Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 West Ham United
📍 Tottenham Hotspur Stadium | London, England
🏆 Premier League
⚽ England (Tier 1)
📅 Sun 19 Feb 23 | 4.30pm
🎟️ £69.50 | Att: 61,476
Since the latest human addition to the Bore Draw family in November, it’s been a real challenge to find time for groundhopping. Even getting to local games here in Cyprus has proved something of a difficulty, especially when combined with life’s other commitments and trivialities.
A brief trip back to Wales to see the heavy metal band Gojira is a possible opportunity for respite, but with Cardiff’s home game with Reading being moved to the same night, my original plans are scuppered (this is the second time this season I’ve been denied a visit to the CCS, with the queen’s death putting paid to my first).
To make up for it, we consider taking a local league game in on the Saturday, but a persistent head cold (and the even more persistent drizzle outside) knocks the life out of that one. Which leaves me one last option on the Sunday: a London derby at arguably the best modern stadium in the country.
High Standards at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
With my return flight from Stansted taking off on the Monday, the location and the timing are both in my favour, and so I arrive in the big smoke having shelled out for a “One Hotspur” membership (£48) and a ticket in the gods (£69.50). Standard recompense, I suppose, for top 6 Premier League fare.
After checking into my hotel, I stroll from Aldgate to Liverpool Street, shadowed from some rare afternoon sun by the imposing skyscrapers of the financial district. It’s been said that in cities as big as this, you’re never more than six feet away from a rat; in my experience of London, you’re never more than six feet away from a Pret. In solidarity with my South Wales roots, I instead opt for a steak bake from Gregg’s, barely finding a spot to eat it on the crowded 15:01 to Enfield.
Of course, one of the plus points of groundhopping in the UK is that, unlike in Europe, I can eavesdrop into multiple conversations. In the packed carriage, a man behind me bemoans the move from 4pm to 4.30pm kick-offs, as this effectively ruins his Sunday evening plans; sat below me, two friends discuss the pros and cons of accepting a particular job offer. “I’m just not sure,” the recipient states. “I think I might just take some time away from it all. Like Conte.”
Eventually we pull into White Hart Lane, indicating that the new stadium’s location is at least spiritually attuned to its predecessor’s, and we disembark under the watchful eye of the Met’s finest. The ground itself is right outside the station, and first impressions are actually a little underwhelming. It’s impressive, sure, but it doesn’t necessarily dominate the landscape in the way other big stadiums do (a metaphor, perhaps, for the club itself).
I buy a commemorative Harry Kane match day programme (a surprisingly modest £4) and realise, as the crowd builds, that I have no idea how to get in. My ticket doesn’t have a gate number on it, which also perplexes the steward I consult with; upon scanning it, we conveniently discover that I am indeed in the right spot, and I’m waved through the assorted airport-style scanners and disinterested searchers into the ground.
Stairway to Heaven
In terms of finding your way around, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium could definitely use some improvement. It’s not as idiot-proof as other large grounds, with no small thought and a strong sense of intuition required. Luckily, though, I piece together the puzzle, with my extensive climb to the top levels not in vain.
It’s also definitely worth it once there. If the wow factor is a little muted on the outside, then that first view of green hits all the right notes. The top corners of bowl-shaped stadiums are usually the best vantage points for a full-lens view, and from where I’m at, nestled atop the Upper West stand, the picture in front of me is a work of art.
The USP of the build is, of course, the Yellow Wall-esque stand behind the goal. It stretches without interruption from the pitch itself to the highest point of the structure: steep, sharp, and deliberately intimidating. Above it rests the club’s giant, 4.5m gold cockerel, taken from the old White Hart Lane and perched eastwards, conveying a sense of tradition and longevity. It’s simply stunning, especially when, prior to kick-off, the fans raise white sheets of paper to spell out “Harry” in commemoration of the England captain’s status as new club record scorer. Despite the difficulties in getting this stadium built, there’s no denying the majesty of the finished product; put simply, it’s one of the most impressive arenas I have ever set foot in.
No Conte, No Problem
Between snippets of action, I chat casually with the elderly chap next to me, a season ticket holder of many decades. His biggest gripe, he tells me, is with the predictable recycling of the pre-match, on-pitch interviewees; “oh there he is again” he sighs, as Spurs legend Martin Chivers waxes lyrical on his glory days. “At least it’s not Paul Allen, though.”
He explains that on our row, there are “five or six” regular season-ticket holders, but that the remainder of the seats are usually taken up by tourists. Unsurprisingly, many of these are Korean, although there are also apparently a lot of Scandinavian visitors too, owing presumably to Dejan Kulusevski and Pierre-Emile Hojberg’s popularity in that part of the world.
It’s Hojberg who kickstarts a fairly uneventful game into life in the second half, his raking through-ball finding Ben Davies’ well-timed run. The Welshman cuts inside and pokes it to opposite wing-back Emerson Royale, who cooly slots home to give the home side the lead.
It’s then game over 15 minutes later when substitute Son Heung-min finishes Kane’s neat pass. It takes Spurs into the Champions League places and – remarkably – ensures West Ham end the weekend in the relegation zone. Despite an abundance of talent, the Hammers just can’t seem to find a cutting edge, and with other sides at the bottom winning, the pressure is seriously on for David Moyes’ side.
It’s unlikely that Antonio Conte will remain at Tottenham beyond the end of the season, with Mauricio Pochettino’s return being heavily touted. But there’s no doubt that everything is in place here for Tottenham to bridge the gap from top 4 qualifiers to genuine title contenders – despite the competition growing ever stronger.
One thing is for sure: the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is an arena that deserves to host football at the very highest level, whoever has the reigns.