Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Gone But Not Forgotten: Vetch Field

Today we start a new series called Gone But Not Forgotten where we remember old football grounds that are no longer with us. First up is the Vetch Field written by Swansea fan Abigail Davies, who also writes for The Ball Is Round. You can follow her on twitter @swanabi 

'Take me to the Vetch Field way down by the sea,
where I will follow Swansea, Swansea City'

Over the years Swansea City fans have seen their fair share of highs and lows throughout the football divisions. During the roller-coaster years at Vetch Field many heroes and legends were born, while thousands of memories were built.

Often referred to as the Lovely, Ugly Vetch Field, Swansea's home ground was not prized on its appearance, but its history and the memories it held more than compensated.

Alan Curtis, Ivor Allchurch, Robbie James and James Thomas are amongst a long list of greats to have graced the stadium and are legends who will always be remembered for their services to the club.

Life as a Swansea Jack has never been straight forward. The turmoil between 2001 and 2003 was arguably the toughest of times for the Welsh side and definitely the worst Swans experience I have ever had.

Something old

As well as the club being sold for just £1, The Swans were relegated to the Third Division before almost dropping out of the Football League all together. City required victory at the Vetch on the final day of the 2002-03 season to retain their League status and for me it is one of stand out games to have been played at the ground.

More than 9,500 fans filled the stands to watch The Swans take on Hull on 3 May 2003 hoping their side could avoid the unthinkable. Brian Flynn's side managed to secure last-day survival with a 4-2 victory. The feeling that myself and I'm sure all Swans fans felt that day is one that we will remember for the rest of our lives.

After imagining the worst, the sheer relief felt when the final whistle was blown is indescribable. The Vetch erupted as though we had just won the greatest prize in football, with fans running onto the pitch from every direction. There were tears, smiles, laughter, screams and chants – it was an atmosphere I had never seen before and one I doubt will be repeated.

The Swans continued to play their home games at the Vetch for a further two seasons, gaining promotion in their final year at the ground which made sure the final memories of the Vetch were a fitting tribute to a ground that had been like a second home to so many.

The Swans moved to the Liberty Stadium in the summer of 2005. Despite the ground having almost twice the capacity of Vetch Field and being much more capable of entertaining football clubs of the highest calibre, it took time to adjust to the new surroundings. However, with the Swans now pushing for promotion to the top flight of English football its hard to imagine how we could have developed and coped at this level if we were still at The Vetch.

Something new

At the time of the move many fans were in favour of the switch, whilst there was also a large number of fans against leaving The Vetch. Personally I had mixed opinions and emotions over the move - there was a part of me that didn't want to leave the place where I had started my love affair with Swansea City, seen Jack legends such as Leon Britton, Alan Tate and Lee Trundle play and move into a stadium that despite having a lot of character, just wasn't the Vetch Field.

At the same time it was an exciting prospect to take the leap that would see my club playing in a stadium fit for Premier League football with a history waiting to be written, a place where we would hopefully see The Swans create moments as prolific as those at The Vetch.

Although we are only in our sixth season at The Liberty, we have already seen a number of stars born, achievements made and records broken and while I think its still important to reminisce on the The Vetch days, it is great to see we have already created many unforgettable scenes at our new home.

No comments: