Tottenham’s incredible new stadium a game changer

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LONDON — The looks on the faces of Tottenham’s fans everywhere told the story. They were home.

“This place is f****** amazing!” exclaimed a Spurs fans as he strutted down the gleaming terrace steps leading towards the pitch with a sausage roll hanging out of his mouth. It is. It truly is.

Those moments of awe happened as trains pulled into stations nearby and fans appeared around the corner of narrow north London streets to see the mammoth structure for the first time. This venue is a game changer in world soccer.

The stunning new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium cost close to $1.3 billion to build and after two years away from their spiritual home on White Hart Lane, Spurs’ first team played a proper home game there against Crystal Palace on Wednesday. The delay to open the stadium due to technical issues wasn’t ideal, but every fan said the same thing: it was worth the extra wait.

After a near two-year hiatus with games played at Wembley, fans could now go to their regular bars and eateries on matchdays. Despite the delay to opening the stadium due to technical issues, every single fan said the same thing: it was well worth the wait.

People recognized eachother in the street again — “how are you mate! Haven’t see you in ages” — as rituals before a Spurs game are now back to normal.

Increasing the capacity from 36,000 to 62,000 is a game-changer for Tottenham, and the extra revenue from matchdays should help them to further kick on and challenge England and Europe’s elite. Chairman Daniel Levy, the mastermind behind this stadium, was beaming with pride before the game. His vision is complete and his legacy intact. Spurs can now compete from a position of strength.

Only Manchester United’s Old Trafford has a larger capacity in the Premier League, and this stadium is breathtaking in every aspect. There is still work to do to upgrade the local train station and other parts of the infrastructure, but this stadium is a catalyst to improve all of that and much more.

It is striking just how many special features it has compared to the most recent new stadium built in the Premier League, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium which was constructed back in 2006. Of course, West Ham’s London Stadium home was converted from the 2012 Olympic Stadium to a soccer stadium and the issues with that have been well-documented.

Spurs’ new home is built for the fans, with the fans in mind, and they are still close to the pitch and in steep stands, just like they were at the old White Hart Lane. With the 17,000 capacity South Stand (the largest single stand in British soccer) designed with Borussia Dortmund’s famed ‘Yellow Wall’ in mind, it has x-factor after x-factor.

The noise from the South Stand was incredible throughout.

There is a sense of Americanization in this stadium, with Spurs looking to venues in the U.S. as to the best way to build the 65 food and drink locations and make everything as grand as possible.

With at least two NFL games to played in the new stadium each season for the next 10 years, Spurs have installed a turf field which sits underneath the current grass field. The latter can be rolled out in three sections in under an hour by pressing a button, while there are also NFL locker rooms specifically for NFL teams who head to London.

The whole place is unlike anything the Premier League has ever seen before.

But aside from luxuries like having a removable pitch, the largest club store in European soccer, the first-ever microbrewery inside a stadium in the UK, the glamorous H Club on the top floor and the tunnel club which gives an exclusive view into the tunnel area outside the locker room, there is a sense that this stadium is at the heart of the community.

Before the game the ceremony included a choir from Gladesmore Community School singing a song which called for hope after the Tottenham riots of 2011. As “Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur!” was belted out, there was a communal connection.

Seeing those youngster from a local school alongside Harry Kane and Co. in this gleaming stadium was an overwhelming moment. That is when it hit home what this is all about. It is about much more than a soccer stadium or having a successful team on the pitch.

On non matchdays fans can shop, eat and use the facilities, and in an area which has needed regeneration for many years, this is long overdue.

The local train station is set to be renamed Tottenham Hotspur from White Hart Lane, and Spurs will dominate the area for generations to come.

This stadium will not just shape Spurs’ future. It signals a brighter future for everyone in the surrounding area.

Speaking to fans and local business owners outside the stunning new home, they’re delighted to have the team back where they belong.

Hakeem, who was working behind the counter in a convenience store a few steps away from the new entrance, was delighted to have the team back in Tottenham: “This is a life-changing moment. The whole community has been waiting for the team to come back. More customers. More business. Great to have the stadium back.”

The game itself was a little uneventful, as these occasions with all of the fanfare usually are, but Spurs dominated and eventually broke through in the second half.

Heung-Min Son‘s shot was deflected in and the new South Stand went bonkers. Christian Eriksen tapped home another late on and that was enough to grab Tottenham a 2-0 win and boost their top four chances, with Mauricio Pochettino‘s side dominant but obviously still getting settled in at their new digs.

After the game, sat in the gleaming new press area waiting for Pochettino to arrive, my mind cast back to the small, cramped office at the old stadium where his meetings with the media used to take place.

A few hours before the bulldozers rolled in to demolish the old White Hart Lane, Pochettino gave his final press conference following the 2-1 win against Manchester United on May 14, 2017. 

I had the pleasure of asking the final question, and asked Pochettino what he would remember most from the glorious old home.

“Now, it will always be the last day,” Pochettino said. “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.”

The first day in the new stadium was perfect too, even if the journey to get there had been far from it.

