White Hart Lane handed glorious, emotional finale

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LONDON — This was a glorious way to end 118 years at White Hart Lane.

[ MORE: Pochettino reacts to “perfect” finale ]

Tottenham Hotspur beat Manchester United 2-1 in their 2,533rd, and final, game at the Lane on Sunday and the victory meant Spurs went through a Premier League season unbeaten at home for the first time in their history.

It also secured them second place in the PL, also a first, and the victory was their 14th-straight in the PL to equal a club record run for consecutive home league wins.

[ MORE: A look around Spurs’ new home

We all know that the game on Sunday was just a small part of the celebrations as their famous stadium will start to be dismantled on Monday to continue the rapid progress of their new 61,559-seat home next door while they play at Wembley next season.

Sunday was all about saying “Farewell to the Lane” for Tottenham and their fans. They certainly did that with the ferocious chants in the stands matched on the pitch with a dominant display from start to finish.

In his brief post-game press conference, ProSoccerTalk asked Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino what his overriding memory of White Hart Lane would be.

“Now, it will always be the last day,” Pochettino said, smiling. “For me it was a very exciting day because I think it was perfect. The preparation of the game, the game we played well and we got the three points and on the end all the ceremony was fantastic to share with all of the legends, the people, the staff and the fans, the family. For me the most special day will always be this last day at White Hart Lane.”

There was also something spiritual about 30,000 fans waving flags and singing “glory, glory hallelujah” as things came to a close. A huge pitch invasion at the final whistle then saw fans mobbing the players, taking selfies on the grass and eventually they were pushed back for a huge ceremony to begin which ended with a rainbow overhead.

Perfection was the word of the day.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Before the game fans bathed in the glorious late spring sunshine in north London, as a supporter with a Spurs badge tattooed on his calf looked wistfully up to the sky. There was a lot of that going on.

In the streets around Tottenham High Road, Tottenham’s fans chatted about the change to their routine as they walked to the old venue one last time. “Where will I get my burgers from?!” laughed one supporter.

With throwback jerseys from eras gone by littering the streets there was Klinsmann, Hoddle and the jerseys of many others, with one fan even walking around with a retro kit and a captains armband on. Yeah, it was that kind of day.

Outside the stadium “farewell to the Lane” scarves were selling like hotcakes from stands perched up against the construction walls surrounding the building site for the new stadium.

There was a slightly subdued atmosphere before the game, with fans wistfully looking around as they arrived much earlier than usual. The special edition matchday program included countless memories from Spurs greats and old photos from memorial European nights, league wins and more from over the past 118 years.

One Spurs employee said the emotions hadn’t quite hit him yet but he was sure they would during the game.

“I’ve worked here for 20 years, so I’m sure the emotions will kick in. Even though we are sad to be moving on, our history is also our future.”

As fans posed for as many photos as possible outside and inside the stadium, the scene was set for the finale. Many supporters arrived in the stadium early to soak up the atmosphere while reminiscing about their favorite players, memories and moments at the Lane.

With flags on the seat for each fan, a wonderful scene was set as the players arrived on the pitch.

They didn’t have to wait long to get the party started as Victor Wanyama headed home in the sixth minute to make it 1-0 and Spurs peppered United’s goal with efforts as Harry Kane hit the crossbar and David De Gea brilliantly denied Heung-Min Son, Dele Alli and Kane.

Throughout the game the chants became more reflective rather than reactionary as a somber rendition of “glory, glory hallelujah” set things off.

Chants about previous Spurs players soon arrived as Ledely King, Steve Archibald, Paul Gascoigne, Rafael van der Vaart, Jermain Defoe, Glen Hoddle and Teddy Sheringham were all serenaded. At times, it must have been tough for Tottenham’s players to focus as they glanced around them during breaks in the game to drink in the celebrations as a helicopter hovered above.

The game itself was dominated but Tottenham, perhaps reflecting that any tinges of sadness were replaced with optimism and what lies ahead in the next few years for this talented young team in a stunning new stadium with one of the most promising managers in the game, Mauricio Pochettino, leading the way.

Kane added a wonderful flick in the second half to make it 2-0 and despite Wayne Rooney pulling one back, Spurs sealed the win they needed in style as a perfect finale arrived.

That’s when tears started to kick in around the stands as fans led flat on the grass, kissed the turf and performed the now legendary “Klinsmann slide” in celebration.

Eventually a video and musical tribute arrived in a glitzy closing ceremony which saw Spurs legends join the current first team and management squad on the pitch to thank the fans.

All media were instructed to leave the stadium at 8:30pm local time and as the doors closed for the final time, preparations were being made to pull the famous stadium down.

“We are Tottenham, super Tottenham, we are Tottenham… from the Lane!” was sung for the final time on Sunday at Spurs’ spiritual home.

