Over the weekend, the NBC Sports Premier League team of Rebecca Lowe, Robbie Earle, Kyle Martino, and Robbie Mustoe took a break of sorts. They were still on the air for a wild number of hours on Saturday, with AFC Bournemouth-Liverpool kicking off at 7:30 a.m. ET and Leicester City-Tottenham Hotspur ending around 4:45 p.m. ET. Instead of sitting at a desk in Stamford, Connecticut like most weekends, though, they were instead surrounded by supporters of Premier League clubs at New York’s South Street Seaport, which called for a different task entirely.
Speaking to Cartilage Free Captain the day before NBC Sports’ third Premier League Fan Fest, Earle said, “We’re not really doing the meat and potatoes details of games and statistics. It’s more a celebration of fans, interacting with fans, getting reactions, giving bigger, broader storylines, and just pointing to things that will happen during the game. It’s more of a day of feedback, actually, and taking things in.”
For Mustoe, the event is as close to a Premier League match as one could recreate outside of England. “There’s big games going on and there’s a bunch of fans that are chanting [and] singing watching a game. Then the other teams from 25, 30 yards away watching the same game with their fans, so you get a little bit of oohs and aahs from each side,” he said. “You get a little bit of banter between the two sets of supporters and the cheering, so that’s cool and that’s exactly what happens in the stadiums in the UK.”
That said, there is a noticeable difference for Mustoe between fans in the United States, where he’s lived for several years, and those in his native England. Jokingly, he called Brits “miserable,” but discussed a difference in culture. “When you’ve been a fan of a team for so long, there’s always something that could be better,” Mustoe said. “Here, it’s a little bit newer. There’s people that have been Spurs fans for a long time, but there’s also new ones and they’re mad up for it. They’re much more enthusiastic, much more positive, much more willing to roll with the team. It’s different.”
All four broadcasters identified Tottenham fans as a group that has much to be optimistic about over the last several seasons. Mustoe said that Spurs have “a great training ground, new stadium, good manager, good new players. There’s a lot of good, and I just want it to continue and I hope it does for the sake of the Spurs fans and for everyone out there to see how far can this guy [Mauricio Pochettino] go with this bunch of players that have grown together.”
Despite all that Spurs have going for them, though, Lowe describes the season so far as an strange one. The team has enjoyed one of its best starts to the Premier League season, but has performing inconsistently, beating Chelsea but losing to Arsenal in the process.
“I think it’s good, but odd,” she said. “A lot of winning games and everything that we expect Tottenham to do, but a few moments which surprised me. I think the collapse against Arsenal was surprising. [I] did not expect that second half performance from Tottenham at all. All of the attention went to Arsenal, of course, but if you think about Tottenham for a second, that wasn’t Spurs.”
Yet, with two wins against Southampton and Leicester to follow up the defeat in the North London Derby, Spurs’ fortunes might be better than originally anticipated. Martino believes that the season, despite its bumps, has gone better than originally anticipated, and that the team might once again be poised for a strong second half.
“I was optimistic about them in the summer,” Martino said. “I put them in my top four because the lack of spending hasn’t harmed them in the past. They still have been, over the last four seasons, the most consistent team in the Premier League, so continuity ends up being a great quality for their group. ... I honestly have changed my opinion in that they might be the dark horse that gets close to [Manchester] City,” adding that Spurs “enjoy operating without the expectation that they should be there.”
Spurs might be aided by the opening of a new stadium at some point before the season ends after a several month delay. Mustoe was in a similar position as a midfielder for Middlesborough before the Riverside Stadium opened in August 1995, an opening that was also delayed.
“I’ve been in that situation, playing at a stadium and knowing there’s a new stadium coming. It is exciting,” he said. “When we went into it, I mean, it was an amazing day. We beat Chelsea 2-0 and as a little bit of information, my firstborn was born that night. It was a really great day. ... They will get a huge benefit and boost from their new stadium.”
Lowe, though, believes that the new stadium might not keep the current group as it is. “Everyone keeps telling me that [Pochettino] wants to be the first manager to stand on the sideline at the new stadium,” she said. “I’m not sure a new stadium’s that important. At the end of the day, partly because it’s been delayed so much, we’ve built it into this massive thing. It’s just a new stadium. My personal point of view is, if he’s offered Manchester United at the end of the season ... [he’s] going to take that job. You can’t do any worse at United, so in a funny way, it’s the perfect time to take over because everyone else before him has taken them to new depths.”
For the host, Spurs’ next coach might be waiting in the wings. For her, one of the most interesting storylines of the season has been Bournemouth’s strong start to the season, and if manager Eddie Howe keeps things up, she believes he might be at the top of Daniel Levy’s possible shortlist.
“[Howe] really deserves to get poached,” she said. “If Pochettino leaves Spurs, Eddie Howe is the perfect Tottenham Hotspur manager. Perfection right there. Slots right in perfectly, and he’s the sort of manager that Daniel Levy will go for because he is a small-time manager compared to the others, and often that’s what Spurs do. ... If I was Levy, I wouldn’t be too worried about Poch leaving because Eddie Howe’s very similar.”
It might not be time to go through hypotheticals of the future just yet. For Spurs and the rest of the teams in the league, there are still goals to achieve, and as Mustoe puts it: “they’ve all got a chance, of course, at this stage of the season.”