The Mighty Lenny Johnrose!
By Nigel Davies
Former Swansea City midfielder Lenny Johnrose has a special place in our club’s history, but his bravery off the field dwarfs the fearlessness with which he played the game….
Swans fans often think of our pretty successful recent past and think back to “that” game against Hull which really marked the start of our rise, thanking the Lord for James Thomas and his match winning hat-trick.
But it should never be forgotten that there was another goalscorer that day. The Jack Army had endured a stomach churning, tense half time interval with the scores locked at 2-2 at the break. James Thomas’ second penalty just a minute before that first half had closed tied the scores but the Swans needed a win to guarantee safety and prevent the club sliding out of the Football League.
Cometh the Hour, Cometh The Mighty Lenny Johnrose, scorer of the pivotal third goal just three minutes into that second period.
Fellow influential January signing Roberto Martinez swung in a free kick, Thomas headed it back into the mixer and there was Johnrose to bundle the ball home for a goal of epic magnitude – sealing a special place in Swans folklore in the process.
I loved watching Lenny in a Swans shirt. A defensive midfielder that could play a bit and get his fair share of goals, Johnrose patrolled the middle of the pitch in fearless fashion and gave his all for his side in every minute of every game he played.
In all Johnrose made 40 appearances for Swans, captaining the side on a few occasions along the way. His time with the club came to an end in 2004 when Bryan Flynn left the club by mutual consent, Johnrose having his nearly expired contract paid up a few days later.
And just like that, a hero of mine was no longer a Swan.
But over 15 years later The Mighty Lenny Johnrose became my hero all over again.
I made the twin discovery that Lenny was on Twitter (@LJohnrose – go follow him!) and also that he had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. The former delighted me, the latter left me profoundly sad.
For those that aren’t particularly familiar with it, Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is an uncommon condition that affects a person’s brain and nerves, causing a weakness that gets worse over time. There’s no cure for it, just treatments that can reduce the debilitating effects on a sufferer’s daily life.
I hated to think of the robust and muscular player I remembered so fondly falling victim to a devastating disease like this one that would eat away at his muscles and mobility.
Huh…just as well the man himself didn’t think as negatively as I did, which I came to realise as I watched his fight against this silent, insidious opponent unfold over his Twitter account. The sheer resolve, bloody mindedness and unwavering positivity in which he approached this most personal of fights.
Lenny was a leader win the football pitch and he’s been an inspiration off it as he refuses to let his struggle with MND get the better of him.
The man himself has fond memories of his time at the Swans and is eternally grateful for the support he’s received from the Jack Army, as he shared with us here at ATFV:
“Whenever I look back at my time at Swansea it is always with affection. Not just in terms of the football club but the place in general.
“My previous experiences of being in Wales – in North Wales – were somewhat tainted by the level of racist abuse that I received, so I had a few things to consider before agreeing to join the Swans. Bryan Flynn was the one who convinced me to give it a chance, and he was spot on.
“From the minute I arrived , people couldn’t have been friendlier or done more to help. I truly felt like I belonged.
“Obviously there were ups and downs on the pitch, but I honestly don’t ever recall getting any stick from the supporters.
“Now, nearly 20 years later those same people are showing the same, if not more, level of support in my fight against MND. I really am so grateful; it makes such a difference and really helps me to remain positive.”
Since his MND diagnosis in 2017 – a fact he kept secret for more than a year – Lenny has been doing his utmost to not only fight the disease on a personal level but to also raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, an organisation that provides vital practical and emotional support and also crucially continues to search for a cure.
Lenny’s JustGiving page has already amassed over £14k so far and I look forward to devoting ATFV’s resources to add to this total in the future – it’s the least I can do for a hero of mine, after all.
And as he’s my hero twice over now, I’ll leave Lenny have the last word in this article with his heartfelt message to all of you reading this:
“I’d like to say a huge thank you to the fans and people of Swansea for accepting me as one of your own, and for playing a huge part in my life.”