White Hart Lane ready for fitting farewell

Leave a comment

After 118 years, the stage is set for the final 90 minutes of action at White Hart Lane this Sunday.

[ MORE: Tour around Spurs’ new stadium ]

Tottenham Hotspur host Manchester United (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in their final game at the Lane with Mauricio Pochettino‘s men able to go the entire home season unbeaten if they avoid defeat.

[ PHOTOS: What are oldest stadiums in PL? ]

The Lane is truly one of the great soccer cathedrals in England. Cramped with fans close to the pitch at every angle, you can almost feel the history seeping through your flesh as you walk around and sniff in the dusty air and freshly cut grass. Like Anfield, Old Trafford and Goodison Park in the Premier League, or Fenway Park or Wrigley Field in the U.S., the design of the stadium gives us a glimpse of previous generations. White Hart Lane has been a constant for Spurs fans of every generation.

During a game you seem to hover over the pitch from any seat in the stadium and when goals go you feel the old place reverberate and shudder with ecstasy. Spurs’ current team will look to give their fans a few final moments to enjoy in their final game at the Lane.

Yet the game is just one part of the farewell to Tottenham’s historic ground.

[ MORE: Spurs’ plan to continue American connection

After the game a huge farewell ceremony is planned (which you can watch live online via NBCSports.com) where former players, the current squad and coaching staff and academy teams will all be present, plus a show featuring music and a video montage will take center stage. Plus, fans will be given special gifts on arrival and there will be a fitting mosaic to see off the Lane in style.

Spurs leaving their historic home has kind of snuck up on everyone for a few reasons. Firstly, they only announced it was happening on Apr. 28 when their move to Wembley Stadium was confirmed. And secondly, they’ll be returning in just after 12 months when their new 61,000 capacity stadium is expected ready on the site right next to the current home.

Yes, Spurs will be leaving behind their entire history as a club when the current White Hart Lane stadium is leveled but they’ll also be preparing the club, and the surrounding area, for a bright new future.

It will be a slightly somber occasion at the Lane given the fact that many fans adore the many quirks (perhaps they won’t miss the huge stanchions placed in front of seats that much…) and superb atmosphere generated at the Lane. Plus, the fact that Spurs look almost certain to come up short in the Premier League title race to Chelsea will make many think of “what could have been” during the final outing in one of English soccer’s oldest stadiums.

However, there is so much to be thankful to White Hart Lane for over the years.

From a League and FA Cup double under Bill Nicholson to magical players like Glenn Hoddle, Osvaldo Ardiles and now Harry Kane and Dele Alli strutting their stuff, this stadium has had a good run. A very good run.

Now, it will get one final sendoff before Tottenham make a huge leap into a bright future with their new home at White Hart Lane set to generate plenty of extra cash in ticket revenue, NFL games arriving on a purpose-built field and many more amenities that will benefit the local community for many generations to come. This is a game changer.

Obviously things will never be the same again, but the fact that Spurs will be remaining in their spiritual home will certainly help ease this massive transition for everyone at Tottenham.

ProSoccerTalk will be on site at White Hart Lane on Sunday to provide videos, photos, analysis and more from the final game.

Report: Wenger ready to pay Ozil, Sanchez club record deals

AP Photo/Matt Dunham
Leave a comment

Arsenal knows its departure from the UEFA Champions League has to be a short one, and that keeping its two best attackers around is imperative.

That’s why Arsene Wenger is preparing to make Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez the top paid players in Arsenal history, according to a report from The Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson.

The contract status of both players has been a touchy one this season, and Sanchez especially has been linked with some of the biggest clubs in Europe (including London neighbors Chelsea).

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

But perhaps the Gunners’ FA Cup triumph over Chelsea has Ozil and Sanchez feeling good vibes about the Emirates Stadium set, and Arsenal is ready to pounce. According to the report:

Wenger has told the board that he thinks he can win the Premier League if this group stays together and is supplemented by no more than two or three key additions. Ozil is understood already to have been offered more than £250,000 a week and the club are ready to go to around £280,000 for both him and Sanchez.

The Gunners need both players healthy and happy heading into next season, and appropriate additions as well (A top striker is a must. Again). Wage structure is important, but Arsenal will have a blessing in disguise if another player can make a legit case he deserves to be paid like Ozil and Sanchez any time soon.