Everyone connected with Tottenham was delighted to be back home at White Hart Lane. Where they belong.

“It is one of the best moments of my life,” Pochettino said afterwards. “It will always be in my memories and my heart.”

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Bartomeu vows Messi will finish career at Barcelona

Messi staying with Barcelona
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Lionel Messi will finish his career at Barcelona, says embattled president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

The exit clause in Messi’s latest Barcelona contract expired on June 1, putting a temporary end to worries that the world’s top player would leave a messy Barcelona season.

Messi, 33, is still near the top of his powers. He has 22 goals and 19 assists in 29 La Liga appearances this season, adding five goals and four assists in nine cup games.

[ MORE: Premier League standings ]

“(Messi) will end his working and footballing life at Barcelona”, said Bartomeu in a Monday radio interview. “We are negotiating with many players but Messi has explained to us he wants to stay. And so we’re going to enjoy him for much longer.”

Only four players in Europe’s top five leagues have scored more league goals than Messi and none of those players has more than eight assists. Messi’s 19 La Liga assists are two behind Thomas Muller in that same group.

It had been reported since November that Messi would not exercise his option to leave the club, but there were numerous reasons to think he might rethink things given problems at Barcelona.

There has been chaos in the board room and players including Messi were angry to be thrown under the proverbial bus when Ernesto Valverde was fired early this year.

Notably, he called Barcelona “home” but noted “weird things happening” at the Camp Nou. Fortunately, the club announced that an independent inspector cleared Barca’s hierarchy of wrongdoing after allegations that a third-party company contracted to the club tried to smear current and former club legends on social media.

Bartomeu needs Messi to stay as the club waits for Frenkie de Jong and Ansu Fati to come into the peaks of their powers. If the Argentine leaves Barca, who looks destined to finish second to Real Madrid despite leading the table for most of the year, the pressure on the president will reach an even higher level.

The president has overseen a mostly successful time at Barca during his tenure, winning four domestic titles and the 2014-15 Champions League.

FC Dallas withdrawn from MLS is Back tourney; Vela to sit out

FC Dallas withdraws from MLS is Back
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Carlos Vela’s decision to sit out the MLS is Back tournament has been one-upped by reports that MLS has pulled an entire team out of the fray in Florida.

Vela, considered by many to be the league’s top player, is opting out of representing LAFC and choosing to spend time with his pregnant wife and children.

The Mexican star, 31, said he would love to play but the coronavirus pandemic means missing out is in “the best interest of the health of my family to stay home and be with my wife during what is a risky pregnancy.”

[ MORE: Mourinho, Lloris react to Son spat ]

LAFC released a statement supporting Vela’s “difficult decision,” which will not help the West’s top side in its bid to outlast the Galaxy, Houston, and Portland in Group F, should the tournament go forward as planned.

Meanwhile, FC Dallas’ bad month has gotten much worse. Six players reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 last week and reports grew to include 10 players and one coach.

The side’s opening match against Vancouver was postponed on Saturday. Now FC Dallas says it is supporting an MLS decision to take the team out of the tournament. FC Dallas says it will take every precaution to make sure its return to Texas “minimizes risk of exposure to all parties involved.”

Dallas was drawn into Group B with Seattle, Vancouver, and San Jose. Two of the teams were set to advance to the knockout rounds.

Here is MLS’ statement on FC Dallas’ withdrawal:

“Major League Soccer announced today that FC Dallas have been withdrawn from the MLS is Back Tournament due to 10 players and one member of the technical staff confirmed positive for COVID-19. Each of these positive tests either occurred upon the club’s arrival or within a few days of arrival. The decision was made in the best interest of the health of all players and staff participating in the tournament, and in line with protocols created in conjunction with local and national health authorities and infectious disease experts.
“’Given the impact of the number of positive tests on the club’s ability to train and play competitive matches, we have made the decision to withdraw FC Dallas from the MLS is Back Tournament,’ said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. ‘The health of everyone involved in our return to play has always been our top priority, and we will continue to make decisions consistent with that priority.’
Of the 557 players currently in Orlando, Fla. 13 total players have been confirmed positive for COVID-19, 10 of those being FC Dallas players and the remaining three from two other clubs.”

Mourinho: ‘Nice boys only win the fair play cup’

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The reaction to two Tottenham players having a scrap was very on brand for Jose Mourinho.

[ MORE: Premier League standings ]

Mourinho called a half time coming-together between captain Hugo Lloris and star forward Heung-min Son ‘beautiful’ and praised the fighting spirit of his players as they beat Everton 1-0.

Speaking to reporters via Zoom after the win, Mourinho made a point that he wants his Tottenham side to be nastier as he was asked about saying they needed to grow up.

“A team of good boys, nice boys, the only thing that they win at the end of the season is the fair play cup. Which is something I’ve never won and I’m not interested in winning that,” Mourinho said. “You need to have a certain character. You need to grow up in terms of your mentality, in your responsibility because it is very, very important to be consistent. To have a good game, win a match, then lose the other one, then win another one, then draw another one. That is the kind of mentality that doesn’t take you further in your ambitions. It is not a specific concept but it is a concept that covers many, many areas. I think it is very, very important. I don’t like a team without communication, without demanding from each other. I don’t like a team without a critical sense. Probably what happened today at half time shouldn’t happen there, should happen just inside the dressing room, but I can promise you my teams, my winning teams, we had big fights in the team.”

