Swansea City 1 – Tranmere Rovers 0 (6th August 2005)
Football League: League One
Swansea opened their 2005/06 League One campaign in front of almost 17,000 people with their first competitive game at the creatively-named New Stadium Swansea. Fortunately this name would soon be dropped and replaced by the Liberty Stadium after a sponsor was found for the new ground. Swansea faced a Tranmere side hotly tipped for promotion to the Championship while the Swans’ primary concern was consolidating their position in the division.
Swansea took the lead through a 30th minute goal by new signing Adebayo Akinfenwa, bought from Torquay in the summer. Despite some sustained Rovers pressure, including a penalty save from the Swansea goalkeeper Willy Gueret in the 39th minute, the Swans held on to record a psychologically important first win at their new home, no harm arising from a missed opportunity to increase their lead when Lee Trundle failed to convert his own spot kick. This result was the start of a good first season back in League 1, as Swansea reached the play-offs after finishing sixth, although the season ultimately ended in the disappointment of a play-off final defeat at the hands of Barnsley. The opening of the Liberty Stadium was a vital step on the path which currently sees Swansea playing the best sides in the country in the Premier League.
The recovery process began after Swansea almost fell out of the Football League in 2003, only avoiding this due to a final day victory over Hull City at the Vetch and gaining promotion to League One by finishing third at the end of the 2004/05 season. Although promotion to the Premier League would not have been impossible at the Vetch, it would be the smallest ground in the division by around 7,000 seats, and major improvements would also have been necessary due to the laws regarding terracing in the higher divisions of British football. The attractive nature of a new stadium, and the ambition it represented, also increased the chances of Swansea securing the higher quality players required to climb the league ladder.
One of the concerns regarding the new stadium was that despite it been an obvious improvement on the match day experience for both players and fans it would fail to match the intense atmosphere the Vetch could provide. These worries centred on problems many clubs have at new grounds when supporters fail to identify with the new unfamiliar surroundings, however this was soon put to bed by the noise generated by the Swansea faithful. Tranmere manager Brian Little summed up his team’s experience by saying, “One of the things Swansea will rely on is this stadium and the noise that is generated by the supporters” (South Wales Evening Post, 8/08/2005). With this theory still holding true in the Premier League it is easy to see the progress the Swans have made since their short trip from Vetch Field to the Liberty Stadium.
Swansea 1 – 0 Tranmere
Scorer: Akinfenwa 30
Swansea: Gueret, Ricketts, Austin, O’Leary, Martinez, Akinfenwa, Trundle (Tudor Jones 90), Monk (Tate 46), Forbes, Goodfellow, Iriekpen. Substitutes not used: Connor, McLeod, Britton.
Tranmere: Achterberg, Linwood, Jackson, Sharps, Goodison, Aiston (Hume 61), Rankine, McAteer, Roberts, Greenacre, Zola. Substitutes not used: Wilson, Harrison, Jennings, Whitmore.
News link: Akinfenwa scored the only goal of the game (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_div_2/4730607.stm)