Moments before Lee Trundle encounters a group of excited children at the new Liberty Stadium that is home to Swansea City and the Neath- Swansea Ospreys, Gavin Henson slips away unnoticed. The rugby player's exploits for Wales and status as Mr Charlotte Church make him a national figure. As a local hero, he cannot hold a candle to Trundle.
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 pounds 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 …