That Jose Mourinho reaction said it all as to what he expects from Tottenham. He certainly knows all about winning and that is why Tottenham hired him.

A narrow win to beat Everton at home to move in to eighth place, nine points off the top four, probably isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things but Mourinho loved what he saw.

“I think they are the same thing, the same spirit,” Mourinho said when ProSoccerTalk asked him about the fight of his players on and off the pitch. “We spoke a lot after the game at Sheffield United and one of the things we spoke about was to have a critical sense, to be open with each other and be demanding with each other. Don’t accept the attitude. Don’t be passive in relation to the others. I think that was a consequence of that. The performance was very solid. My feeling was that the game was under control and I never felt the game wasn’t under control.

“Could we play better? Could we score more? Yes, of course. I always fear matches after bad defeats because sometimes you stay in the bad defeats. Sometimes you carry to the match the weight of the bad performances, the weight of the critics and the boys were great in their attitude. They really fought hard for the three points and in this moment of the season the most important thing is the points, to try to finish in the best possible position.”

Tottenham are becoming a Mourinho team and that means the play on the pitch won’t be as good to watch as it could be, but he will grind out results like this.

Mourinho was asked about becoming just the fifth manager in Premier League history to win 200 games, with only Sir Alex Ferguson reaching that milestone in fewer matches than him, and this was his response.

“Of course, as you know, I am not a very humble guy, but when you coach three of the best clubs in England you have more chances to get to that,” Mourinho smiled. “Sir Alex did it because all of his career in England was at Manchester United. I did it because I was with Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham. I think nobody asks the coaches without titles that their teams put in 200 amazing performances. You are telling me your teams won 200 Premier League matches. You don’t tell anyone who won nothing, ‘your team had 100 or 200 amazing performances.’ But I want to admit that today I would be even more happy if it was not just a victory, but it was a beautiful victory, I would be more happy and I want my team to do that.”

Mourinho will be playing ‘all I do is win, win, win’ over the radio on his car ride home on Monday. Then he will probably officiate a punch up between Harry Kane and Eric Dier just because.

Lloris explains Son scuffle, which Mourinho deems “beautiful”

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Tottenham Hotspur captain Hugo Lloris explained his halftime dust-up with teammate Heung-min Son, with all in better spirits after a 1-0 home win over Everton on Monday.

Lloris needed to be separated from Son as the two walked off the pitch, though cameras caught them making up at halftime and hugging after the final whistle.

Lilywhite reconciliation.

TOTTENHAM – EVERTON FULL MATCH REPLAY

As our broadcast crew surmised, Lloris was unhappy that Son quit on his press after a giveaway. That led to a Richarlison scoring chance before halftime.

Lloris faced the cameras after completing the clean sheet in North London.

“What happened between me and Sonny is something that’s part of football some times but there’s no problem at all,” Lloris said. “You can see after the game that we are more than happy to be part of the team. … To concede a chance a few seconds before halftime because we don’t have the proper press is annoying but that’s football.”

Spurs manager Jose Mourinho loved it.

“It’s beautiful,” Mourinho said to Sky Sports after the game. “Probably it’s consequence of our meetings. If you want to blame somebody for that, it’s me because I was critical of my boys because they are not critical themselves of each other. I asked them to be more demanding, to put their colleagues under that pressure, that team spirit where you have to do everything for everything.

“An amazing kid that everybody loves like Son, a team boy, but in that situation the captain said you have to do more and give more to the team. A couple of bad words, I don’t know if there was a push, but that’s important for a team to grow up. I was really pleased. At halftime I told them, when you have those reactions I have no doubt you will stick together til the end.”

Mourinho went on, calling back to Spurs’ Thursday loss at Sheffield United which featured a bizarre and controversial decision from VAR chief Michael Oliver to take a goal off the board after a fouled, falling, and looking the other way Lucas Moura had the ball hit his arm prior to a Harry Kane goal.

“It tells me that they care. They were upset, frustrated and probably blaming each other for the last result. I could be very protective of my team and my players and put all the blame on Michael Oliver. A lot of people did it and rightly so but inside I was in the direction of forget Michael Oliver and focus on our performance so today we knew, right?”

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

The North Londoners are one point behind local rivals Arsenal ahead of this weekend’s big derby (though there’s still a Thursday visit to Bournemouth for Spurs).

“We are in a situation we need to fight against,” Lloris said. “We are not happy to be in that position but what’s important today is to say focused on the team and do everything to finish as high as we can. When you play a system like this one, it’s very easy to fall apart as a team. To think about the interest. But today we showed we are ready to fight until the end.”

Spurs will like their chances to win at desperate Bournemouth if they can stay focused on the task at hand and not focus on the North London Derby.