Lee Trundle: Swans reach dizzy heights

Former striker believes debutants can stay in top flight, starting in rarefied atmosphere of Manchester City
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The Independent Online

Of all the words overused in football's lexicon, legend is the most annoying. Score a couple of goals these days and you qualify for that less than exclusive club; put in a couple of assists and you are almost there.

But for a select band of players it is different. They are the ones whose deeds are still talked of, whose names are still gossiped over in the local pubs. Around Swansea, the Premier League's newest club, there is only one deserving of the title: Lee Trundle. Tomorrow he turns supporter-in-chief at Manchester City as the club he graced for five years return to the top flight.

It wasn't just the goals – 78 in 146 games including three successive hat-tricks – the silver boots, the Atomic Kitten girlfriend or that he was the first player outside the Premier League to sign an image rights contract with his club. No, Trundle, who actually hails from Huyton and first played League football aged 27, owes his status to the fact that the fans loved the way he played the game: he was box office and everyone knew it, not least himself.

He came to national attention via the SoccerAM TV show, the host Tim Lovejoy revealing that Trundle regularly contacted the show with footage of himself. It was part and parcel of his footballing dream. "I'd try anything once," said Trundle.

Now 34, he will watch tomorrow's game with a twinge of envy. Swansea's entrance on the stage he failed to reach, against the richest collection of footballing talent ever assembled, could not be more high profile. "I signed for Swansea when they were in the bottom league, so to see them grow as a club and to see them in the Premier League is something special," said Trundle, who had two spells with the club between 2003-07 and again last year on loan.

"I don't want to miss too much of their first season in the big league. I want to catch every moment I can. I honestly can't wait. If I get a chance, I will be going to every single game.''

That sounds devoted for a player who was under a cloud in 2010 after the then manager Paulo Sousa refused to make his loan spell from Bristol City permanent. Trundle, who joined the Robins from Swansea in 2007, is still a potent scorer but on a lesser stage, last season poaching 18 in 29 games for Neath. But Swansea is where he wanted to end up. "I would have given anything to sign for Swansea. When I went back on loan last year, I made it perfectly clear that I wanted to stay and sign a permanent contract.

"The players and coaching staff knew exactly how I felt about being there and understood that if a contract offer came my way, I would have bitten off their hands. I have never hidden that love for the club. Still, I'm very close with all the boys and I pop in and speak with Brendan [Rodgers, the current manager] and the coaches quite regularly. Swansea is very close to my heart and though I'm a Neath player now, I still feel part of the club."

Trundle has settled back into life in Swansea and been a regular visitor to the Liberty Stadium. He finds it difficult to keep away. When Nottingham Forest pitched up for the second leg of last season's Championship play-off semi-final, he was one of six former greats who took part in the pre-match celebrations. His appearance drew wild applause from supporters, who clearly still adore him.

"I was honoured to be there, but equally frustrated when I had to leave the pitch before kick-off and climb into the main stand. I was kicking every ball for them and to be honest, I was probably a lot more nervous than they were. I would have loved to have been out there.

"It was the same in the final when we beat Reading at Wembley. I was there working for BBC Wales that day and was supposed to be a neutral observer. Unfortunately, when Swasea scored, I started jumping up and down. I was like a fan. When I looked around, everyone was looking at me. I'd given the game away. I suppose I will be the same this season. I'll be trying to score for them, albeit from up in the stand."

Can they stay up? Trundle, as you might expect, has little doubt. "Of course they can. Swansea are unique in the way they play and that will set them aside from a lot of the mediocre clubs in the Premier League. They get the ball down as quickly as possible, work exceptionally hard for each other and play a really attractive brand of attacking football.

"It was what set them aside from the other sides in the Championship last season. I know from speaking with the lads that it's Brendan's way. He encourages them all, including the keeper, to play football.

"Since the boss has come to the club, he has taken them to another level. The fans will tell you that. The games are more exciting and the team are more attacking. It's a big ask for any promoted side, not just Swansea. However, I do believe they've got the players and the necessary determination to stay up this season.

"If you look at the teams who struggle, they are often the ones who play a more direct style of football. Swansea are capable of picking up points against those sides. I think that will be Brendan's aim. He won't move away from what he knows best.

"I also think they are more of a unit than they were before. That's important because there will be times when they have their backs against the wall. Sometimes, team unity is the only thing that will pull you through.