Leeds – Ten Years On

We bring you a nostalgic piece about a classic Swansea City game. This was originally published in SoS fanzine for the tenth anniversary of the match in December 2017.

Things were very different in this part of south Wales a decade ago. We were in League 1, the Swansea Way had only just been implemented and the Liberty hadn’t really begun to feel like home, in spite of the fact we’d been there for over two years.

That fact began to change though on one Saturday afternoon ten years ago. The Swans then managed by Roberto Martinez welcomed Leeds United to SA1 for an epic top of the table clash that was the talk of the town.

In those days we didn’t sell out too often but all the tickets for this game were snapped up pretty quickly. The Liberty had been very sterile during that season even though we were top of the league. A combination of fans being spread out too much, overzealous stewarding and the high roof all contributing factors to our new home lacking in hostility compared to the Vetch Field.

But this was different. You could just sense in the build-up how massive this game was. The Liberty had seen many more families attending compared to the Vetch but this was a day for the more traditional football fan. Everywhere you looked there were men full of testosterone, ready for one of the biggest games in recent years.

Leeds had sold out their end with 2,500 making the journey from West Yorkshire and the stage was set for the two promotion favourites to do battle. And it didn’t disappoint. Prior to kick off the atmosphere was as electric as we’d ever seen at the Liberty and the DJ even afforded us the great tradition of a pre match “Daydream Believer” which was received as well as a Lee Trundle shoulder roll.

The capacity crowd didn’t have long to wait for the game’s first big moment as Andy Robinson curled a free kick into the keeper’s top right hand corner to send the east stand wild. The opposition fans were being taunted with the “1-0 to the sheep shaggers” chant when Jermaine Beckford seized on a mistake by Dennis Lawrence to equalise which set the tone for what was to come.

Martinez’s men responded well with Paul Anderson going close before a rare goal from a corner and an even rarer scorer in Garry Monk saw the Swans regain the lead midway through the half.

The flash point came shortly afterwards when Ferrie Bodde in a challenge with Jonny Howson stamped on the Leeds midfielder and in the image of their manager Dennis Wise surrounded referee Andre Marriner to pressure him into producing a red card. It worked as the Dutchman was given his marching orders but once I’d seen the replay there could be no complaints, it was a shocker.

The Swans regrouped and just before half time Jason Scotland picked up the ball in his own half by the dugout and went on a mazy run which ended with him by the edge of the box where a cool left footed shot gave us a two goal advantage to hang onto in the second half.

We would need it. Within two minutes of the restart Alan Thompson scored a stunning free kick to halve the deficit and when Leeds were awarded a free kick in a similar position a couple of minutes the home crowd feared the worst. This time Thompson his the woodwork as the Swans survived but the visitors felt confident of at least getting something from the game.

This is when the crowd took over. Seeing that we needed a lift the atmosphere was lifted up a notch which seemed to flatter the opposition and they didn’t really create anything of note after that. Spurred on by the Jack Army the Swans managed to see the game out for a memorable win and I can only compare the impact of the crowd to when Wales beat Belgium in Euro 2016 qualifying in terms of how they helped us gain the result.

There seemed to be this defiance in the stands in terms of “we won’t let the fact we’re down to ten men stop us winning” and it seemed to inspire the players. There were heroes all over the pitch from Monk and the back, to Leon Britton pulling the strings in the middle to Paul Anderson out wide and decisive goal scorer Jason Scotland.

The result had a major bearing on both clubs seasons as Swansea went from strength to strength eventually accumulating 92 points as we romped to the League 1 title. The visitors meanwhile who had been docked 15 points before a ball was kicked could have gone ahead of us that day with a victory but instead endured a slump and would miss out on promotion by losing to Doncaster in a Play-Off final.

More importantly though they finished with 76 points which meant that even with their 15 taken off they wouldn’t have finished above the Swans.

Since then things have changed unrecognisably in south Wales but this was the day when the Liberty truly started to feel like home.