It's the experiences that make a stadium

10th January 2015

When the Swans played West Ham up in London before Christmas, former Swans defender Andy Legg, who was summarising the match on the radio, had an embarrassing admission to make on air.
The full-back, reputed to have the longest throw in football, thought he was heading to the wrong venue when his sat-nav told him he was approaching the Boleyn Ground.
Legg, who was convinced he was near the Hammers' home, couldn't understand why his in-car navigator was telling him he was approaching a ground he'd never heard of.
Poor Leggy was expecting to be told he was arriving at Upton Park - exposing a glaring gap in his footballing knowledge.
Although the Hammers' ground is more commonly known these days  as Upton Park, most football anoraks, let alone West Ham fans, will tell you that the stadium is called  the Boleyn Ground.
The venue gained its name from a house that stood next to the ground, called Boleyn Castle, and which supposedly had been home to Anne Boleyn.
To be fair to Leggy, football ground names can be something of a minefield.
Over the past few decades many clubs have moved home due to the ageing facilities at venues which were built over a century ago.
So out went such famous arenas as Derby County's Baseball Ground and Sunderland's Roker Park, and in came new names such as Pride Park and the Stadium of Light.
Then, in the 1990s clubs starting selling the naming rights to their grounds, which really added to the confusion.
Valley Parade has been Bradford City's home since 1903 - a famous venue steeped in glory as well as unimaginable tragedy.
But since the mid-90s, the ground has changed  its name four times. From Valley Parade to The Pulse Radio Stadium, to The Bradford and Bingley Stadium, to the Intersonic Stadium to The Coral Windows Stadium.
There have been some utterly awful names in recent years. Can you imagine waving goodbye to the family on a Saturday afternoon and shouting: "I'm off down the Galpharm for the game!"
Well that's exactly what fans of Huddersfield United were faced with when their new McAlpine Stadium was renamed.
Originally based at Leeds Road  before their move to the McAlpine, Terriers fans now found themselves based at a venue named after a pharmaceutical company. At least the latest name for the ground - The John Smiths Stadium - should be a little easier to swallow.
When Scunthorpe United left the Old Show Ground in 1988 for the purpose built Glanford Park, it was the first new Football League Ground to be built in 30 years. Since then, another 30-odd clubs have upped sticks and moved to a new ground, including of course, the Swans.
As far as sponsored names are concerned, we're lucky here in Swansea. It's easy to forget sometimes that the Liberty Stadium is in fact named after sponsors Liberty Properties.
At least Liberty is a proper word - not a trade name - like Galpharm.
And in my view it's an appropriate name for the team that plays here.
The dictionary definition of liberty is the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's behaviour or political views.
There's no doubt that since the Swans have been based here, they've played with a freedom which has allowed them not only to climb their way into the Premier League, but to establish themselves there.
Also, the structure of the club's ownership and the way it is run gives it the liberty to do things "The Swansea Way".
Of course, our visitors today are going to have to get used to a new venue and name of their own in the next few years.
Whether their current preference is Upton Park or the Boleyn Ground, Hammers fans will soon be making the trip over to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Here are a couple of helpful hints for settling in to your new home.
Having relatively recently moved into a nice new stadium ourselves, we thought you might benefit from our experiences.
First, and most importantly of all, remember you have moved. You don't want to be the one trying to dash across London  from Green Street to Stratford with minutes to go before kick off. 
Don't laugh, old habits die hard. If I didn't have to actually drive past the Liberty to get to the Vetch, I'm sure I would have made that mistake after we moved! And for months afterwards I kept saying: "I'm off down the Vetch."
Secondly, don't fall into the trap of looking back through your claret-tinted glasses and yearning for the happy memories and familiar home comforts of Upton Park.
Some new grounds  have been described as sanitised, breeze-block bowls with no soul or tradition.
Talk about stating the bleedin' obvious! Of course they are. When a stadium is built on a new site, it has no history, no memories, no familiar old smells, no favourite places to stand or sit. It is just an empty building - cold metal and concrete.
At least the Hammers' new stadium will have some memories . . . albeit not football or West Ham related.
But to have tradition at a ground, you must have successes, failures, laughter and tears - memories, good and bad. 
They will come, and with them will come the heart and soul of the venue.
When the Swans moved to the Liberty back in 2005 it was a blank canvas, everything was new and unfamiliar, it simply didn't feel like home.
But in less than a decade, the team has helped us pack what seems like a lifetime of memories into the stadium's short history.
The 7-1 hammering of Bristol City; the brave stripper on that bitterly cold night against Yeovil when Trunds lobbed the keeper from almost halfway; the Championship Play-off semi against Forest when Pratley did score from half-way; the 1-0 win over Premier League leaders Man City, and the 3-0 demolition of Cardiff last season, are just a few of the many highlights.
There have inevitably been lows too  . . . seeing  the likes of Ferrie Bodde and Neil Taylor being carried from the pitch after awful injuries, Craig Bellamy's winner for Cardiff here in the Championship, and, of course the heartbreaking tributes to the late Besian Idrizaj.
But these experiences are what make a stadium a home.
Also, don't blame any initial lack of atmosphere on the new stadium. 
Some have rather unkindly dubbed the Liberty as 'The Library', because of an apparent lack of atmosphere at Ospreys matches held here.
However, it's not the building that creates the atmosphere, it's the supporters. 
There's no point complaining there's no singing at your new venue if you're not prepared to belt out a few verses of Bubbles yourself.
There's nothing quite like the sound of Hymns and Arias echoing around the Liberty just before kick-off. I'd suggest it has become one of the iconic sounds of the Premier League over the past few seasons.
It sounds pretty good when the Swans are on top during the game too . . . with a bit of luck we'll hear that this afternoon.
Hammers fans, enjoy the comforts of your shiny new home, whatever it's called. We wish you a long and happy stay there - except when the Swans come to visit!
C'mon you Swans!