When Tottenham Hotspur walks onto the pitch for the first time tomorrow in their state-of-the-art new stadium for their Premier League match against Crystal Palace, it will mark the conclusion of a story that began as far back as 2007 with the founding of the Northumberland Development Project. It has been a very long road, full of twists, turns, and plenty of delays. But when Andre Marriner blows his whistle and the teams kick off, that chapter closes. The stadium is built, tested, and opened. Spurs are coming home, and something new is starting.
That feeling of both an important ending and beginning is something that Mauricio Pochettino understands completely. In his final press conference before he walks into the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on match day for the first time, Pochettino talked about how this is such an incredible moment for the club, but it is also no time to rest on laurels.
“The big challenge was when we arrived here to be today where we are. That was the big challenge that we found because from the beginning to make reality, to be in the stadium, and all that affect that and all the circumstances that we needed to deal with it. No one [expected us] to be sitting here with a team playing in the Champions League in the last seasons in the Champions League and fighting for the title or being a contender. We started this season with a lot of circumstances again, with the players and the club and sitting here with seven games to play, in the top four, quarter-finals of the Champions League.
“Of course the feeling is not good in the last few weeks but it cannot hide the effort we have put in trying to get the club to a level it deserves to be in the last five years. We feel so proud, the players feel so proud, the staff feels so proud, the chairman feels so proud. Now [we need] to try and finish the season in the best way.
“For me it is a chapter that needs to be closed. Next season we need to build, or be ready for a new project, a new chapter – two years, three years, four years, depends on Daniel, who is going to decide. I am happy and proud to finish a chapter this season, competing the way we compete, helping the club, the fans, the players to be better. It is another thing to talk and sit here again talking about where the club needs to be in the next level, in the future.”
As monumentous as this moment feels to everyone involved — fans alike! — Poch is correct in calling for a “new project” starting today. In many ways, this feels like an extension of his comments from last summer, when he called on Daniel Levy and the club to “be brave” and implement a bold vision for the future of the club.
That, of course, didn’t happen — Spurs failed to sign a single player in either the summer or January windows, and the fact that Tottenham are in the quarterfinals of the Champions League and fighting to keep their place there next season is extremely impressive.
So it’s not difficult to interpret Poch’s comments as calls for investment in the players, and also interesting that Pochettino put the focus on Levy to develop the scope of Spurs’ ambition going forward. Spurs have several high-profile needs that need addressing in the summer transfer window — central midfield, possible replacements for Toby Alderweireld and Christian Eriksen, a new reserve striker for the likely-departed Fernando Llorente. Standing pat in the market is no longer feasible. The cracks have started to form, and they are visible to even the most ardent Spurs supporter this season. One hopes that Levy, now that he is no longer consumed with finishing the stadium, can once again turn his attention to the needs of the squad.
Spurs have work yet to do this season. Any impactful transfer business will be aided if they can clinch Champions League qualification, something that is no longer a given. But even if Spurs take a partial step back this season, the future is still as bright as the LED lights circling the roof of their new home. One door closes, the next opens. The work never stops, and Pochettino seems keen to get moving on whatever comes next.