Tottenham’s incredible new stadium a game changer

2 Comments

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.”

Follow @JPW_NBCSports

Cruzeiro relegated from Brazilian top flight for first time

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Brazilian side Cruzeiro was relegated from the top flight for the first time in the club’s 98-year history following a 2-0 defeat to Palmeiras on the final day of the season.

Cruzeiro required victory and a loss by Ceara at Botafogo to stay safely in the Brazilian Serie A, but neither came to pass.

Palmeiras midfielder Ze Rafael scored in the 58th minute to send the visitors on their way, with fellow midfielder Dudu finished things off in the 84th minute. Referees ushered the players off the field immediately after the conclusion of the match as Cruzeiro fans rioted in the Mineirao stadium, ripping out seats, setting off smoke bombs, and clashing with police.

Cruzeiro finished 17th in the 20-team table, three points back of Ceara in 16th. In the Brazilian top flight, the bottom four teams are relegated. CSA, Chapecoense, and Avai were also relegated. Cruzeiro had won the Brazilian Serie A as recently as 2013 and 2014, winning four titles in its history. They also have six Copa do Brasil titles, most recently winning the league cup in 2017 and 2018.

Flamengo ran away with the championship, finishing on 90 points, 16 points clear of second-placed Santos and third-placed Palmeiras who both finished level on 74 points. Palmeiras had challenged for the title, but fell off at the end of the season with a five-match winless run through November.

Premier League Preview: West Ham United v. Arsenal

Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Two struggling London sides meet Monday when West Ham United hosts Arsenal (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The sides might’ve expected they’d be within close proximity at this point on the fixture list, but two wildly disappointing seasons means the three points between the Gunners and Irons comes with the former in 11th and the latter 16th.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

It’s been nine matches since Arsenal beat someone, 11 since it happened in the Premier League. West Ham hasn’t been much better, winning once in its last 10.

Freddie Ljungberg has yet to win as Arsenal interim boss, while West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini could see his current stint in London end without more results like the Nov. 30 win at Chelsea.

Monday versus Arsenal would qualify.


Injuries/suspensions

West Ham United: OUT —  Jack Wilshere, Lukasz Fabianski, Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid. QUESTIONABLE — Michail Antonio.

Arsenal: OUT — Dani Ceballos. QUESTIONABLE — Rob Holding.


Probable lineups

West Ham United: Martin; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Fredericks; Rice, Noble, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Snodgrass, Haller.

Arsenal: Leno; Kolasinac, Sokratis, Luiz, Bellerin, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette.


What they’re saying

West Ham’s Antonio sees an opportunity: “The only three teams that are really performing are Liverpool, Leicester and Man City. Everyone else is getting beaten, and it means we’ve had a missed opportunity so far this season. We started the season off brightly, the best start we’ve had for four years, but then we’ve had a slump. Everyone’s having a slump and this is our slump. Now it’s time for us to start turning up. We’ve been in this situation before and we know how to dig in and pull ourselves up again.”

Arsenal’s Ljungberg on setting targets: “I don’t think we should stop talking about the top four, but for us it’s about concentrating on what we’re doing here now and not look up, down, sideways. We just need to work on our own game and our own confidence.”


Prediction

Really, you wouldn’t want to predict anything from these sides right now besides goals. We’ll give an edge in desperation to the hosts and a 2-2 draw.

La Liga: Sevilla held at Osasuna, Getafe maintains UCL fight

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sevilla was held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Osasuna on Sunday, giving both Real Madrid and Barcelona space at the top of the La Liga table.

Munir El Haddadi put the visitors 1-0 up just 11 minutes in, but Ezequiel Avila struck just before halftime to share the points. Sevilla was held to just two total shots through the opening 45 minutes, and despite Osasuna defender Oier Olazabal being shown a second yellow card with 29 minutes to go, Sevilla still managed just 11 total efforts through the 90 minutes, with four on target.

Getafe continued its battle for a top four spot as they won 1-0 on the road at Eibar. Angel Rodriguez bagged his eighth goal of the season to secure the win, cropping up in the 67th minute to finally put Getafe through. They had been turning the screw for some time, forcing Marko Dmitrovic into a pair of big saves just before the opener which came from an absurdly tight angle after Angel had rounded the goalkeeper. The win leaves them fourth, level with Real Sociedad on 27 points.

They were allowed to close the gap after Real Sociedad was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw at 14th placed Real Valladolid. The visitors put just two of their 14 shots on net, and dropped to fifth thanks to Getafe holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Athletic Club also fell back in the race for a top four spot, dropping a 3-2 decision on the road at Real Betis. Joaquin scored a first-half hat-trick, with all three goals coming in the opening 20 minutes to give him five in his last three games. Inaki Williams brought Athletic Bilbao one back before halftime from the spot, and Yuri Berchiche made things interesting with a minute to go, but that was all they could muster as the visitors fell to sixth on 26 points, above Atletico Madrid on goal differential with the two yet to play head-to-head.

Celta Vigo made it interesting as Iago Aspas scored a man-down goal, but Leganes held on for a 3-2 win over the 10-man visitors. Oscar Rodriguez had a first-half brace to help the hosts to a 3-0 lead, but Nestor Araujo and Aspas helped Celta Vigo make things interesting. Still, a 71st minute second yellow card for halftime substitute Gabriel Fernandez hampered the visitors in their efforts for a comeback, leaving Celta Vigo in the relegation zone, a point back of safety, with Leganes is four points behind them in 19th.

Gerrard reacts to Rangers’ Old Firm heartbreak in final

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Steven Gerrard lined his Rangers side up for success, but fate was cruel to the Liverpool legend.

Rangers lost the League Cup Final to their Old Firm rivals on Sunday despite out-shooting the Bhoys by a 16-5 margin, winning a penalty, and playing almost a half-hour up a man.

[ RECAP: Rangers 0-1 Celtic ]

“To a man we were very good … by much the better side,” Gerrard said. “But unfortunately that’s not what gets you a trophy.”

But Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster stopped Alfredo Morelos’ penalty, three minutes after goal scorer Christopher Jullien was offside on the lone goal of the game.

Scotland doesn’t yet use VAR, and Gerrard doesn’t love VAR but he likes it more than he likes Scottish officials.

“There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR,” he said, via the BBC. “I’d be a liar if I said I was 100% in favour of it, but the one thing I do know is that officials up here need support.”

Now he has the task of getting his men to rebound ahead of its biggest non-derby in ages, as Rangers need at least a draw against Young Boys at home on Thursday to advance to the Europa League knockout rounds

“It’s a bit raw right now… It’s up to me to pick the players up. One thing I will say is I’ll stay with these players on the evidence of today because they gave me absolutely everything. We might have to suffer a bit short-term. I need to pick them up a bit physically and mentally for Thursday which is huge but our day will come on the evidence of today.”

Gerrard has done a very good job with Rangers, who are two points back of Celtic in a two-horse race for the Scottish top flight title. Celtic has won eight-straight titles to improve their total to 50, four less than the Rangers.