Ground #: 173
Ground: White Hart Lane
Competition: Europa League Group Stage
Kick Off: 8:05pm
Tottenham Hotspur 4
Soldado 7’, 16’, (pen) 70’, Holtby 54’
Anzhi Makhachkala 1
Despite living in London now for over 2 years, there was still one professional ground that I had still not managed to get to. It was strange too, my best friend at uni supports Spurs, my housemate supports Spurs and my girlfriend’s Dad supports Spurs. All roads lead to White Hart Lane it seems! The time had come then to finally get there.
Tottenham is an area of North London in the London Borough of Haringey, England, situated 8.2 miles north east of Charing Cross. Tottenham is believed to have been named after Tota, a farmer, whose hamlet was mentioned in the Domesday Book; as Toteham. When the Domesday Book was compiled in 1086, about 70 families lived within the area of the manor, mostly labourers working for the Lord of the Manor. A humorous poem entitled the Tournament of Tottenham, written around 1400, describes a mock-battle between peasants vying for the reeve’s daughter. From the Tudor period onwards, Tottenham became a popular recreation and leisure destination for wealthy Londoners. Henry VIII is known to have visited Bruce Castle and also hunted in Tottenham Wood. While it was a semi-rural and upper middle class area until the 1870s, today the area has been fully absorbed into London (helped by the various transport links that run through the area). They also love a good riot in Tottenham, with the deaths of Cynthia Jarrett and Mark Duggan in 1985 and 2011 being the cause of some serious disturbances between the population and Met Police.
Tottenham Hotspur’s history is far too much to write in just a single paragraph or section, but I got Billy Radstock to pen a few words to try and explain the Spurs:
“Tottenham Hotspur – a love excelling
Tottenham Hotspur Football Club is situated in North London, an area it shares with Arsenal Football Club. The latter re-located from Woolwich, in South London, in the first part of the 20th century and was elected to the First Division in 1919, on the resumption of football after World War 1, and at the expense of Tottenham. Not surprisingly this injustice was resented by all Spurs fans and is still something of a sore point to this day. Arsenal fans may quibble about the exact boundaries of London, and whether Tottenham was actually in Middlesex rather than London, but common sense and natural justice will tell any normal person that Spurs are the genuine North London article and Arsenal a bunch of South London interlopers.
Tottenham are the only football league team to be named after a Shakespearean character (Harry Hotspur), the only non-league team to win the FA Cup (in 1901), and the first British team to win a European trophy (The Cup Winners Cup in 1963).
Tottenham’s teams have become associated with free flowing attacking football, this stemming from Arthur Rowe’s ‘push and run’ team of the 1950s and Bill Nicholson’s double winning side of 1961. To this day Spurs managers are judged against this criteria; the team has to play with some style. Most Spurs fans would rather not win the Premiership if it meant we had to play boring defensive football that no-one would like or remember. In this context the ultimate Spurs hero would either be the prolific drinker, smoker and goal scorer Jimmy Greaves, or the mercurial Scottish ball player Alfie Conn, who lit up a dark time for Spurs fans when we were relegated in the 1970s, although the magnificent lion hearted Dave Mackay has some claim to be rated the greatest of them all.
Tottenham’s home ground, White Hart Lane, is famously difficult to get to and away from, and now has a reduced capacity of 36,000. Plans are afoot to build a new stadium nearby. Visitors to the stadium can alight at the nearest tube station, Seven Sisters, and walk along the attractive continental boulevard known as Tottenham High Road. Tottenham fans enjoy this promenade greatly, particularly on winter days when it is cold and raining.
Spurs last won the league championship in 1961 and will probably never win it again, as Chelski and Man City hoover up all the quality players, but we don’t really care. We want to see some decent football, played in the Tottenham way, with a bit of success occasionally, perhaps in the Champions League. Not much to ask really...”
White Hart Lane is a short distance (ish) away from their pals Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium but could not be more different. White Hart Lane being the old school ground that despite being modernised several times, still retains that character that is massively missing from the red bowl up the road. 3 of the 4 stands have undergone major refurbishment since the 1980’s which has also included the introduction of two “Jumbotron” video screens above either goal. We were situated in the West Stand which was apparently “the prawn sandwich brigade” section according to a season ticket holder. With some decent views over the pitch, the compact nature of White Hart Lane means this was an excellent ground to finish the London Professional scene on. (Until someone gets a new ground! Or the Olympic Stadium…)
While many clubs started this season with a period of transition, you feel in the Premier League at least, none were in more than Spurs. After the World Record sale of Gareth “likes a dive” Bale (I’m not letting that disgraceful 15 minutes from him in Cardiff 2012 ever go) for a ridiculous amount, boss AVB decided to star in a real life Football Manager game. In came Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, Roberto Soldado, Étienne Capoue, Vlad Chiricheș, Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela for the nice sum of £105m. With a completely new team comes some time to adjust and while the early form saw Spurs challenging for the title, defeats to West Ham, Newcastle and a complete embarrassment at Man City means AVB is a man under pressure. They were 6th in the league in this game, but these new signings weren’t meant to achieve that, they had to be much higher.
