After months of setbacks, Tottenham are finally preparing to move into the New White Hart Lane.
From declaring it the “only place to watch Champions League football in London,” to Mousa Dembele (sold in January) tweeting that he “can’t wait to play at the new stadium,” Spurs have trudged from embarrassment to embarrassment in the move to their new stadium.
The delay has cost Spurs the opportunity to open it with a customary meaningless friendly. Instead, Tottenham will entertain Crystal Palace in a crucial Premier League clash in their first game back next Wednesday.
Teams generally get off to a good start at their new stadium and it could be the kick Tottenham need after a difficult run of results in the Premier League. Having said that, it hasn’t always gone to plan and here are five stadium openings that Tottenham will want to avoid.
St Mary’s, Southampton, 2001
When Southampton departed the Dell in 2001, there was a feeling that the time was right for a move away from the club’s home. The Dell, looking very dated at the turn of the century, got the perfect send off with a 3-2 victory over Arsenal. It helped that club legend Matt Le Tissier scored the last ever goal at the stadium with a typically sweet strike.
However, if the Dell’s send off was idyllic, St Mary’s opening was far from it. After losing the official opening 4-3 to Espanol, Southampton went on to lose their first competitive match at their new home too when they suffered a 2-0 defeat at home to Chelsea. They would fail to win each of their first five league games at home, picking up just one point from a possible 15.
It was mid-November by the time Southampton finally broke their St Mary’s duck when they beat Charlton 1-0 courtesy of a Marians Pahars goal.
Pride Park, Derby County, 1997
In terms of embarrassing stadium openings, it doesn’t get much worse than Derby’s opening of Pride Park. Reduced capacity meant that the Baseball ground (above) could no longer be deemed fit for Derby’s purposes, and the club’s move to a 33,000 all-seater stadium seemed like a progressive one. That is until they opened it.
Derby lost their Pride Park curtain raiser 1-0 at home to Italian side Sampdoria, but who really cares about that. The first competitive game is obviously the most important one and, hosting Wimbledon, Derby had a chance to go off to a winning start at their new home. They looked set to do so too, leading 2-1 midway through the second half. Then, the lights went out.
A generator problem saw the floodlights backfire and Pride Park was cast into darkness. Referee Uriah Rennie, officiating his first Premier League match, had no choice but to bring Derby’s big night to an end. The Rams, to their credit, recovered from the humiliation and didn’t suffer a home loss until February, in what was a respectable season for the East Midlands club.
Wembley Stadium, England, 2007
Since numerous games had already taken place at the New Wembley, England’s first game at the stadium wasn’t technically a stadium opening. However, such a big deal was made of England’s return to the home of football that their less than impressive start had to be included. England, stuttering in Euro 2008 qualifying, welcomed Brazil in a glamour friendly to break in their new home. They looked set to mark their return with a memorable win when John Terry put them ahead midway through the second half, but Brazil struck deep into injury time through Diego to deny England a winning start to life at Wembley.
England’s next home game saw them lose out to rivals Germany in another friendly, before competitive wins at home to Israel, Russia and Estonia seemed to put their bad start behind them. Crucially, however, England would lose their next competitive home game against Croatia at the end of 2007; a result which saw them miss out on Euro 2008 and saw manager Steve ‘The Wally with the Brolly’ McClaren sacked.
Reebok Stadium, Bolton, 1997
The inaugural game in Bolton’s new stadium, then called the Reebok Stadium, was one of the most controversial in the stadium’s history. Having gained promotion in their last ever season at Burnden Park the season previous, Bolton were always going to be one of the favourites to be relegated straight back down.
As it transpired, their first competitive game at the new stadium was against one of the teams Bolton would fight for survival against. Everton became the first visiting team to play in the Reebok when they played there in September 1997. That game finished 0-0, but Bolton should have won it. Gerry Taggart’s header clearly and obviously crossed the line, and Bolton were denied a victory in their first game at the Reebok.
To make matters worse, Bolton were relegated by virtue of goals scored, finishing just five goals worse off than Everton. Bolton would have probably stayed up if the goal was given, making this stadium opener – retrospectively at least – one to forget.
Britannia Stadium, Stoke, 1997
This wasn’t the best year for Stadium openings and Stoke were next up, swapping the Victoria Stadium for the Britannia Stadium. Although their home form did become somewhat feared when they finally returned to the Premier League in 2008, Stoke experienced teething problems in their first season at the ground.
The Potters took on Rochdale in the second leg of a League Cup game in their maiden game at the Britannia. Rochdale were then plying their trade in the fourth tier of English football and Stoke were 3-1 up after the first leg. After going ahead in the 85th minute, Stoke seemed certain to open their new stadium on winning terms, but conceded a 90th minute equaliser to prevent that.
Stoke lost their first home league game just four days later against Swindon, and were subsequently relegated to the third tier of English football. The Potters won just nine of 23 home games in 1997/1998 and, looking back, it may have taken Stoke a while to acclimatise to their new surroundings.