Tottenham can rest easy knowing that they gave one of the greatest-ever cathedrals in English soccer a fitting, glorious finale.

The fact that just as the final song finished in the post-game ceremony a rainbow appeared directly above White Hart Lane added a final chapter to the fairytale ending this historic stadium deserved.

FIFA: Insufficient evidence of doping by Russia’s World Cup squad

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA says there is insufficient evidence any players in Russia’s World Cup squad have previously doped.

The governing body has been assessing information from the World Anti-Doping Agency, samples recovered from the Moscow lab, and information from its former director Grigory Rodchenkov.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Russia last week named a provisional 28-man squad, plus seven reserves for the World Cup, which kicks off in Moscow on June 14.

After investigating the players, FIFA says “insufficient evidence was found to assert an anti-doping rule violation. FIFA has informed the World Anti-Doping Agency of its conclusions, and WADA in turn has agreed with FIFA’s decision to close the cases.”

FIFA did not provide information on the status of investigations into players who are not in the World Cup squad.

Why Pulisic could be more likely to stay at Dortmund

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Christian Pulisic isn’t short of potential suitors this summer as he ponders his future.

Without a World Cup, Pulisic has plenty of time to recover from another full season of European football, one where he fully experienced the harsh realities of soccer at the highest level – two managers in and two managers out.

[READ: Emery set to replace Wenger at Arsenal]

With Dortmund hiring another coach, it seemed there was a chance Pulisic could decide to leave Dortmund and reunite with former manager Jurgen Klopp, or head elsewhere for a more stable situation. But Tuesday’s news that Dortmund has hired Lucien Favre may change all of that.

The 60-year-old Swiss native signed a two-year contract Tuesday, and his preferred style of play fits perfectly into how Pulisic performs best on the field.

The Bundesliga recently posted a detailed look at Favre’s tactics from his time at Nice, where he led the club to finishes of third and sixth the last two years, while re-juvinating the careers of Mario Balotelli and Younes Belhanda as well as unearthing young gems in Jean Seri and Allan Saint-Maximin.

In Favre’s 4-3-3, you could easily see Pulisic lining up on the right of the forward trident, running to the byline and dishing out assists, with Marco Reus on the left, cutting inside and firing shots home with his howitzer of a right leg. Or we could see the pair switch.

One thing that is currently missing is a dynamic No. 9, but with the whole summer transfer window ahead, Dortmund could easily re-sign Michy Batshuayi or find a new powerful center forward (Balotelli, anyone?).

In short, while Pulisic may have had a reason to leave Dortmund had another Peter Stoger-type manager been hired, Pulisic now has no reason why he can’t be a wild success at Dortmund for years to come. The 19-year-old (he’s still a teenager!) American star will have plenty of chances to bend in crosses or cut in and score goals himself, as well as the opportunity to play in the UEFA Champions League.

Kane named England captain, set to break record

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Call him captain Kane.

The FA confirmed on Tuesday that Harry Kane would captain England at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where he’ll break a record for being the youngest England captain at a World Cup. At just 24-years of age, Kane appears wise beyond his years and has over the past World Cup cycle developed into arguably the best striker in the Premier League, if not one of the top center forwards in the world.

The previous youngest England captain was the late, great Bobby Moore, who was 25-years old at the 1966 World Cup – hosted of course by England.

Considering the overall youth movement within the England ranks, this comes as a smart decision from manager Gareth Southgate. Though strikers aren’t usually made captains, he leads the line by example and has displayed great leadership for Tottenham over the last two years. In addition, should he remain consistent in his club and country form, he could be an England captain for another eight years or so.

In the last two World Cups, England has gone with the veteran hand for captain, with Steven Gerrard wearing the armband for both. But England was knocked out in the Round of 16 in 2010 and didn’t make it out of the group stage in 2014, which, combined with the shocking defeat to Iceland in Euro 2016, necessitated a change in management and culture.

Arsenal, Puma drop new kit for upcoming season

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Arsenal will have a new home kit next year, but there’s a bit of a twist compared to the old reliable we know and love.

Puma and Arsenal released the club’s 2018-2019 home kit on Tuesday morning, featuring a red and white top with a “pulse” design through the center, which displays different shades of red to symbolize the heartbeat of the club, and lighter red on the white sleeves. White shorts and socks will accompany the home outfit.

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Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette, Hector Bellerin and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang all modeled the new kit, giving a hint that the quartet could be in Arsenal colors next season.

The uniform also uses Puma’s “seamless evoKNIT” technology, making it easier for players to play in while running across the pitch. The club has picked the marketing campaign “#WeAreTheArsenal” to drive sales.

Will the new kits bring Arsenal more success next season? Time will tell.