The ‘Wembley Curse,’ as it was dubbed, was, for a short spell, real.
Over 11 games played over the 2016/17 season and the early part of the 2017/18 campaign, Tottenham Hotspur won just one. Of course, Mauricio Pochettino’s have improved their record at the national stadium since then, but the club’s nomadic existence over the past two seasons has led to frustration.
“It’s just not nice anymore,” Danny Rose complained about playing at Wembley in a recent interview. “I don’t feel it’s an honour to play at Wembley.”
Indeed, Rose isn’t the only one association with Spurs feeling the apathy of a trip to Northwest London for every home game. Just look at the swathes of empty seats visible at some of Spurs’ recent games.
The argument is made that once Spurs get their feet comfortable under the desk of their new stadium all this upheaval will be forgotten about.
After all, the new White Hart Lane (which still doesn’t have an official name) looks to be a shining example of modern, sporting architecture, from its Kop-style stand behind the goals to the glass tunnel and myriad of dining options.
That might turn out to be true, with all at the club, including Rose, desperate for the ribbon to be cut on their new home.
But the price paid by Spurs for their new stadium could amount to more than just the numbers written into the chequebook.
Spurs’ stadium move came at just the wrong point of their recent history.
For decades, the North London club found themselves on the peripheries of the footballing elite, with their noses presses hard against the window of the sport’s elite. Pochettino is the manager they waited a generation for, taking Spurs closer to a genuine title challenge than anyone else in the 21st century.
Progress has been gradual, but sustained, over the past four years. Every season up until this season, there has been incremental improvement.
First, Spurs broke the top four. Secondly, they made themselves Champions League contenders. The third part of the mission was to become Premier League title challengers.
They might have done that this season had they not been forced to play every one of their league games on the road.
Pochettino’s Spurs project has been compromised by the move to Wembley and the eventual return to North London, which has now been delayed by a further few weeks. This saga couldn’t have come at a worst time.
Pochettino has attempted to argue that Spurs should still be considered title challengers along with pace-setters Liverpool and Manchester City. “We are there, we are in a good position of course,” he insisted this week.
“It is normal that the perception is different. I am happy with the perception today when the perception from the media is only Manchester City and Liverpool and not us.
“I am not happy with the perception when they are not assessing us in the right way. After investment and many things when you assess the different clubs, normally it is Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, United, Arsenal will be involved in the race for the title. But not Tottenham.”
He might have a point, to a certain extent.
Spurs are just six points off the top of the Premier League table, and yet nobody is talking about them as title challengers.
There is some basis to Pochettino’s argument. But imagine how much closer Spurs would be to Liverpool and City had they been able to play at White Hart Lane, or whatever stands there now, this season.
Spurs’ record at Wembley certainly isn’t the worst – it’s just a couple weeks since they dismantled Chelsea there – but playing there isn’t helping them.
When they win at Wembley, they do so in spite of their surroundings. This is in stark contrast to their advantage Spurs’ rivals hold in front of their own fans.
Furthermore, Spurs could find that this stadium move ultimately forces Pochettino out of the club.
The Argentinian has more than once expressed his frustration at the situation, primarily the freeze in transfer funds that saw Spurs fail to make a single signing in the summer.
This week, Pochettino was faced with questions over links with Real Madrid. He refused to rebuff them. The estimated construction cost of New White Hart Lane stands at around £1.2 bullion.
The actual cost, not just in monetary terms, could be a lot more.