansea about a year, so for those lads and those supporters to want to turn out on Sunday means an awful lot to me. 

"I owe them an untold gratitude and I really do appreciate it."

Motor Neurone Disease is a debilitating and fatal illness which causes the degeneration of the body's motor systems.

Johnrose admits there have been some dark days, particularly in the immediate aftermath of his diagnosis, but he has been typically committed and wholehearted in his desire to raise awareness of MND.

And he is in the midst of launching 'Project 92', where he hopes to visit all 92 clubs in the English leagues to discuss the impact of MND and give players the opportunity to donate £10 each to the MND Association.

"I want to play as big a part in things as I can," he said.

"I have started something this week where I hope to visit all 92 clubs, speak to the players and hopefully they will want to donate £10, which will raise a lot of money for the MND Association and that would be great.

"Typically of Swansea when I mentioned it to them they said they would back it and provide me what support they can.

"We want to help people understand and be aware of MND. I can say that from day one the mental side of things is possibly the worst.

"At the time I was only experiencing some twitching and a little bit of weakness so it did not feel like there was too much wrong.  But you are being told you have a devastating illness.

"Physically things change from day to day and week to week. A couple of weeks ago I was walking, but the last couple of weeks that has been more difficult.

"If I sit down for any length of time it is difficult to stand up. But those are the things that are sent to test you.

"There are times I go for food with my daughter and she will cut my food for me, those are the adaptations you have to make.

"There are a lot of changes physically, and we will have to make amendments to my house for wheelchair access and things like that.

"But there are an awful lot of people who are a lot worse off than I am. So I have to keep fighting and keep going on."