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Tottenham Hotspur’s £1bn state-of-the art stadium is being used as a hub in the fight against the current coronavirus crisis.
Spurs have offered their stadium to the NHS to help fight the pandemic, with the car park built underneath the stadium already being used as a storage base for food, as the newly formed London Food Alliance attempt to ensure the most vulnerable do not go hungry.
It means the 62,303-capacity Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is serving as one of Haringey’s two main centres, along with Alexandra Palace.
This is a global crisis no-one could have foreseen on the night of 3 April 2019, when Spurs finally opened the doors of their opulent new home to competitive football with a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.
So, a year on from the realisation of the club’s dream to replace historic White Hart Lane with an iconic arena on the site of the old home, the sporting success at the heart of that vision has given way to the reality of a role in fighting the deadly coronavirus.
In the sporting context – which is rightly low on anyone’s list of priorities just now – it has been a turbulent first year for Spurs in their new home.
After the Palace victory, then manager Maurico Pochettino had guided Spurs to third place in the Premier League, a Champions League quarter-final with Manchester City awaited and the Argentine was so enamoured with both the stadium and his chairman, he said: “I’m pleased for Daniel Levy because of this fantastic project and I dedicate that victory to him.”
So far so good but, given future events on and off the field at Spurs, the sentences that followed can now be viewed as hugely significant.
Pochettino said: “We need to start to think about the new chapter, the new era, to ensure Tottenham is a real contender for the big things. With our training ground, this stadium you must think big.
“We have to behave like a big club.”
And, for a few months, it seemed like everyone at Spurs was on the same page. Manchester City were beaten over two legs – including a landmark 1-0 win in the new stadium – and the drama of a last-minute winner from Lucas Moura in the Champions League semi-final at Ajax sent them to the final against Liverpool in Madrid.
Spurs lost 2-0 and since then things have never been the same. Not even the palatial surroundings of their new home have helped.
The pain of Madrid and the lack of immediate progress marks that balmy night in June as a watershed for Spurs and Pochettino.
The Argentine cut a discontented figure from the moment Spurs returned to pre-season training, flagging up his perceived lack of influence.
He said after a friendly win against Real Madrid in July: “Sell, buy players, sign contract, not sign contract. I think it is not in my hands. It is in the club’s hands and Daniel Levy.
“The club needs to change my title and description. Of course, I am the boss deciding the strategic play but in another areas I don’t know. I feel like I am the coach.”
All was not well and results suggested a rot had set in.
The stadium was gleaming new. The Spurs squad was growing old.
Too many players had been around too long. The most important thing of all – namely the team – was stale.
Pochettino hoped to rebuild with the sale of players such as Christian Eriksen, Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld. None left.
And so it was that the manager who was, and still is, a hero to many Spurs fans was sacked in November. They were lying in 14th place in the Premier League and a Champions League campaign had been scarred by a 7-2 humiliation in their own home by Bayern Munich, the first time Spurs had conceded seven goals at home in their 137-year history.
No sooner was Pochettino out of the door than Jose Mourinho was in. But it has been no easy transition for ‘The Special One’, trying to add renewed gloss to his own reputation after his sacking at Manchester United.
Mourinho has been hampered by serious injuries to world-class duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, but the 4-0 aggregate loss to RB Leipzig in the last 16 of the Champions League was a chastening reminder of their fall from grace since June and the FA Cup fifth-round loss at home to Norwich City on penalties means the long wait for a trophy, stretching back to the League Cup win in 2008, continues.
When sport ground to a halt as the coronavirus took hold, Spurs were eighth in the Premier League, seven points off Chelsea in fourth place.
It is early days but Mourinho is still to convince Spurs fans, so many of whom worshipped Pochettino.
There have been few high points in the new home – and there will not be for some time.
The stadium itself has proved a resounding success when measured in facilities, despite lingering infrastructure limitations that can make getting away after games something of a trial.
Spurs have constructed a modern arena that stands comparison with any in world football and achieved the not inconsiderable feat of retaining a superb atmosphere, due in large part to the imposing single-tier 17,000 capacity South Stand.
The job for Mourinho – and indeed Levy – is to get Spurs to the second anniversary of their new stadium with success on the field to match their plush surroundings.
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