Tag Archives: Spurs

Sanchez fails to inspire as Man Utd falter at Wembley

A blustery winter’s night failed to deter fans from flocking to Wembley for Tottenham’s crucial clash with Manchester United.

A new record Premier League attendance of 81,978 was drawn to the national stadium, but anyone taking their seats late because of the crowds missed a flying start by Spurs.

Wembley Stadium before a record PL crowd of nearly 82,000 filled the stadium

The build-up to the game had been dominated by the buzz surrounding the visitors’ latest recruit, Alexis Sanchez, with their fans confident the former Arsenal star’s goals and assists would justify his £500,00-a-week wages (plus Henrik Mkhitaryan heading to the Gunners in a swap deal).

But that pre-match optimism was extremely short-lived as Spurs scored straight from the kick-off, stunning United’s sizeable away following into silence.

It took just 11 seconds for Christian Eriksen to get on the end of flicks from Harry Kane and Dele Alli and side-foot home the joint-third fastest goal ever scored in the Premier League.

Spurs seemed to sense that that Jose Mourinho’s men were not at the races after returning to top-flight action following their routine win five days earlier at Yeovil in the FA Cup third round.

United had chances to equalise with Jesse Lingard coming close, however Mauricio Pochettino’s men were attacking at such a pace that it came as no surprise when Phil Jones turned Kieran Trippier’s cross into his own net to double their lead and effectively end the contest with barely 30 minutes on the clock.

Sanchez fails to shine

The United faithful didn’t even have the consolation of seeing Sanchez shine on his Premier League debut for their team.

The Chilean international delivered an anonymous performance, much to the delight of Tottenham’s fans, who gave him the kind of hostile reception they reserve for former Arsenal players.

Of course, Sanchez has yet to gel with his new team-mates, most of whom were similarly below par at Wembley, and the pressure on him to make an immediate impact was unfair.

The former Barcelona star was barely visible as he was continually harried by white shirts.

Manchester United train ahead of the game

After a poor opening 45 minutes on the left-hand side, Mourinho sought to change the momentum as he moved the 29-year-old into the number 10 role.

However, the switch came to nothing, as Tottenham’s sturdy defence kept the United’s new acquisition quiet throughout.

Good value

So it was a night to forget for United fans, with many leaving well before the final whistle, having seen their team out-played, out-thought and out-fought all over the pitch.

At least they had the consolation of only paying £30 to witness one of the Red Devils’ poorest performances of the season.

In previous campaigns, the cost of watching football – particularly for away fans – has been a hot topic of debate.

However, the Premier League made a breakthrough in 2016 when all 20 clubs agreed to cap away tickets at £30.

To watch Spurs dismantle United, with so many fine players on display on both sides, for that price was a bargain.

Whether the massive outlay invested in bringing Sanchez to Old Trafford ultimately comes to be viewed as value for money is another matter.

United’s defeat leaves them 15 points adrift of rivals Manchester City, with Mourinho admitting the title is now out of reach. Spurs moved to within two points of the top four.

Wembley’s hospitality fare leaves an empty feeling

If anything is worth rising at 8am on a cold Sunday morning in November, sacrificing the sanctity of tea and biscuits in bed with the morning papers, it’s Premier League football.

I’m off to the far-from-biggest London derby – but a derby all the same – Spurs v Crystal Palace. And it’s not just the entertainment on the field that has pulled me wearily away from my duvet.

Regardless of age, sex, colour or creed, the sense of occasion on match day, even as a neutral with no particular vested interest in the outcome, is unique. It’s compounded by the array of food, drink and entertainment on offer at football grounds nowadays which caters for even the most disinterested fan.

It’s not new to cite evidence of football’s gentrification, but clubs are increasingly embracing the lucrative lure of the hospitality industry.

Wembley – along with all other newly-built concrete bowl stadia – was designed with the more discerning ‘FAN’ (ie, ‘customer’) in mind.

Princely sum

Whether you like it or not, clubs need to maximise their multi-million pound investments in new stadia by offering a variety of options to cater for their demographically diverse fan base.

The Tunnel Club at Manchester City

New features such as the Tunnel Club at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium allow fans to get as close to the behind-the-scenes action as possible by installing glass along the tunnel, allowing them to watch from the dinner table as players exchange pre-match pleasantries, for the princely sum of £7,500 per season.

The Three Lions Club at Wembley, where I am spending a couple of hours before the midday kick off, is – at £129 – admittedly not the finest hospitality ‘experience’ the national stadium has to offer.

On arrival, my hopes of enjoying a fresh cup of coffee whilst taking in the great landscape views of Greater London were instantly quashed.

