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Spurs’ biggest transfer deal: ‘Like Ossie, my knees felt trembly’

Ever wondered what a £1bn football stadium has to offer? Lifelong Spurs fan Dan Carrier goes on a fact-finding tour of his new ‘place of worship’

04 April, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

The new Spurs stadium towers above its neighbours

IT all started under a Northumberland Park street light in 1882, when a group of schoolboys formed the Hotspur Football and Athletic Club. Two years later, they added the name Tottenham.

Now, 137 years on, stand around the same spot as those schoolboys did and gaze about you: a giant, metallic and glass spaceship has landed.

This glistening edifice is the new home to the Spurs.

I have been going to White Hart Lane for almost 40 years: my first game was Spurs against Bristol City in 1980 and my abiding memories are seeing Ossie Ardiles hit a post, and eating monkey nuts my dad bought from a man who walked up and down the wooden Park Lane steps carrying them in a dirty canvas sack.

I still have the programme, and on its front cover is an architect’s model of the new West Stand, which boasted such unheard of things as “executive boxes”.

The last game I watched at the Lane was as the New Journal’s Spurs correspondent – a 2-1 win over Manchester United two years ago.

In between then and now, I’ve been an uncomfortable exile at Wembley.

Then on Saturday evening, I took a train to see a team made up of tubby ex-players take on Inter Milan veterans – but the match was an after-thought – what I had really come to see was my new place of worship, settle in my new seat and see what a billion quid buys you in terms of football stadia.

The wall of fans inside Spurs’ new stadium

On the Liverpool Street-to-White Hart Lane train, which clattered north on a viaduct above the terraced houses of N17, there were gasps as the new ground came into view: noses were pressed to the windows, phones aimed north-east, and the passengers launched into a rendition of We Are Tottenham, We are Tottenham, Super Tottenham, from the Lane…

After a short and happily familiar walk through back streets with the new ground looming above, glimpsed through gaps in the blocks of flats and the two-up, two-downs, I found the media entrance.

The old press lounge was a crowded cubby hole in the West Stand where we reporters would guzzle free food and down drinks before heading into the tunnel beneath the terraces, mingling with the fans, and finding our way into the narrow press desks. They were essentially a plank of wood you could flip up, bolted in front of regular seats. It made for a very narrow gangway to squeeze through.

After settling in, you were there for the duration. If you dropped your Biro, there wasn’t the room to pick it up. I saw cups of tea spilt at every match, often on the unfortunate hack sitting in the row in front. It wasn’t ideal, but oh how I loved it: close to the managers, surrounded by fans, a privileged perch.

My new seat is 21st century: padded, acres of space, able to swing 360 degrees and with my own TV for replays and VAR. The lounge is like a five-star restaurant – making the previous canteen feel like an A-road tea-and-butty hut. The walk from there to my seat took some time: winding corridors and stairs, all delicately decorated with Spurs insignia like my childhood bedroom.

Dan Carrier outside the new stadium

Then out of the belly of the beast, up some steps, and you see the glistening silver lights and hear the low rumbling of a crowd of 62,000 at the end of the tunnel.

Stepping into the stadium bowl for the first time defies superlatives. Like Ossie, my knees felt trembly. The sweeping curves of the navy blue seats, swishing away in every direction, the feat of engineering that has created a wall of fans that soar up into the N17 sky, and the little touches such as the typography used on the signs make it feel like the old Lane – just on some serious steroids.

The surrounds makes the pitch feel small. The scale plays tricks on the ear. It is huge but intimate.

There have been grumbles about the non-football side: will the stadium pubs work (it includes the longest single bar in Europe)?; will fans enjoy the myriad of trendy street food places?; and will they really serve 62,000 at half time? I think I speak for most fans when I say I will still fancy a pint at the Two Brewers, and will sometimes visit the many excellent Turkish restaurants up the High Road.

And forget all the microbrewery stuff, the heated seats, the wi-fi – what matters is from every single seat we will have a grandstand view of our football team.

This new era is shiny and in terms of the economics of modern football, needed to be done if we are ever going to win anything again. I loved the old Lane, but I suppose I’ll get used to watching my favourite team play in what has been called by neutrals the greatest football stadium in the world. The simple fact is it is marvellous – but Spurs could still be meeting under street lights in Northumberland Park and I’d think it was the greatest place there is.

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