Thursday 4th May 2017 ko 19.00
Premier League 2-Division 1
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (Edwards 88)
LEICESTER CITY 4 (Barnes 22 79 Gordon 76 87)
Tottenham High Road will never quite be the same will it? I’ll leave others to debate whether Spurs’ new stadium is a new ground or a rebuild, save for to comment that the new stadium overlaps pretty much the entirety of the old North Stand. Because this evening was about plenty of things, but not pedantry.
The loss of Ugo Ehiogu was a shock in so many ways. The 44 year-old was working as U23 coach managing the Premier League 2 team at Tottenham. Therefore this game being quickly turned into a memorial game and fundraiser for his family was a logical and proportional response, and it was good to see the fans contributing generously via the bucket collection.
For many it was the chance to say goodbye to a ground that’s been Tottenham Hotspur’s home since 1899. With just the one game left against Manchester United, long sold out this was for many the last possibility of seeing the place one more time. So much so that the morning after the Manchester United game, in went the demolition crew. So much for the normal multiplicity of final games at closing down venues, I remember watching 3 or 4 when Oxford United’s former home the Manor Ground closed!
You can see why there’s been so much haste. The new ground has been growing a few yards north of White Hart Lane for most of this season, with a corner lost to the development already. With Spurs using Wembley Stadium for the entirety of next season, there is a clear requirement that there mustn’t be any scheduling slippage.
Half the interest was to compare old with new. Walking into a West Stand that as I type has already been demolished you could see why the new development was needed. White Hart Lane was extensively modernised in the 80’s but nearly 40 years later you compare the stadium to the top of the range stadia boasted by other Premier League teams and you couldn’t but help but notice how inferior the ground had become. And Tottenham cannot help but have looked enviously south as a bench mark.
No Spurs fan will thank me for mentioning Arsenal, but the Emirates Stadium since opening in 2006 has become the basis for comparison for any large new build stadium and it doesn’t take a massive leap of faith to imagine the Spurs board using the Emirates and simply aiming to beat every superlative.
So the new Tottenham stadium will hold 61,559, that’s 1,127 more than their rivals, plus the grass pitch will be retractable allowing easy conversion to 3G to allow an NFL team to play home games. So geared for an NFL franchise is the new stadium that there’ll be a separate entrance in the east stand for NFL personnel. Most eye-catching are the plans for the new South stand, a single tiered 17,500 capacity affair clearly designed as a home area, rather apeing the “Yellow Wall” at Borussia Dortmund. Add the in house bakery, microbrewery, and the viewing deck on the roof and the plans excite as much as standing outside and marveling at the sheer size of it all.
It had been virtually a year to the day since I’d attended a similar game at West Ham’s soon to go Boleyn Ground. The sense of impending loss seemed far more acute there, clearly Tottenham’s move is a lot shorter, and the trip to the match will remain unaltered. There was still a feeling of it all coming to an end, down to the father taking pictures of his son on the concourse steps but the over-riding feeling was more of evolution than destruction.
Tottenham lost this encounter, in what amounts to an under 23 league with with goalkeeper and up to 3 outfield players able to be over-age. You could easily forgive the defeat given the tragedy that had befallen them, on this occasion they lacked penetration against a Leicester team fighting relegation.
But as is usually the case for non-first X1 games the result didn’t really matter. The fans took one last look at the old ground, then turned, looked up and plotted their visits to the new.