The 26th of May 2008 is a day I remember precious little of. A shame, because the day marks the first – and perhaps only – time that I saw my beloved Stockport County win at Wembley, beating Rochdale 3-2 in the League 2 Playoff Final. As so often with these momentous occasions, however, it is all something of a blur, two years on. Well, almost all of a blur, anway. The one distinct memory I do have is not of County captain Gareth Owen lifting the trophy, or even of any of our goals, but of Rochdale’s left winger silencing the previously jubilent County end by crashing in a magnificant volley right in front of us with 15 minutes to go. A comfortable victory suddenly turned into an anxious wait, and had brought to life what had been, in all honesty, a pretty mediocre contest.
Though Rundle’s goal proved to be in vain, it nevertheless has thus far marked the highlight of an inconsistent career. A promising young player at Darlington, Quakers fans were somewhat irked
when he left to join Carlisle for £40,000 in January 2003, upset that a talented player was moving to a rival in the same division. Since then, Rundle’s career has taken the typically nomadic path of many journeymen of the English game. He has impressed, in flashes, for Dublin City, Mansfield, Rochdale and now Morecambe. He has also had short spells at Rotherham and Chesterfield. One of those players who is always talked about as having ‘potential’ and who you feel could be a really valuable asset to any club in the lower two divisions if only he could perform consistently over a run of games, it is astonishing to note that Rundle is now 26 and so should be approaching his peak years. Two years after his wonder strike at Wembley, that he is still scrapping around at the bottom of the same division illustrates that potential has never been fulfiled, if indeed it was ever there at all. After all, he has still done better than the vast majority of footballers in this country by fashioning a professional career for himself.
Wingers are a strange breed in general; they have the capacity to excite and frustrate more than perhaps any other position. Typically described as ‘mercurical’, ‘magical’ or ‘tricky’, images are instantly conjured up of a Stanley Matthews, a Ryan Giggs or a Jimmy Johnstone making some poor full-back’s life utter hell. Whilst Rundle is very clearly several classes below these legends even at his best, it is nevertheless worth noting that what made these first three so special was their ability to peform to their best on a regular basis. Whether it is through a lack of ability or application, Rundle has never fulfilled the promise of his early days and has never looked like building on that great strike at Wembley. As he approaches his late twenties, Morecambe will need him to have discovered the secret of how to find his best form more than a few times a season as they seek to put a bad start to the new term behind them. If Rundle is to become anything more than a fleeting memory in the minds of football anoraks like myself, his time to deliver is surely now.