White Hart Lane bid farewell to its final north London derby today and did so in style as Tottenham beat their eternal nemesis Arsenal 2-0. Dele Alli and Harry Kane who else, were on hand to get the goals and keep Spurs in the title hunt with just four games to go, and now they are just four points behind Chelsea.
Perhaps because this was the very last derby at this ground the feeling, emotion and play of the game had remnants of football played from yesteryear- the colour clash of shirts, so vivid added to the atmosphere. But also seeing Arsene Wenger still in the dugout, still somehow plying his trade as manager of Arsenal after nearly 21 years was another. Though the Frenchman cut a sombre figure. Arsenal’s season has been so forgettable that the club may well be best remembered this season for Wenger and his right hand man Steve Bould’s constant slouching on seats complete with faces hanging a million miles in tandem.
This was a game that was deservedly won by the home team, a game that summed up both clubs seasons. Tottenham have at least for now stepped out of Arsenal’s shadow, this win confirmed that Tottenham will finish above Arsenal for the first time since Wenger took charge of the Gunners.
Spurs played at a frantic pace, created chances and missed easy ones. Relief threw itself around the ground like a scarf to neck on a cold winters night when Alli, so alert throughout, grabbed his chance to put his side a goal up. A minute later Tottenham were awarded a penalty and Harry Kane kept his cool to leave Petr Cech stranded and with no chance. It felt almost like Cech wasn’t ready. The irony of this was that Cech kept Arsenal in the game and kept the score to a respectable figure. He was nothing short of stunning, with superb saves throughout the game.
And there above the stands stood big brother, the future, a new stadium for Tottenham awaits and it’s construction takes shape. It was at this point very easy to feel cynical about what was happening especially looking around at White Hart Lane and seeing before your eyes a quiet wonderful stadium. Nothing spectacularly wonderful as Camp Nou in Barcelona, but all the same it is a stadium that holds a million memories good and bad. It is a stadium that has hosted legends of yesteryear, a stadium where the press box was directly next to the dugout. It was not unknown for friendly banter between journalists and past coaches. The one tier behind the dugout that gave way to executive boxes- the little things, made and make stadiums like White Hart Lane stand out. A minimal stadium perhaps- the restricted views were never welcome, but still a stadium that will be dearly missed.
However it would be wrong to write off why the club need to move into a larger home. This isn’t by force but by evolution. Sure money is a factor, but like every business you have to evolve or die and keep taking strides forward. It won’t be too long before Spurs fans join Arsenal and West Ham to take two recent moves as example and watch old footage of their club at former homes and have memories whizzing quicker than a Son Heung-min run at the Arsenal back four.
As we go into the final month of the Premier League season, Tottenham will certainly finish no lower that 2nd place. However you get the feeling that the desire and hunger is still there to go on and win the league for the first time since 1961. It was after all hugely telling that at the final whistle the players took this win as any other. There were no title like celebrations like there would have been in seasons past with such victories. This was seen as just another stepping stone to a trophy in a quite remarkable season.
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