With no hot drink facilities in my lounge, I was instructed to try the ordinary Club Wembley refreshments kiosk. At last – a cup (disposable) of joe (£2.80).

Atmosphere

The Three Lions Lounge

Perhaps leading up to a 4.30pm kick-off, guests would have welcomed a rip-roaring band belting out renditions of Tom Petty and The Killers to create some atmosphere as pints were sipped and chins wagged.

But with doors opening and tunes ringing out from 9.30am – a full two-and-half hours before kick-off – guests would surely have far preferred the sound of their own actual thoughts, or hearing their companions, over the piercing speakers.

Maybe my restlessness could be attributed to not having eaten (more likely the slight hangover).

I went to the hot counter where I duly exchanged my complimentary ‘one food voucher’ for a thick-cut bacon roll, served with two hash browns and a small pot of ketchup. This was decent. Tender, succulent bacon and sufficiently oily hash browns.

Service was generally good and helpful. As a neutral, awkward questions did arise like when one hostess asked “Would you like a Tottenham poppy?”I replied “No thanks, I’ve already got a poppy,” gesturing to my coat collar. The cockerel-emblazoned flower wouldn’t go down well at dinner later with my Arsenal-supporting family.

The match

At 11.30am, I took my seat to watch the players finishing their warm-ups. It was a great seat, almost level with the halfway line and in the second tier with a great perspective over the pitch.

Best seats in the house

Looking at the team sheet, the big news was that Michel Vorm, meant to be coming in for the injured Hugo Lloris, had been withdrawn. Third-string keeper Paulo Gazzaniga, whom Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino brought in last summer, made his debut.

At a football match in early November, you expect to smell fresh cut grass with an undercurrent of hot dog meat and onions. At Wembley, it’s the opposite.

At least this seemed metaphorically true in my head – such is the culture of the stadium mired in corporatisation.

Pochettino spoke before the match of the importance of “keeping their feet on the grass” after Spurs’ incredible win against European champions, Real Madrid, on Wednesday.

Palace fans predictably made for a good atmosphere throughout the afternoon, banging drums and waving flags, but they were ultimately not repaid with a goal from their team.

Chances

The highlight of the first half was a fingertip save by Gazzaniga – from the same town in Argentina as Pochettino it turns out – denying Palace captain Scott Dann’s header towards the back post.

The keepers’ acrobatics were spectacular in what was otherwise a half of football so drab that retreating back to the Three Lions lounge at half-time for a bottle of Carlsberg and a couple more numbers from the unidentified cover band seemed great fun.

The second half proved slightly more exciting from the start with Eagles’ striker Wilfried Zaha finally beating Gazzaniga but failing to hit the open goal, right in front of the travelling supporters.

In the 64th minute, Spurs, missing playmaker Dele Alli to injury, did eventually get the breakthrough with an inch-perfect strike from outside the box by Heung Min Son into the bottom left corner.

Just minutes before, one fan next to me spoke of his surprise at the goalless score line. “If its still 0-0 at 60 mins and the odds are decent I’m whacking £500 on us to win”, he said nudging me with his elbow as if it was a cert.

I suppose you need something to up the ante of such a dry affair. Sure enough, said punter erupted upon Son’s superb effort bulging the net.

I left in the 80th minute to beat the crowds, with not a slightest concern of missing any drama. Trudging back down Wembley Way I reflected on a mediocre day at Wembley. Maybe I should have stayed in bed after all.

Spurs supporters urged to honour young fan

Tottenham fans are being asked to mark the death of a young footballer during their match against West Ham this weekend.

Jack Atkinson, 18, suffered a suspected cardiac arrest whilst playing for his local team, Holland FC, at a tournament in Clacton, Essex, and died the following day.

Friends and family of the teenager described as a ‘gentle giant’ are now campaigning on social media for a 60 seconds of applause on the 18th minute at Saturday’s game at White Hart Lane.

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-11-57-33Tyler Rose, Atkinson’s best friend, has been leading the efforts to ensure the tribute goes ahead.

“Jack was so caring, so relaxed – I never once saw him lose it at anyone when playing” he said.

“He was a massive Spurs fan and loved football like the rest of us. He was so well-liked by everybody.

“I loved playing with him, especially when we won every game together last season, he was a great player with a very promising future.”

Support

Jack’s parents gave an interview to BBC Essex as they try to deal with the shock, with his father stating that he “died doing what he loved”.

“Words can’t explain, but it’s so nice to know how popular and well-loved he was,” he said.

“The doctors said he wasn’t in any pain which is a blessing, but he died over there doing what he loved.

“He was nice, so, so nice. Everyone has a bad bone in their body, but you would struggle to find Jack’s, he was so amazing, he really was.”

