Sport Soccer

Saturday 24 August 2019

Tottenham’s delayed move into new stadium has been worth the wait

After 689 days and 51 trips to Wembley, Spurs have played their first game at their new arena.

Tottenham returned home on Wednesday night (John Walton/PA)
Tottenham returned home on Wednesday night (John Walton/PA)

By Simon Peach, Press Association Chief Football Writer

Tottenham are home – and the new stadium has been worth the wait.

After 689 days, 51 trips to Wembley and numerous embarrassing delays, Wednesday evening saw Mauricio Pochettino’s men finally strut back out in N17 at the breathtaking Tottenham Hotspur Stadium .

There has been a six-month delay in moving into the ground which has risen out of the ashes of White Hart Lane, but those issues were forgotten as the club began an exciting new chapter against Crystal Palace.

Son Heung-min became the first player to get Spurs fans on their feet inside the jaw-dropping stadium and his deflected opener was followed by a Christian Eriksen effort in a 2-0 win far less impressive than the surroundings.

Still, the grand opening of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is about far more than one victory as it kick-starts the transformation of the club and local area.

In truth, the spaceship-like structure could scarcely look more out of place on the Tottenham High Road, especially as many of the surrounding streets and shops remain unchanged from White Hart Lane’s demolition.

This giant 62,029-seater stadium dominates the local skyline in a way the previous ground did not, just as it provides the opportunities Spurs’ former home was unable to in an area of London that has had its problems.

It is eight years since Tottenham, the fifth most deprived area of the capital, witnessed the worst of the riots which gripped the city – a period which shook the neighbourhood and the club’s leadership.

That was the moment when chairman Daniel Levy decided to end his flirtation with the Olympic Stadium and stay in a community that should now flourish with this new ground at the heart of it, with wider redevelopment bringing new homes, facilities and jobs.

Not everybody, of course, is overly-enamoured by the new stadium and it was easy to understand as the local transport creaked under the weight of a sell-out crowd descending on the second biggest league ground in the country.

Significant investment means that infrastructure will improve in time, so too the measures that delayed entrance into a ground that is the envy of the sporting world, never mind Spurs’ Premier League rivals.

You can still smell the leather of the recently-installed seats in the press auditorium and fresh paint on the walls, with the attention to detail as eye-catching as the stylish throughout Spurs’ new home.

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The cockerel statue has been replicated at the new arena (Nick Potts/PA)

The famous golden cockerel that watched over White Hart Lane has been scanned and replicated, including imperfections of the original such as the dent created by fan favourite Paul Gascoigne’s air rifle during his playing days.

Crushed rubble from the old stadium has been used in the new ground, where the longest continuous bar in Europe is a feature along with an American-style food court area and a microbrewery.

Architects Populus says it is the best of 1,300 stadiums they have helped design around the world and it was clear to hear as much as see on Wednesday.

The focus on acoustics turned the ground into a cauldron in the early stages, with noise reverberating down the 17,500-seater single-tier South Stand after a heart-warming opening ceremony.

Spurs players gave their jackets to shivering mascots who accompanied them onto the field as the club joined to reflect on the impact of the new stadium before fireworks filled the north London air.

The performance failed to live up to that pre-match razzmatazz, but the 59,215 inside will never forget this night as problems, postponements and frustrations made way for hope.

PA Media

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