A blog on Lee Trundle’s career encore in the Welsh League with Llanelli Town.
Lee Trundle will turn 40 next month, but the former Wrexham and Swansea City star is still making as big of an impression both on and off the field now than at any stage in his career. Tempted out of retirement by Llanelli Town, the Vetch Field cult-hero has scored six goals in his opening three games for the Welsh League Division Two outfit, but his presence alone has seen crowds at Stebonheath Park increase five-fold as they look to make a return to the Welsh Premier League that they became champions of in 2008. Defying his age, Trundle has returned to the fun of playing semi-professional football, and the decision has allowed him to roll back the years to where it all began for him on the English non-league circuit. In addition, his efforts for his new club have also earned glowing social media praise from Wales and Spurs legend Cliff Jones, and the clubs profile continues to grow as a direct result of his signing.
It was at Wrexham that Trundle signed his first professional contract at the age of 24, his unusual path to the professional game reflected in his style of play. A natural showman, Trundle inspired many with his arsenal of unorthodox tricks, and a quick YouTube search of his most memorable moments reveals a range of skills that have never been repeated in the professional game to this day. Trundle came to the attention of Wrexham after making an immediate impact at Rhyl in the Welsh Premier League, and Brian Flynn had no hesitation in signing him for a second time when he took charge of Swansea City. It was at the Swans that Trundle came to national prominence, and he remains a club ambassador between coaching the clubs young strikers and turning out for the Reds when his Swansea City commitments allow.
Of course, Trundle is familiar with domestic football in Wales, and there is an irony that having played for Neath before financial ruin brought the club to its eventual demise he is now playing an active part in Llanelli’s post-financial apocalypse as the club looks to restore itself to former glory. With crowds of over 500 turning out to watch Trundle’s career encore in the third tier, it not only shows that Llanelli have the potential to attract people through the turnstiles with the right brand of football, but also shows how much Trundle is still remembered and revered in Swansea and the surrounding areas. He has shown a professionalism in his approach, and his commitment shows a genuine passion for playing after his confidence was dented by his £1m move to Bristol City in 2007.
But while he currently helps Llanelli recover from the financial collapse that resulted in a four-tier drop from the top-flight in 2013, he remains a well-remembered figure in the domestic game for his efforts in the Welsh Premier League, and despite never playing in the English Premier League he remains one of the best and highest-profile players to have played in the national division. From making an immediate impact at Rhyl in 2000 following his move from Southport, Trundle returned to the league a decade later with Neath, but this time brought a wealth of professional experience and a physically leaner body to give something back to the league that effectively launched his professional career. Off the field issues affected Neath’s ability to achieve the success their budget suggested they should do, but Trundle was committed to the cause despite the financial problems that eventually brought the club to an end, and his contribution to the league remained as memorable as his earlier days at Rhyl.
Sadly, it takes such serious financial mismanagement for clubs to realise right from wrong, and clubs like Llanelli and Barry Town were fortunate to have enough committed people to ensure their clubs were not lost to history. Trundle headlined at Neath, but the club were left with nothing when faced with financial ruin, and now no longer exist. Llanelli, a club steeped in Welsh football history, have reinvented themselves and while they push for promotion with the help of their star signing they are also progressing in the Welsh Cup. Striker Jordan Follows lifted the trophy with the club in 2011, and grabbed a brace on Saturday to join Trundle on the scoresheet as they progressed at the expense of Pontypridd Town.
Having announced his retirement from playing in 2013, it has been a major coup for Llanelli to engage his services three years later, and they are reaping the benefits on and off the field. With a footballing ability matched by his attraction to both supporters and sponsors, Trundle represents the full-package for a club like Llanelli, and it already appears to be a perfect match. Llanelli are firmly on-course for another promotion this season, and while their return to the Welsh Premier League remains at least another couple of seasons away, they are showing that they are committed to bringing top-flight football back to Stebonheath. It is unlikely that Trundle will find himself playing at that level again, but he has already made a telling contribution in putting this particular club back on the right path, and his popularity in the area has only increased as a result.