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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Salah: ‘We don’t have to think that now we’ve won the Premier League’

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“We’re gonna to win the league, we’re gonna win the league!” rang throughout Anfield on Sunday night, and justifiably so.

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The 2-0 victory over Manchester United now means Liverpool have defeated every top-flight side this season. There is no team in the Premier League (anywhere else in the world, really) that exhibit the level of consistency that Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool exhibit. None.

It’s a historical season, a memorable one for all Liverpool supporters – even on the back of a Champions League winning season.

16 points clear of Manchester City, and unbeaten after 21 bouts, it’s now a near-impossible mission for the Reds to disintegrate the empire they’ve built. But along the lines of Klopp, who is implores the title-winning feeling is still missing, Mohamed Salah is weary of admitting that the league is a wrap.

“I think we just need to keep [our] focus on each game,” he told Sky Sports after the match. “We don’t have to think that now we’ve won the Premier League or whatever, no.

“We just need to take it game by game. I think that’s the only way we can win the Premier League. We struggled last season at the same time so we have to keep calm and just focus on each game.”

Perhaps Salah’s strike deep into injury-time is the quintessential embodiment of the fighting spirit and unapologetic hunger that is very much alive within Liverpool’s dressing room.

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“There are a lot of games left,” captain Jordan Henderson concurred on not falling for complacency-oriented mindset. “We’ve taken it game by game for a long time now and it’s put us in good stead so there’s no need to change.

“It is special and we’re enjoying our football but you’ve got to stay hungry, keep learning, keep wanting more and this group of players wants to do that.

“The manager’s on us all the time to improve and we know that we can. It’s about every single day, keep going until the end of the season.”

In the Mixed Zone: Liverpool v. Man United

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LIVERPOOL — To make sure you have every angle covered for the marquee Premier League games, our new feature “In the Mixed Zone” will take you behind-the-scenes and into the tunnel areas to hear from the star players moments after their magic has decided games or drama has ensued.

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The idea is to set the scene of being inside the tunnel area in Old Trafford, by the dugouts at Stamford Bridge and in the swanky new players area in Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium as Premier League stars walk out of the dressing room and break down the game with media members around the world.

We will tell you what they are saying and what kind of antics are going on amid the hubbub of the mixed zone as players from both teams have their say on the 90-plus minutes of action we’ve just witnessed.

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Here’s the scene from deep inside Anfield in the hour or so after the full time whistle blew between Liverpool and Manchester United as the Reds won 2-0 and now sit 16 points clear, with a game in hand, at the top of the Premier League table.

Safe to say one set of players was more keen to stop and chat with us than the other…


6:35 p.m. (local time): Mixed zone open as Virgil Van Dijk is shown on the TV screens speaking to Jamie Carragher preaching “one game at a time” for Liverpool’s title push. Come on, Virgil. Start picking your suit out for the big celebration in May. More from Virgil later on in the mixed zone as he stops to speak with Pro Soccer Talk…

6:42: A Liverpool legend is hanging around the press room. His assessment of the game and Liverpool’s dominance over Man United? “The perch is looking very strong again…” Liverpool’s 19th title, one short of United’s record 20, is in reach.

6:45: The pitch-side monitor for VAR is rolled out by one man, who is crouching over. Not used today, and only used once across the 229 Premier League games so far. What a lonely, lonely job setting up that equipment most be…

6:47: Okay, here come the lads. First up, a coupe of Brazilian midfielders are talking. Fred and Fabinho hug each other then speak to Brazilian TV. Fred has his shirt in a bag, Fabinho has his suitcase on wheels with a No.3 luggage label on it. Fred’s sneakers have some fancy metals studs on the back of it. Fred was Man United’s best player.

6:55: “USA, USA!” Liverpool’s American owner John W. Henry and his wife Linda Pizzuti wander past us and then disappear through a side door. More from them to come.

 

7:02: Man United’s players keep trudging through. Local lads Mason Greenwood, Jesse Lingard and Brandon Williams are all downbeat as they trudge through. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is not far behind with his headphones on and hood up.

7:05: Hello. The referees now roll through. Craig Pawson looks like a dear in the headlights, which seems to be his default look. Fourth official Jon Moss looks far from delighted.

7:06: Owner John W. Henry is back and he and his wife greet the assembled media. One journalists asks “How many games do you reckon, John?” in reference to how many games until Liverpool win the title. His response while wearing a wry smile: “There are 16 games left, right?” The billionaire from Illinois has played this game before…

7:09: Man United’s players are now coming through at a rapid rate as captain Harry Maguire gves it a simple “not today, mate” when asked for an interview.

7:15: Andy Robertson stops to speaks to us and during his interview Ole Gunnar Solskjaer walks out of the main press conference and pats him back. They then shake hands. Lot of mutual respect there. As for Robertson on the game: “We had so many chances we could have put this game out of sight. A really good performance from us but luckily Mo just topped it off at the end and we could relax for 20 seconds. Today, looking back at the game there is room for big improvement. Some of the stuff we did was excellent. I thought our midfield three were different class today and ran the game and that was so important. We were a wee bit sloppy in possession, particularly me in the first half, a few of the balls went out. But we got the goal and I think the goal that got disallowed was a bit soft but that’s football. We started the second half really well, we had them pinned back and it looked like a matter of time until we got the goal. But when you don’t get the goal Man United start to get a bit of confidence from that and we should have killed them off in that moment, but we did in the end.”

7:17: Robertson asked about Liverpool edging closer to winning a first title in 30 years: “We are not getting carried away. Until the champions sign is above our head we don’t believe anything because, yeah, it is a comfortably lead, 16 points, but we know how tough this league is. We beat Man United and then we go away to Wolves who are flying and it is an incredibly tough game. We know in a couple of weeks the table can change. It is up to us to stay 100 percent focus and not allow that to happen.”

7:20: Brazilian TV sum up what Fred said to them earlier: “We should have taken our chances” was his assessment of Man United, who somehow hung in there until the 90th minute. To be fair, United did have one or two glorious chances.

7:23: Virgil van Dijk stops for a chat as we ask him about the fans finally chanting “We’re going to win the league!” and if he agrees with that sentiment. Safe to say VVD isn’t getting carried away.

Focusing on Liverpool’s display against Man United, was this about staying focused as they dominated but didn’t score a second until stoppage time?

“Obviously we want to score more goals. We had quite some opportunities to make it easier but in the end you need to find a way to win a game. We defended a little bit deeper at times because they kept pressing, they kept players up and you need to find a way and we did but we could have made it easier.”

As for his goal, the Dutchman towered above Man United’s Harry Maguire and Brandon Williams to head home the opener to set the tone for a dominant win. Did Liverpool target United on set pieces?

“Obviously every game we try to look at the set-pieces to score. We have players that can be very dangerous including myself but it is not always easy and today I think it was a perfect set-piece. We wanted to target the near post and happy to be very important.”

7:28: James Milner and Adam Lallana then walk through in different directions with their kids. Lallana’s kid in full kit. Good effort. Maybe Lallana Jr. was almost on the bench for the FA Cup win against Everton a few weeks ago…

7:30: Okay, all of the pllayers have gone home. Cameras are turned off. The Mixed Zone is closed.

WATCH: Henderson’s motivated comments after Liverpool win

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Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson took the microphone after the Reds’ 2-0 beatdown of rivals Manchester United and showed why his manager loves him.

The talented midfielder said there’s no reason for Liverpool to act like its win the Premier League title, or even talk about it.

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Henderson, 29, had a monster day in the midfield and every reason to soak in an electric Anfield after Liverpool moved 16 points clear of Man City with a match-in-hand.

He won nine of 11 duels and five tackles, denied a goal by a righteous David De Gea save in the win.

“We’re not really thinking about the end. Why? Why should we change now? Why think about the end of the season? There’s still a lot of games. We’ve took it by each game for a long time now and it’s put us in good stead. For us as players it’s the next game, the next change.

“At Liverpool Football Club there’s always expectation ever since I came, there’s always an expectation to win and be successful and that will never change,” Henderson said. “It is special, we are enjoying our football but you’ve gotta stay hungry, keep learning, keep wanting more. To be fair, this group of players wants to do that. The manager’s on us all the time to improve all the time and we know that we can. It’s about every single day keep going and going until the end of the season.”

The full video is above, and shows why a team is sometimes better when there’s a leader on the pitch. Liverpool’s best midfield possibly excludes Henderson — an incredible luxury — but this guy has that something that cannot be measured by stats (This is hard for a numbers nerd like me to toss out there, but it’s difficult to challenge).

Solskjaer: ‘Very many positives’ from Manchester United loss at Liverpool

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is trying his best to downplay the injury to Marcus Rashford.

Manchester United’s manager will be without his top scorer for 2-3 months after back surgery, and is already without playmaker Paul Pogba.

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All this after a sloppy 2-0 loss to rivals Liverpool and with news that a once-impending Bruno Fernandes transfer may not happen.

In fact, Sunday’s performance led many to believe United would have to pony up the extra money for Sporting Lisbon’s prolific attacking midfielder. Solskjaer isn’t read to say that.

From the BBC:

“We’ve had many injuries for big players this season. It’s just an unfortunate situation we’re in. We might look at some short-term deals as well that could take us through to the summer. We don’t desperately need a striker. If the right one is there and it fits for us (but) we’ve got players who are champing at the bit.”

As for the game, most of us saw United worked over until deep into the second half.

Solskjaer is not in that majority.

“The players gave us everything,” Solskjaer said. “Today we hung on a bit at the start of second half, but the last 25-30 mins we pressed them and pushed them back. I’m disappointed with conceding from a corner and with the last kick, but very many positives.”

Every time there’s a run of fixtures or tactics that give reason to believe Solskjaer might be growing toward something, he responds like this to a clear and obvious failure. If United can’t act in this transfer window, it can kiss the Top Four goodbye.