It was a historic day for Tottenham Hotspur on 24 March 2019 as the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was finally opened following a delay of over six months in front of nearly 30,000 fans for the first test event, an U18 game against Southampton. This is perhaps the most important development that the club have made in my time as a Spurs fan, so I was not going to pass up the opportunity to attend the first game at the new stadium.
12:00 – Despite the obvious excitement on the journey to White Hart Lane station (which Spurs wish to rename ‘Tottenham Hotspur’), there was still lingering doubts about the wisdom of moving into the stadium rather than staying at Wembley and simply starting again with a fresh start at the new stadium next season. Many rival fans have debated whether Spurs should be allowed to change venues mid-season, despite all clubs agreeing at the start of the season to allow Tottenham to play however many games were necessary at Wembley before they moved in.
13:00 – Any tentative thoughts were quickly extinguished upon exiting White Hart Lane station by the pure magnificence of the new stadium on the North London horizon. The size and very modern feel of the stadium with its sleek glass panes on the outside made it look as though someone had placed a spaceship in the middle of London. It remained clearly visible from our traditional pre-match drinking haunt, a noticeable difference from the old, smaller White Hart Lane. Regardless of the multiple delays, it is an impressive feat for a stadium of this stature to have been built virtually from scratch in a dense area of London in the space of two years.
The height and steepness of the stand was incredible and it will undoubtedly act as the centre-point for crowd chanting
14:00 – Getting into the ground was a more staggered process, with checkpoints to search bags, go through metal detectors and finally scan tickets. However, once passed this there was plenty to do and explore, with the large open, communal spaces for fans to converge in contrast to the claustrophobic feel of the old White Hart Lane. There was an audible buzz in the air in the concourse where fans made use of the varied food and drink options, including the much talked about Goal Line bar, the longest bar in Europe, with pints that fill themselves from the bottom of the glass.
15:00 – With the match starting, it was time to make our way to our seats in the 17,500-seat South Stand, the biggest single-tier stand in the UK. The height and steepness of the stand was incredible and it will undoubtedly act as the centre-point for crowd chanting, with the lower sections ready to be converted to safe-standing areas if the Premier League approves. The loud singing and atmosphere before and at the start of the game, despite the capped attendance of 30,000, was a welcome change following the recent lacklustre feel and disappointing attendances at Wembley matches. The closeness of the stands to the pitch created an intense atmosphere, unlike other new London stadiums such as the Emirates and London Stadium which are more open and distant from the action. J’Neil Bennett curled into the bottom corner early on to gain the distinction of scoring the first goal on the pristine pitch at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
It certainly felt as though the stadium was leaving clubs like Chelsea behind
15:45 – Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino made an emotional half time speech in which he asked the fans to thank the much-derided chairman Daniel Levy for his tireless work in the creation of the stadium. The action on the pitch became a sideshow in the second half, with many people using the time to explore every inch of the state-of-the-art stadium, which is ready for a concert and NFL use thanks to a sliding, retractable pitch which utilises ground-breaking technology and provides greater revenue streams. It certainly felt as though the stadium was leaving clubs like Chelsea behind.
17:00 – In the end, Spurs U18s came out 3-1 winners. When they eventually left, the Spurs fans who attended came away excited for the first competitive game at the stadium against Crystal Palace on 3 April, which will certainly be a sight to behold.