West Ham, Everton, and the superstar striker’s need for the Champions League

Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Come up with a list of active elite level strikers, and it’s likely to be a short one filled with names from UEFA Champions League clubs.

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Costa, Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandowski, Edinson Cavani, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Harry Kane, even Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Rarely do names like these move to a non-UCL club while in their prime, and it’s just as uncommon to see them stay at clubs which have failed to qualify for the UCL.

The money, the prestige, the endorsements; All are amplified by the world stage. Given the massive import of their domestic stage and spotlight, Premier League sides have bucked this trend on occasion — see Romelu Lukaku — but it’s the exception to the rule.

That’s what puts an ambitious club like West Ham United between a rock and a hard place. The Irons have been vocal about their desires to bring in a top-end striker, and it’s likely they’d be happy to spend what it takes to attract Alexandre Lacazette, Aubameyang, or Cavani to town.

Lyon reportedly rejected a $45 million bid for Lacazette last season, admitting that ultimately the player’s desires would determine his future. Higuain, too, was linked to chairman David Gold’s wallet before moving to Juventus. Carlos Bacca also saw his future connected to the Irons.

Instead, Gold landed Andre Ayew from Swansea, and had to hope Andy Carroll could stay healthy or Enner Valencia would deliver. Not a striker, Dimitri Payet apparently decided to skip town soon after West Ham’s Europa League exit at the hands of Astra Giurgiu.

Now it’s Kelechi Iheanacho being linked to the London Stadium, another hopeful swing from the Irons that points a strong finger at the problem: West Ham can be as ambitious as it likes, but it’s going to need a miracle to pull an elite striker to London without European football.

And it shouldn’t happen, but what if Everton is bumped from the UEL in the third qualifying round or playoff next year? Will Lukaku follow Payet’s lead and sink another team from joining the discussion? Though an argument can be made it’s better for Everton to lose those summer games, the Toffees very much need to succeed in the UEL qualifying and also show signs of strength in the early PL docket. That’s the unforgiving life of sitting on the outskirts of the powerful tier.

Every team at every level is searching for the next elite striker. Some, like West Ham, will need to luck into a young buck on the rise or a flawed striker finding his potential. And how do they hold onto that player, one who will have alerted the big boys to his arrival, without qualifying for Europe? It’s improbable.

The ability of teams like Chelsea and Liverpool to compete for a European slot in the PL standings thanks to missing out on the UCL the year before signals hope for clubs like Everton and West Ham. And five Premier League sides competing in the UCL this year could extend an invitation to stay longer in the Top Seven discussion for sides like Southampton and Leicester City, too.

So this summer’s striker captures are huge for Slaven Bilic and David Gold. This is a window the league’s “next group” won’t have open annually, and West Ham’s hopes of barging into the discussion again hinge on who shows up by August.

Toure reportedly set for another year with Man City

Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Never say never.

Yaya Toure looks like his season-long peace with Pep Guardiola will stretch into a new season, with Toure’s combustible agent admitting talks with Manchester City regarding a new contract.

Dimitri Seluk is among the worst agents on Earth Toure’s agent, and said, “We are talking. We will see what happens but City is a club that is in Yaya’s heart.”

[ MORE: Barcelona names new manager ]

But Seluk has not been in City’s heart, having made numerous poor decisions on when to open his mouth, deepening a rift between Toure and Guardiola that kept the player off the pitch for some time. Earlier this Spring, Seluk also suggested that Toure could join Manchester United.

So, yeah, smart guy. Hates microphones and publicity.

Toure turned 34 this month, and became a fixture for Guardiola once he broke into the lineup. The midfielder made nine-straight starts around the turn of the calendar, scoring five goals in the Premier League.

Wolfsburg holds off Braunschweig with Vieirinha blast (video)

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Outworked and outperformed in the first half of their playoff second leg at Eintracht Braunschweig, Wolfsburg needed a wake-up call to steady its hopes of staying in the Bundesliga.

That came off the boot of longtime right back Vieirinha, as the Portuguese veteran ran onto a rebound and fired a 17-yard arrow into the goal to boost Wolfsburg aggregate lead to 2-0.

[ MORE: Barcelona names new manager ]

That would mean the 2.Bundesliga hosts would need three goals to give the second tier a third promotion this season. An 82nd minute red card to Braunschweig’s Maximilian Sauer effectively ended those far-off dreams.

Ingolstadt and Darmstadt were relegated in the season, and Stuttgart and Hannover were promoted from 2.Bundesliga.