Ahead of his side’s crunch European tie with Aalesund FK of Norway, Neath FC striker Lee Trundle speaks to our reporter Dean Thomas about the joys of making a European debut and witnessing his former club Swansea City gaining promotion to the Premiership.
Lee Trundle has come a long way in football – and I don’t just mean the 750 miles from South Wales to Norway.
Trundle, at the age of 34, is about to take part in his first European game after a career that has taken him from non-league football to a million-pound move to Bristol City.
Trundle, who is in his second season with the Eagles, swapped the six yard box for the commentary box when working as a radio pundit during the Swans’ 4-2 win over Reading in the Championship play-off final last month.
It was a sweet moment for the Liverpudlian, whose 83 goals in 166 appearances for the Swans helped them climb the football leagues.
“It was unbelievable to sit there and watch them win at Wembley and finally see them in the Premiership next year; it’s brilliant for the club. I went there when they were in the lowest tier, so to see them build up and grow as a club and now become a Premiership team is a dream come true for me – even though I’m not playing.”
Trundle was a fans’ favourite during his time at the Vetch and later on at the Liberty Stadium. ‘Magic Daps’, as he was affectionately known, cemented his place in Swansea’s history with dazzling displays of skill coupled with spectacular goals.
“It’s a massive reward for the fans and I’m speaking as a fan now. I’m sitting in games when I go to watch and I’m jumping up and down with them when Swansea are scoring goals. It’s a club that’s been good to me, and especially the way the fans have been with me as well. They are great supporters and they get behind the lads and it was nice to see all their faces at Wembley when they finally made it.”
Trundle can certainly say he played his part in Swansea’s rise through the divisions. Signed by Brian Flynn on a free transfer in 2003, Trundle helped secure promotion to League One, while also helping the club to clinch the Football League trophy during his four-year spell.
“I’m very proud. Swansea’s a club that I’ll hold close to my heart and it’s a club that I support. Even now, against the Premiership teams when they will be playing Everton [Lee is an Everton fan] I’ll be a Swansea fan and that’s how I see myself. It’s going to be brilliant to watch them and I don’t think it’s going to sink in until I see them on that first day when they run out in the Premiership.”
And Magic Daps is confident that Swansea City’s stay in the Premier League will be longer than most bookmakers and pundits are predicting.
“If you look at the teams in the Premiership that struggle, they don’t really play that style of play; they are more direct. Swansea like to get on the ball, play football, and I think they’ll do really well.”
However, the loss of Dutch goalkeeper Dorus de Vries to rivals Wolves this summer is a big dent to Swansea’s survival hopes, according to Trundle.
“With Dorus going, that’s a massive blow because he is a big part of how Swansea plays. He started the attacks off himself from the back, so that’s a massive blow for us.”
So during a career that has seen plenty of highs and lows, you’d think there wouldn’t be too much left on the ‘want to achieve’ list – but tonight will see the striker hit another career highlight when he makes his first appearance in a European competition against Aalesund FK in the Europa League first qualifying round.
“There’s been players all their lives who never get a chance to play in Europe so it’s a nice one to look back on when you finish and say that you have played in a European game.
“I’m like all the rest of the lads, excited about it; it’s the first time I’ve played in Europe myself. All the boys were buzzing when we got down the stadium today looking round. It’s a lovely stadium and it’s going to be a great occasion, and it will also be great for the boys to play in front of a large crowd and sample that.”
The former Wrexham, Bristol City and Rhyl marksman is settling into life at Neath FC. His 18 goals last year helped the club secure European football for the first time in their relatively short history.
“It’s been good – we set out at the start of the season to qualify for Europe and we’ve done that through the play-offs. Now we are in these European games it’s a big occasions for everyone. It doesn’t matter what level of football you’ve played; it’s still a big game for us.”
Lee will be hoping he can help Neath FC to overcome their Norwegian counterparts tonight and take some of the limelight away from his former club, Swansea City.