Another piece in Spurs’ current state of transition is the announcement (and seemingly the start of the construction too as I walked past it) of their new ground right next door to White Hart Lane. While the Lane has been home to Spurs since 1899, its current capacity of 36,240 means it is smaller than many of their rivals and could see them missing out on potential revenue. While they lost the right to move to the Olympic Stadium (do West Ham really need a 60,000 stadium? Really!?) they have proceeded with a project called the Northumberland Development Project which should see Spurs move into a new 56,250 capacity ground in 2016.
While AVB was under some pressure in the league, this game against the Russian Premier League side should have provided some respite with Spurs having already secured top spot in the group and their opponents Anzhi Makhachkala bagging 2nd. Spurs were one of only 2 teams in the Europa League Group Stage (as well as Red Bull Salzburg) that were going into this game with a 100% record so far. With the easiest group in the competition, Spurs were expected to cruise through and having already done the double over Sheriff Tiraspol and Tromsø, only Anzhi now could deny Spurs the 100%. It would be tough for the Russians as Anzhi’s days of mass spending have long finished with owner Suleyman Kerimov no longer wanting to heavily finance the team. With big names such as Samuel Eto'o, Willian, Lassana Diarra and Christopher Samba sold on, Anzhi are struggling in the league and currently sit in bottom place. With no wins to their name and 5 points away from safety, they need a big 2014 in the league to pull themselves out of this one with 11 games to go.
While Spurs may have expected a coast in the park, Anzhi came out and showed they could cause problems up front. In fact, Spurs had their defence to thank for getting back and covering Ilya Maksimov before he could get his shot away when through on goal. While up front, Anzhi looked ok, defensively they were hopeless and when Andros Townsend was brought down, the resulting free kick was whipped in and met by Soldado who gave Spurs the lead after just 7 minutes. Spurs could relax now, play some nice football and try to reduce the pressure on AVB for the upcoming Liverpool game to be played that Sunday. This nice football was too much for Anzhi as a slick passing move just 6 minutes later saw Lamela play Soldado in again and he found the bottom corner to make it 2-0. If any of the crowd still thought Anzhi had a chance in the game after the 2nd goal, that should have gone on 40 minutes when Townsend was through on goal, but his shot was lifted over Yevgeny Pomazan and wide of the goal. Spurs under AVB however, have had a habit of conceding daft goals and did the same right on HT when an Anzhi corner seemed to hit Brazilian defender Ewerton and go in. Game back on then!
Anzhi started the 2nd half well causing Spurs more problems at the back and winning a series of corners. With nothing to show from them however, Spurs effectively killed the game off on 51 minutes with a piece of class. Having not properly cleared a corner, despite having about 3 attempts to do so, Anzhi saw the ball played back in by Townsend where Lewis Holtby controlled the ball perfectly before lifting it past the keeper with his other foot. Brilliant. Anzhi were going to struggle to score once again, never mind twice and when Jucilei stupidly brought down Ryan Fredericks in the penalty area, Soldado stepped up to complete his hattrick and make it 4-1. With the hattrick hero brought off, the game slowed right down for the final 20 minutes as everyone knew it was up. Anzhi did force a couple of decent saves from Friedel, but never really looked like getting back into it as they suffered their largest ever European defeat. Spurs, along with Salzburg (who beat Danish side Esbjerg) maintained their 100% record for the group and things looked good for AVB!
Well actually, it got sour, rather quickly. A 5-0 defeat to a team inspired by that racist was the final straw for Chairman Daniel Levy as AVB was punted. This has caused mass debate in the (normally useless) football media as the journalists try to decide what just went wrong for a manager who now will surely struggle to get a top job in this country again. Coach Tim Sherwood took charge for their next two games and his decision to play attacking football seems to have paid off as he has been bizarrely given the job until the end of 2014/15, despite some top names being linked with the job. His first objective will be to try and get in the slipstream that Man Utd have created on their way back up the league to join the fight for the title and European spots.
Spurs reward for their Group K win was a Round of Last 32 tie against Ukrainian side Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. Despite me being certain they had, Spurs have never played them and so a trip to the Dnipro Arena awaits them in February. For Anzhi, I said at the game whoever they drew would knock them out and so that falls to Belgian club Racing Genk. Spurs should they get through that tie with Dnipro (they should) will face the winners of PAOK or Benfica as they go for the Champions League qualification spot that winning this tournament brings. Considering how many people I could go to White Hart Lane with, I’ll be back there, probably many times before Spurs move across the road. A ground with good views, good atmosphere and occasionally sexy football (strikingly similar to watching Hearts actually), its worth the visit.
- Match: 7/10 (reasonably decent for neutral)
- Value for money: 7/10 (nice of Spurs to reduce the prices)
- Ground: 7/10 (excellent ground)
- Atmosphere: 6/10 (good noise from a small block of Spurs fan)
- Food: 5.5/10 (pies that break apart are not pies, sort it Spurs)
- Programme: 6.5/10 (was ok, but crossing that £3 mark for a programme is a no)
- Referee: Stefan Johannesson – 7.5/10 (was good and even consulted the mysterious penalty box official for the penalty)