What an illustrious, historic and hauntingly beautiful stadium. Tottenham will finally say goodbye to White Hart Lane on Sunday, against Manchester United.
White Hart Lane Memories: The Final Years
Spurs fans of all ages have managed to attend a cherished amount of poignant matches and moments. This article will reflect back on the final four years of the stadium, arguing throughout just how special this stadium and its associated memories are.
With pride, reflections can be made back into Ugo Ehiogu’s career. He played against Spurs and at White Hart Lane, but his phenomenal achievements made when managing the youth at the club are especially cherished. There is some measurable success, such as the progression of young players into the first team. But, more importantly, it was his impact on the overall lives of these players that should be remembered. This is a man who nurtured and guided not just young footballers, but young men.
Pride was retained despite a 4-1 defeat in the final U-23 match at White Hart Lane against Leicester. Marcus Edwards won a penalty with a dazzling run, before smashing home the penalty. It is a touching gesture to notch a goal for the man who had guided them all for the past four years.
Ledley King’s testimonial
If only he had two sound knees. Ledley King was one of the greatest defenders to grace the Lane. Not only was he a fantastic defender in terms of tackling, blocking and heading, but he was also excellent on the ball. Admirably, he carried many defences that were so inferior to his ability. His injury sadly brought his career to a premature end, but not through lack of perseverance. Any fan that was lucky enough to see Ledley King at White Hart Lane would applaud his constant battle with injury.
Thus, it was very pleasing to see him one last time at the Lane. It was a nostalgic night, with old songs about Teddy Sheringham sung and the historical yet modern mixture of new and old players on the pitch. There were many funny moments, including Lewis Holtby’s slide tackle against Howard Webb, and the referee’s retaliation. But, crucially, fans got to see Ledley King play one more time, and score a penalty on the night.
Europa League exhilaration
The turnaround against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk was one of those thrilling European nights in February 2014. 2-0 down on aggregate, Spurs conceding early in the match, and it was looking unlikely to be recoverable. However, three goals were enough to turn it around for Tottenham. It was the early formation of the unconquerable, never-say-die attitude of Mauricio Pochettino’s era that allowed the players to win the match and the tie. Whilst it pales in comparison to the Champions League nights against Inter Milan, this was a slice of glory for those present. Lifting the roof, the turn in play suddenly igniting a recently dwindling atmosphere.
Flicking forward a year later, Spurs were faced with FK Qarabag. Again they had to overcome a 1-0 deficit after conceding early. But again, the relentless spirit of Tottenham overcame the odds to win 3-1.
This match was particularly important as it marked the first double for Heung-Min Son, who was stepping up for recovering Harry Kane. As a result, this ignited Son’s career and has propelled him to Premier League Player of the Month for April 2017. It was also an important match for Erik Lamela, who was having a torrid season. Despite missing a sitter, he managed to chip the goalkeeper with real aplomb, to his own and the fans’ delight. Again, this was a match that proved Lamela’s ability, who has since kicked on before long-term injury once again strikes him down.
Domestic cup glory
Whilst this match is obscured in the mediocrity of a trophy drought, Tottenham’s victory over Nottingham Forest was another impressive match. Conceding a goal, before gloriously coming back seems to be a common theme throughout all these matches. Indeed, Spurs were again 1-0 down by 68 minutes, before scoring three goals in the last section of the match to advance to the next round. Here, Ryan Mason took his turn to shine, smashing in a wonderful 25-yard strike. This turned around the match, but crucially turned around his career, from injury-prone prospect to a stint in the Spurs first team.
This match also reveals a recent love-story but also an inherent problem at the club. Roberto Soldado managed to notch a goal, to the absolute delight of the crowd. His failure to make his mark on English football reflected the recent striker dilemma at Spurs. Such a problem has partially been solved with the meteoric rise of Harry Kane, but he is still lacking an adequate partner today. Vincent Janssen seems to echo the Soldado goal-less woe, but has shown perhaps more promise coming off the bench with goals and assists.
The final years of White Hart Lane had many firsts. As aforementioned, both Son and Mason grabbed all important goals to prove their worth. Also, Christian Eriksen curled a 30-yard beauty against Tromso in the Europa League. This was a lightning flash of his unbelievable talent that has since lit up the Lane. Eriksen is now a key first-team player at Spurs. He has notched 12 goals and 20 assists so far this season.
Meanwhile, Erik Lamela notched his first against FC Sheriff. Nabil Bentaleb managed to notch his first goal, from a corner against Newcastle United. Bentaleb was a player that divided Spurs fans. His partnership with Ryan Mason in the heart of the midfield was an ephemeral but successful one. For a while, Spurs were competing with academy graduates, rather than imported talent. This tradition has carried on today, with the likes of Kane and Harry Winks.
Jermain Defoe shook the foundations of White Hart Lane with his goals. He exceeded Martin Chivers’ European goal tally for Spurs with 23. He fired the penalty down the middle, in his direct and ruthless style. Furthermore, Spurs often relied on his assured goal-scoring, making him an important player to the club.
Recently, despite his good goal-scoring form, he has since been relegated with Sunderland. Rumours even circulate around a potential third return to the club for one last season. After all, Spurs need some experience and a proven goalscorer to help Kane. Defoe would definitely help bolster the squad for one last year, helping to score the amount of goals that he once scored at White Hart Lane.
A final farewell
White Hart Lane has produced both sad and happy memories that will live on despite the imminent demolition of the stadium. The final years at the Lane have highlighted ingrained problems, but also positives like the beginnings of a stronger mentality. Many players have graced and disgraced the hallowed turf. Some remain today and will guide the club to pastures anew in the future.