Nearly three years after moving in, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is beginning to feel like home to Spurs fans.
Every club has a settling in period at a new ground. Tottenham only have to look down the road at Arsenal and West Ham to see two of the worst case scenarios, and they have largely learned from their rivals’ mistakes.
For all of Daniel Levy’s faults (Spurs fans will tell you he has plenty of them), he’s delivered a world class billion-pound stadium that still retains the feel of White Hart Lane.
But for much of their time spent at their new digs, Tottenham have scarcely looked like a team worthy of occupying their namesake stadium. Their fortunes are slowly beginning to change under Antonio Conte, and football moves so quickly that by the end of this mammoth week in their season, Spurs might have re-established themselves as contenders in the making again.
Chelsea head to N17 on Wednesday for the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final with a 2-0 lead. Arsenal make the short trip down Seven Sisters Road on Sunday in a huge six-pointer in the race for a top-four Premier League finish.
Spurs have had trouble in big games in recent years, that’s nothing new, but they’ll have to pull out two huge results back-to-back in order to keep the good feeling of their season rolling – it’s only just about survived the blows of the Stamford Bridge defeat, Son Heung-min injury and Morecambe performance.
Because of the ill-fated Jose Mourinho and Nuno Espirito Santo eras as well as the pandemic, Spurs fans have rarely had a chance to make full use of their new stadium’s vast facilities and concourses for celebratory purposes – the only occasion of note came a week after the ground opened.
Tottenham’s 1-0 win over Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the 2018/19 Champions League is one of – if not the only time – that fans were able to dance and drink, chant and sing to their heart’s content in within the bowels of their new home off the back of an unquestionably huge result. Plenty has happened since that night which has rendered it grainy and already nostalgic.
And now Spurs are in search of two of those occasions five days apart. Ah.
It’s not an impossible task, and there is a helpfully similar scenario which fans can draw hope from. After being knocked out of the FA Cup semi-finals by a bankrupt Portsmouth, Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham needed successive wins against Arsenal (which would have been their first in the league in the 21st century) and eventual title winners Chelsea to keep their hopes of reaching the Champions League for the first time alive.
Spurs won both games 2-1.
Conte has already proven in his short time at Tottenham that they can play ball with the big boys – last month’s draw with Liverpool which could have easily been a win is testament to that. But if the Italian’s project is really going to spark into life this term, he could do with his boys setting their own precedent this week of all weeks.