By James Mayhew
At the start of the new Premier League season, Tottenham were hoping to be playing their first proper home game, in their new White Hart Lane stadium on the 15th September, when they were due to be hosting Liverpool. But with safety issues dogging the new build, they were told that they would have to wait at least another six weeks before the new ground would be ready.
As a temporary measure, Spurs were able to reserve Wembley Stadium as their home from home. It was an ideal choice being only a shortish trip down the North Circular for loyal supporters. The latest delay, however, meant that Spurs had to play their home Carabao Cup against Watford somewhere else; that somewhere proving in the end to be Milton Keynes.
It worked out quite well for Tottenham, and especially for their star midfielder, 22-year-old Dele Ali. Not only was he born and raised in Milton Keynes, but he began his professional football career there too playing for MK Dons. So, the home-coming against Watford was something that the young midfielder was looking forward to with great relish.
The fact that he managed to score two penalties in Spurs 4-2 victory put the icing on the cake for the young Spurs and England Player. What made the occasion even more special for Dele Ali was the fact that he captained Spurs on his home-coming.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino took the decision for Dele to wear the captain’s armband. He did it because the midfielder was so excited about the prospect of playing in front of his old home crowd as well as those Tottenham faithfuls who deigned to travel the 50 miles to their new home ground for the night.
The coach said he wanted to provide Dele Ali with a very good feeling and he hoped that the youngster would appreciate the gesture. Appreciate it he did, scoring the first penalty in normal time having himself being taken down in the penalty area by Christian Kabasele.
Kabasele had been brought on in the 77th minute but he promptly marched off again a few minutes later having been red-carded for the foul on Dele Ali. Dele’s second goal came from the winning penalty in the shootout after the game had finished 2-2 at full time.
Having had his first experience of captaincy, the young midfielder has now voiced his desire to become a leader on the pitch in the near future.
But while the “home-coming” at Milton Keynes was great for Dele Ali, the team as a whole can’t wait for the new White Hart Lane to be ready to play on. Wembley is a great ground, but there is nothing like having your own home ground rather than renting a temporary stadium, good though Wembley is.
Pochettino has daily talks with owner Daniel Levy, and the readiness of the new stadium is always high on agenda. The manager says that when they finally play at their new home ground, there will be no excuses for not winning trophies. He believes that first, they finish the stadium, then build the trophy cabinet, then they can think about populating it.
It is to be hoped that when everything is finally ready, (if it is before Christmas) that it won’t be too late. If Spurs don’t get any honours this season, it could signal the end for Pochettino. Darren Anderton, one of the old Spurs favourites, knows only too well how important it is to keep the Argentinian at White Hart Lane.
He is highly regarded in the footballing world, and if Tottenham don’t achieve, he will seek his future elsewhere. Trophies are important to managers too, so the finalisation of the new ground is a key factor for Spurs in more ways than one.
Story supplied by Rupert Walters.