by Tim Morgan
I started watching the Super Swans in season 1981/82. At the time we were in First division and my first piece of merchandise from the club shop was a black V-neck sweater with the old Swans badge on it (much more elaborate and better than the new one) and the dates of the three weeks that we were top of the First division embroidered under the badge.
So there we were, top of the pyramid of English football, and there was I, a glory supporter. Proudly knocking about with the ‘Top of the League” sweater always on, a 5 year old who’d never sipped from the cup of despair, never eaten a slice of humble pie, never tasted the foul gravy of a winding up order in the high court, or smelled the wretched stench of nearly slipping into non-league obscurity. I’d never eaten at the table of ill-qualified managers, never rolled a dice on the board game of first round cup knock outs, never donned the gown of turning a blind eye at the graduation ceremony of desperate football hooliganism and never cleaned myself in the shower of consistently selling all your best players.
I did all of these things in the following 21 years, 19 of which were spent in the bottom two divisions. I never really minded losing or the ruin that the club was allowed to go to all too easily. What I did mind was the lack of value for money. Even when I was paying £3 to watch the Swans, the day out was worth it but the players on show were not. They were mostly scrappy journeymen who were good at ‘making life hard for opponents’. We used to joke that some of them were at the club simply because they ‘had a good boot on them’ (i.e. when they kicked the ball it went far). None of them had a first touch of any note, none of them could pick a pass, none were two footed, none could consistently finish. Occasionally we had one that could go by someone using pace but never one that could go by someone using pure skill. No that was what Match of the Day was for. 21 years.
All that changed in 2003. Under Brian Flynn we signed a fella by the name of Lee Trundle – aka ‘Magic Daps’. Over the next four seasons he scored 66 goals in 121 appearances – prior to that we had never had a 20-goal a season man. The quantity of goals, however, didn’t matter; it was the way he scored them. He was our Roy Wegerle, our Denis Bergkamp, our Georgi Kinkladze.
I won’t bang on too much about how good he was or how skilful he was. I’d like to show you on Youtube but I’m on holiday and Youtube is banned in Turkey. Here’s what I can find on dailymotion:
- The shoulder roll against Huddersfield which was so outrageous Huddersfield manager Andy Jackson suggested he should have been booked for inciting other players to foul him! What?!
To sum him up, he was the only player I have ever seen that I can honestly say was consistently worth the entry fee alone. Now I know its only League 1 or 2 and the entry fee isn’t much, but I’ve watched loads of football over the world at the very highest level and I’ve never seen someone who is consistently worth the entry fee alone. This is a single match.
Watch Premier League players against lower league teams in cup competitions and ask yourself do any of them consistently do this? None that I’ve seen.
What I’m saying is that Trundle played at the lower level most of his career almost entirely due to his fitness, lack of pace and swagger. On pure technique alone, and setting aside Paul Gascoigne (who was different gravy) I don’t believe this country has produced many, if any better players in the past 20 years. This matters to me because I ONLY judge players according to technique. How fit they are, how athletic they are, how good they are at chasing back is academic to me. All I care about is whether they’re capable of shoulder rolls mid-game or outrageous Cruyff turns, step overs, flicks and rolls.
And it wasn’t just what Trundle did on the pitch. A few months after joining the Swans he was presented with a September League Player of the Month award consisting of a bottle of champagne. On receiving it he was asked what he was going to do with it and he replied, “I’m going to put it with all the others I win and then open an off license at the end of the season”.
He used to eat and drink out in Swansea in normal bars and clubs and would speak to everyone. He was the first player outside of the Premier League to own his image rights, heck he even went out with one of the girls from Atomic Kitten.
We sold Lee in 2007 for £1m (a club record) and we’ve been in the Championship ever since. Playing at a higher level than we ever did with him, (apart from when he returned last season on loan scoring twice in about six games off the bench). But if I’m honest things have never been the same since he left and I doubt they ever will again. I’ll leave you with this: his Wikipedia page says that he hasn’t played for England “yet”.
It should simply say “he was worth the entry fee alone”.