Shane Spacey, another close friend of Atkinson, has set up a GoFundMe page to help support his family. So far, it has raised nearly £6,000 of its £8,000 target.

“We knew each other since we started secondary school at the age of 11, and he really was the nicest guy you could ever meet, a great friend.

“I can’t even begin to imagine what his family are going through. Jack was loved by everybody, and if you look at his donation page it speaks volumes. Everybody has given what they can.”

Missed

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-11-57-33Rose tweeted on Monday evening, calling on all Spurs fans to honour Jack this Saturday.

Since then, the tweet has generated huge recognition with over a thousand retweets, one of those being by ex-Spurs player David Ginola.

BBC News Essex reported this week that Tottenham are aware of the planned applause this Saturday and have been in contact with Jack’s family to offer their condolences to his family during this difficult time.

Mark Sorrell, chairman of Holland FC said: “Jack was a nice boy, always very polite and conscientious.

“He was not disliked by anybody and he really was a great kid, a very promising footballer. He’ll be missed by all of us.”

Local League Two club Colchester United also offered their condolences via social media.

The U’s tweeted: “The thoughts of everyone at ‪#ColU are with ‪@MightyHolland and the family of Jack Atkinson after the sad news at the weekend. Rest in peace.”

If you would like to donate via the crowd funding page, click here.

Sorry, Spurs – I’m cursed

As any Spurs supporter will tell you, it’s a rollercoaster ride supporting our club.

Over the years I’ve had the privilege of watching superb comeback wins at the Emirates one week and the agony of dreary home defeats to Newcastle the next.

In my lifetime, Tottenham have always been seen as the team that just falls short, flattering to deceive and mixing some very good moments with some very bad ones.

However my first-hand experience supporting the team over the last two years has been filled with the latter. In fact, my last experience watching Tottenham win a game live was back in December 2013.

It was a very cold, wet and windy Wednesday night at Fulham. The game started with Spurs dominating possession but struggling to break down the opposition’s deep-lying defence, which was typical under Andre Villas Boas.

Surprise

Even more typical was when we went behind early on in the second half against the run of play. However, thanks to long-range efforts from Chiriches and former fan-favourite Lewis Holtby, I left Craven Cottage filled with joy – a feeling I haven’t felt since (well, when leaving a football stadium, anyway).

Since that day I have been to watch my side 11 times, spending over £600 in the process, and I am still yet to see them win.  In those 11 games I have witnessed nine defeats, ranging from  a 1-0 smash-and-grab scoreline against West Brom to a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Liverpool.

“As the game wore on my nerves began to grow and when we conceded a corner late on, I knew what was coming”

The two draws consisted of a dull 0-0 against Palace and a late recovery to 2-2 against West Ham to salvage a point – the only flicker of a highlight I can boast, too.

My most recent visit to White Hart Lane was against the surprise title challengers Leicester City, and it didn’t end well for me or Spurs.

Before that, my only other visit to White Hart Lane this term was our first game there, against Stoke City – yet another go on the N17 rollercoaster that unfortunately ended on a very disappointing drop as the away side came from two goals down to snatch a draw late on.

Optimism

However disappointing that result was, it did kick-start a very impressive unbeaten run by my side that I enjoyed so much that I stopped myself going to any more games, out of fear that I’d end the run myself – against the wishes of my Arsenal-supporting uncle, who offered to buy me a season ticket upon hearing about my curse.

Once the run came to end, I felt it was safe to return to the Lane and, hoping that wheels would finally come off of their unlikely title challenge, chose the Leicester City game. But after the 2-2 home draw against them in the FA Cup just three days earlier, I was aware of what a tough ask it would be.

“Palace fans will be happy to know that my next live match will be at Selhurst Park. To all Tottenham fans, I can only apologise in advance…”

Like my last taste of victory from the stands, it was a very cold, wet and windy Wednesday night at White Hart Lane, which gave me at least a slight sense of optimism heading into the match.

Which grew even more as the evening wore on, as for the first time in a long time, I was witnessing an impressive performance first-hand. After 70 minutes, we seemed to have done everything but score, testing Foxes keeper Kasper Schmeichel on numerous occasions – but even when Harry Kane got the ball past the great Dane, the bar stood in his way.

As the game wore on my nerves began to grow and when we conceded a corner late on, I knew what was coming and when the ball hit the back of the net (Robert Huth unmarked, header) I was left with the same feeling I’ve had so many times before.

The more games that rack up, the more I wonder how long it will be until I see my side win again when I’m there. Crystal Palace fans will be happy to know that my next live match will be at Selhurst Park. To all Tottenham fans, I can only apologise in advance…

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.