How 'daft and lazy' Trundle turned into Swansea icon with Beckham-style deal

'Showboating' striker talks to Phil Shaw after becoming first player outside Premiership to sign an image rights contract
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Henson and Church have been dubbed the new Posh and Becks, the centre becoming as well known for his electric-shock hair and social life as for his prowess on the pitch. By coincidence, when Trundle this week became the first player outside the Premiership to sign an image-rights deal - 85 per cent of the goods sold by the club bear his name - the Swansea chairman hailed him as "our own David Beckham".

The comparison is misleading except in a commercial sense. Trundle is a striker rather than a schemer, although he is blessed with skills that many a midfielder craves. So much so that Sky's Saturday-morning confection Soccer AM regularly features what the 29-year-old Merseysider - whose self-confessed role model was the flamboyant young Paul Gascoigne - cheerfully describes as "my showboating".

The biggest difference, however, lies in his career path. Beckham was promised to Manchester United almost before he was out of nappies, whereas Trundle played for Burscough, Chorley, Stalybridge Celtic, Southport, Rhyl and The Quiet Man public house in home-town Huyton before finally breaking into full-time football at the age of 24. He has been rattling in the goals ever since, building a viable case for selection by the Republic of Ireland, for whom he qualifies through his grandparents. Last season the Evertonian became the first player to top 20 goals for the club since the former Goodison icon Bob Latchford 22 years earlier. Going into today's visit by Chesterfield, he has 11 goals in 13 starts in League One, giving the "Jacks", as Swansea folk are colloquially called, hope of a second successive promotion.

So why was "Magic Daps" (another piece of the South Walian vernacular, denoting boots) such a late starter? "I always knew I had the ability, but my attitude was wrong," he admits. "I was my own worst enemy. I wasn't training properly. I'd go on trial to clubs and not turn up. Looking back, I was just daft and lazy."

"The big change came when my partner at the time was pregnant. I realised it wasn't just about me any more. When my daughter, Brooke, was born, it gave me the incentive to get really fit. I was playing in the League of Wales for Rhyl, who trained two nights a week, but I worked every day as well. It really made a difference. I'd just been to Wolves on trial when I got a 20-minute hat-trick in a friendly with Wrexham."

The time line of his transfer is clearly burnt into Trundle's memory. "That was on a Wednesday. By Friday I was training at Wrexham. The next Monday I scored two for their reserves. On the Wednesday they bought me. I was substitute on the Saturday and Tuesday, then started the following Saturday and scored eight in my first five matches."

When the then Wrexham manager, Brian Flynn - "a massive influence on me" - switched to Swansea, Trundle followed. Flynn's successor, Kenny Jackett, said last week after rejecting Sheffield Wednesday's £750,000 offer that he wanted to build a team round his talisman.

"I've got better every year, and that has shown in my performances and my goals," says Trundle, who is keen to acknowledge the part which two former Swansea coaches and ex-international strikers, Kevin Reeves and Alan Curtis, played in honing his finishing ability.

"I like to go out and express myself. As a kid supporting Everton my idols were Gary Lineker and Graeme Sharp, but Gazza was the one I really related to. I'm not a poacher who gets tap-ins in the six-yard box. My goals are mainly created further out. I'm most dangerous with my back to goal. That's where I get the majority of my shots off from.

"As I get better known, I'm getting more attention, tighter marking, from defenders. You have to live with that if you want to progress in the game. Anyway, it forces you to think more about how to find space."

Trundle would love to test his talent at a higher level. That, he stresses, does not mean he is itching to forsake his cult status in Wales. The "fantastic momentum" generated by their plush new stadium of three months, where crowds have doubled to a 14,000 average, has helped to enhance his prospects of realising his ambitions with Swansea.

"This division suits us better because we like to get the ball down and pass it. We haven't played anyone that's looked different class to us. In fact, Nottingham Forest - former European champions! - paid us the respect of trying to play down the clock by taking the ball into the corners to protect their point.

"So it's not as if I'm at a club with no ambition or prospects. Wednesday are a big club, but we're pushing to get into the Championship ourselves. Swan-sea turned the bid and I'm not the type who will try to get away just because someone has come in for me. I've signed a contract and if the club think the bid isn't good enough, that's their call."

Asked whether he could cut it in the Premiership and in international football at his age, Trundle's reply underlines the confidence, an endearing Scouse cockiness, so integral to his game. "Definitely. I'm not a player who knocks it past a defender and beats them for pace. I use my head. Teddy Sheringham is 39 but he beats people with his football brain, and so did Kenny Dalglish."

In the Swans-Ospreys superstore, they await fresh stock of Trundle T-shirts, posters, wristbands and his own line of fashion wear. The paparazzi may pursue Henson, but the one-time Quiet Man remains the biggest noise in Swansea.

Travellers to the Vetch Field: Swansea's Merseyside connections

* THE 1981 SIDE

After forming a lethal duo with Kevin Keegan at Liverpool, John Toshack became Swansea's player-manager in 1978, taking them from Fourth Division to First by 1981. Ian Callaghan, winger with England's "Wingless Wonders" in 1966, joined Toshack and ex-Anfield colleagues Tommy Smith and Alan Waddle at the Vetch Field after 856 games for Liverpool, winning promotion twice with the Swans. Toshack paid Everton £125,000 for England striker Bob Latchford. He scored a hat-trick in nine minutes on a 5-1 debut win over Leeds and hit 20 goals in 1982-83 despite relegation.

* THE 2005 SIDE

The charismatic and prolific striker Lee Trundle is well supported by Andy Robinson, a volatile midfielder from Birkenhead, who began his career with Cammell Laird's works side and joined Swansea on a free from Tranmere. Robinson scored against Wrexham in the Welsh Cup final - the last game at the Vetch. Kevin McLeod is a Liverpudlian who roomed with Wayne Rooney at Everton, playing five Premiership games before joining Queen's Park Rangers. Kenny Jackett, ex-No 2 at Rangers, took him to Swansea. Has scored seven goals from left wing this season.

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