Almanac Soccer: Visit to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

 

I began writing this piece on a recent visit to the UK on the eve of Tottenham Hotspur’s (Spurs’) second match of the season at home against Manchester United, which they won 2-0.

 

Since my return home to a land of ‘golden soil and wealth for toil’ Spurs’ success has surged on. As I complete this piece and tidy up my words, Spurs now sit at the top of the English Premier League (EPL) table just ahead of Arsenal and Manchester City. This follows their 1-0 win over Luton Town. It’s early days in the season but Spurs are looking impressive with a six wins and two draws start under their new Australian Manager, Ange Postecoglou. Ange is certainly confounding expectations at Spurs just as he did with Celtic in the Scottish Premier League and Yokohama in the J-League before. Remember the negative press that his appointment to Celtic received? Similarly when he was announced as Spurs’ manager?

 

I had always wanted to tour the famous Wembley but on earlier trips to the UK I had never got around to it. Before this recent UK visit, my desire had changed to substitute Wembley for a tour of the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. My reasons were twofold: firstly, because I had read that the new Spurs’ stadium was quite very impressive and secondly, because a man I admire immensely, Postecoglou, is the first Australian to manage an EPL team.

 

At the time of my visit, Harry Kane, England captain and former Spurs striker, had announced he was transferring to Bayern Munich. Prima facie, while this may have been seemed devastating for Spurs and Ange Postecoglou, stadium staff said that Kane had left with the club’s best wishes and with good grace.  On a positive note, there was a belief that Spurs had very good replacements for him and would be able to work around his loss.  Thus far, this has proved to be correct.  What a season start Kane is having with Bayern Munich too – eight goals from six games, including a hat trick!

 

Travel by train to the Spurs stadium (White Hart Lane station) from where I was staying in Kensington was easy and stress free. Quite wisely, as it turned out, my online booking (cost: £14) of an early tour time spot proved very beneficial. It enabled me to avoid the later large influx of other visitors. Interestingly, many of these were from North America and South Korea. In the latter case, revered Spurs’ forward Son Heung-Min was the stimulus for the South Koreans (nearly god-like!) and the quantity of Son’s apparel and memorabilia sold by the shop (the largest in Europe) was staggering to watch.  One of the pro shop staff told me that when Spurs play there is a TV audience in South Korea of 11 million. I was also told that club membership had increased substantially since Son was recruited and also since Ange’s appointment. Apparently, there has been a constant flow of Australians visiting the stadium, buying apparel and also becoming members. Indeed, there were several Australian compatriots in my touring party.

 

The tour of the Spurs’ Stadium is a self-guided tour with the usual head phones and lanyard holding an interactive tour guide. There are very good signs to follow throughout the stadium and no shortage of very helpful service staff to guide and help with advice and queries.

 

Opened in April, 2019 and built for around $1B, the stadium replaced, but incorporates, what was the former Spurs home ground, ‘White Hart Lane’. It is a fantastic state of the art stadium that accommodates over 60,000 people.  To gain a broader perspective I strolled around the perimeter of the stadium before entering. It really is a wonderful building with a magnificent golden cockerel logo sitting on the top of the stadium and around 35,000 quite spectacular decorative tiles on the building exterior. In the streets surrounding the stadium there are many and varied pubs and eating places which I expect do very well during home games and major events, also from the stadium’s visitors.

 

The exhibits and museum set-up and arrangements throughout the stadium for touring visitors are excellent. So good in fact that everywhere one can very nearly feel the pride and nostalgia from the club’s 1882 origins to the present day. There is very little of the stadium that one cannot visit apart from, of course, to walking/standing on the pitch itself. Visitors are allowed though, to walk through the player entry tunnel and stand on the edge of the pitch and marvel at the wonderfulness of the stadium. The stadium is basically circular and consists of four individual stands with the largest accommodating 17,500 spectators. They are situated close to the pitch and the stadium’s corners are enclosed to create a wall of sound around the ground. Large curved overhanging roof tiles attached to the stands also enhance the acoustics. The effectiveness of all of this was demonstrated when my group of around 10 people was asked by one of the staff to shout ‘Spurs, Spurs Spurs’ at the top of our voices. The sound was amazing and one can only imagine what it must like when over 60,000 people are yelling in unison at a home game or a major music event etc.

 

Apart from the usual museum type show pieces (trophies, photographs etc.) the tour takes visitors though all the member areas, the players change/locker rooms, the media room, the medical rooms, the exercise and warm-up facilities, bars and hospitality areas.  There is also a micro brewery. The museum houses the magnificent original old cockerel statue logo that sits atop a large clock and which adorned the former ‘White Hart Lane’ stadium. For me, it represented something similar to the old scoreboard at the Adelaide cricket ground that one is allowed entry to on tours of the cricket ground – a nostalgic blending of the old with the new.

