Of all the new grounds that opened in the last few years, the new Spurs arena is surely the most talked about. Everything from the famous Dortmund-style ‘wall’ and the craft beers on offer, to the delays in getting the stadium finished, seems to have been filling the back pages all season. So Groundhoppers.blog guest columnist Michael Grimes went along to see what all the fuss was about.
The 92 Club, that ever-changing target of the grounds currently in use in the four divisions of the English League, takes some effort to keep up. After completing the list last year, the vagaries of promotion, relegation and much-delayed grand openings meant it was already time for an update. So, when West Ham headed off to the newest – and possibly the shiniest – I had a rare experience for a Hammers fan. I was almost looking forward to visiting Spurs.
Getting tickets for the game wasn’t easy. Demand outstripped supply for a proper London grudge match and the touts pushed up their prices to match. Luckily, I got a call on Friday night from someone whose mate dropped out and bagged my golden ticket. TV schedules meant an early start to get to Liverpool Street in time for the bus up the Seven Sisters Road – a familiar route to a new destination.
A somewhat unnecessary police escort slowed the bus to a crawl on Tottenham High Road; it was quicker to finish the journey on foot and catch a first glimpse of a grey, spaceship-style object in the distance. It’s incongruous in the shabby surroundings of Haringey, the work of a messed-up time machine spitting out chunks of a scaled-up future into the midst of the mundane past. Despite its size, on a grey day this monochrome monolith melted into the north London sky and didn’t appear as impressive as the talk had suggested.
Airport-style security checks were friendlier than some, visiting fans were greeted by a banner with the current Irons’ crest and the concourse was as you would expect for a brand-new ground; clean, lino floors of wood colour (unless they were real wood of course). However for such a modern concourse it did look a bit on the cramped side. The toilets too were pretty posh, but again on the skimpy side for such a big stadium. There was no sign of the fabled craft beers – alcohol sales were suspended inside. Was this due to the lunchtime kick-off, or police fears that the fans would kick off?
Then into the arena itself, to get a look at what all the fuss is about. From our away section in the corner we had a good view of the much-talked about ‘Wall’, the vast single-tier stand that dominated one end of the new ground. The shape reminds me of Hillsborough’s old Kop before the roof went on and squared off the angles; the overall effect isn’t quite Dortmund but is still a good idea. The whole ground is big, and the dark grey seats give it a formal, conservative feeling.
The rest of the ground has three tiers, forming a horseshoe shape. Our sector has the potential for safe standing, with dark blue crush barriers between every row of seats. Some day fans might even be allowed to stand there, who knows? The view from row 9 was good, in line with edge of the penalty area and well-placed to alert the lino when he got it wrong. We were so close to the front, though, that the roof didn’t offer much protection when the April showers arrived.
The game saw West Ham make a little bit of history. Prior to the match, Spurs had played 4, won 4, conceded 0. But a great chip from the renegade striker Arnautovic went over a Spurs defender and set up Antonio’s neat finish. Conceded 1 and, a few minutes later, lost 1. A first defeat for Spurs at their new home, and fully deserved on a day when Mark Noble bossed the midfield to send the bragging rights back east.
So, a great day for the Hammers – but was it a great stadium? Yes and no. Technically it’s great. Everything works, and at the moment it’s still box-fresh. But it still feels a bit like dozens of other new-build arenas. That stand-out feature isn’t quite there just yet.
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
Apr. 27, 2019, Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur 0 West Ham United 1 (Antonio)
Att: 60, 043
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