Sunday 21 April 2019

Tottenham and Pochettino have real grounds for optimism

Spurs youngsters open with a win at new stadium.

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is ready for Premier League action (Ian Walton/PA)
The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is ready for Premier League action (Ian Walton/PA)

By Jonathan Veal, Press Association Sport

Mauricio Pochettino said he felt like crying after Tottenham’s new stadium finally saw some football.

The 62,000-seat arena, which was due to open last summer, held its first official test event ahead of a proposed April 3 opening date when the club’s Under-18s side took on Southampton on Sunday, with Spurs’ youngsters winning 3-1.

J’Neil Bennett made history when he became the first scorer at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, setting his side on the way to victory in the 11th minute with a lovely curling effort from the left.

Harvey White and Dilan Markanday also notched for Spurs while Kornelius Hansen became the first opposition player to score when he bagged for Saints.

It was the first of two test events required to take place in order to receive the relevant safety certificates from Haringey Council, with the second coming next Saturday when a Legends team take on Inter Milan.

All being well their first competitive game will then be against Crystal Palace four days later on April 3 in a rearranged Premier League match.

It has been the prospect of playing at this magnificent new stadium that has helped keep Pochettino at the club amid interest from Real Madrid and, earlier this season, Manchester United.

He has always been determined to be the man to lead the club out here and being interviewed on the pitch at half-time of the Under-18s game, it was not hard to see the delight engulfing the Argentinian at a “dream come true”.

“I think it is unbelievable, it is so difficult to explain in only a few words,” he said.

“We all feel the same, so excited, I got the same feeling when we left White Hart Lane on the last day, we were crying and now in the first day in the new stadium we feel the same emotion.

“We need to cry because our dream became true.”

After the Palace game there is the small matter of the Champions League quarter-final home leg against Manchester City and Pochettino believes the new stadium could have a say in the outcome of a testing tie.

He added: “It is going to be massive for the team, the players, to have the possibility to finish the season here.

“We are in a very good place in the Premier League and of course we have a massive challenge in the quarter-final of the Champions League and I think with all of our fans, 62,000, it is going to be fantastic to play and we can make it possible our dream to be in the semi-final. Why not?”

It has been 679 days since the last game at White Hart Lane and every one of those has been felt during that time as Tottenham’s supporters have had to head across London to Wembley for their home games.

Amid spiralling costs, reported to be around £1billion, the stadium was originally supposed to be open for the start of the current campaign before a revised date in September was also shelved after the failure of “critical alarm systems”.

We need to cry because our dream became true. Mauricio Pochettino

The delay has at least allowed the club to put the finishing touches to the state-of-the-art arena, meaning the 28,987 fans present for the game on Sunday got the full-match experience they will do when Palace visit next week. Few will say it has not been worth the wait.

“Thank you so much to the fans for being so patient because in the last two years we moved to Wembley and (had) all the problems it means to move from your home to Wembley,” Pochettino added.

“But now all the effort has paid off and it is going to be amazing.”

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