 

Of significant interest are the rooms reserved for American NFL teams. The Spurs stadium is the home of NFL in the UK and there is a separate and dedicated entrance to the stadium for NFL games. Spurs have an agreement with the NFL to host three games a season and has strong connections to the ‘Buffalo Bills’ and ‘Jacksonville Jaguars’. These two teams were scheduled to kick off the first 2023-2024 NFL game at the stadium on the 8th of October. I was told that it will be a sell-out. I was also told that there are rumours of a future London-based NFL team.

 

The stadium football pitch is retractable and when drawn back it reveals a synthetic turf field which is used for NFL games, concerts and other major events. The whole effort takes about 25 minutes.

 

Similar to the Adelaide cricket ground there is what is termed ‘The Dare Walk’ that visitors can also do.  It is a guided and supported walk around the top of the stadium and an abseil down one side.  I ran out of time to do it.

 

When I had completed my tour I felt that a memento from the pro shop was necessary so I bought a Spurs hat with an Australian flag on the side and a T-shirt. The staff shop assistant informed me that my hat was newly manufactured stock in response to Ange’s appointment and that I was one of the first visitors to purchase the new line.

 

Being one prone to ask questions and have a chat, I engaged with several staff members during my walkabout.  There are certainly strong and positive vibes from staff about Ange’s appointment and the direction that Spurs are now heading after several years of poor performances and governance turmoil. Staff seem to take delight in calling people ‘mate’ which one member told me they had learnt from Ange!

 

Have I now transferred my support from Newcastle United to Spurs, following their appointment of Ange Postecoglou as the first Australian to manage an EPL team? Probably and – mostly – yes. I want Ange to succeed bigtime.

 

Do I recommend a visit to the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for sports fans visiting London? Absolutely!

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Daryl Schramm says

    Thanks for posting Allan. Sounds like a very worthwhile visit. I was in England June and July. At a pub in Crystal Palace the young THS following barman was quite excited about the possibilities of Ange. I also didn’t know of the NFL link. Will be back there in April ’24. Not sure if I can talk my other half into a tour though.

  2. Love it. Thanks Alan. I enjoy watching top level world football as much as Australian Rules. Unfortunately the time difference means most games are played in the middle of the night. Living in Perth is a bit better with the afternoon games being accessible in the evening here.
    I became a passionate Celtic watcher in the Ange years but have felt nothing this year since he left. Took out an Optus Sport subscription to watch some Ange-ball at Spurs and have seen the Arsenal and Luton games. He seems to be able to spark a passion in players that spills over to fans. Not only are they attacking but also determined in defence and adversity. A prime example is the weekend’s 1-0 win over lowly Luton after squandering early chances and then scoring with a man sent off (deservedly) and substituting off stars for defenders to preserve the narrow lead for the whole second half.
    Also notable is Ange’s recruiting acumen with Celtic recruiting from Japan and ignored leagues in Europe and the US. The James Maddison recruiting for 30M from demoted Leicester when Chelsea and Man Utd have been paying 100M+ for troubled talent. Ange seems to be able to uniquely identify potential and then realise it.
    Love the man.

  3. Allan Barden says

    Daryl
    The tour is well worth it if you can manage it. Maybe while you’re touring the facilities a suggestion of a couple of hours at the Camden markets (not terribly far away) followed by a nice pub lunch for two could be a wife sweetener! Let’s hope that Ange can maintain the winning formula – still early days.
    Cheers

  4. Thanks, Allan for your post. It was interesting and very informative. I’ve not had a lot of interest in the round ball game, but since Ange Postecoglou’s arrival, I have been following his success. Looking forward to seeing you in your new hat!

  5. Thanks for this uplifting piece, Allan.
    Ange’s honeymoon period is better than he could have wished for.
    I want Ange to succeed, but as an Arsenal fan, only up to a point.

  6. Thanks for this Allan. When I lobbed in the UK to teach twenty years ago, I didn’t have a team. St. Albans was Arsenal territory and the dad of one of the girls I taught worked at the club as a French translator. A few lads in one class said to me, ‘Don’t support Man U or Chelsea or one of those big sides. They don’t need any more supporters. You should follow Tottenham sir.’ And that was as good a reason as any.

    I wish Ange well and he’s started brilliantly. During the long wintry months of January and February we’ll find out some more about Spurs.

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