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Monday, 17 September 2012

Tottenham Hotspur 0-2 FC Barcelona

Its very rare that i get to visit a Premiership ground these days so this was a real bonus of a match. I have nothing against the Premiership and i can gladly sit in a pub on a Sunday afternoon and watch a game. However some of the ticket prices at this level are simply eye watering and well out of my price range (more of this later) Tickets for tonight's encounter were available for a mere £5. The same amount that i paid the previous evening to watch Lincoln Moorlands Railway lock horns with Brighouse town (A 3-1 win for the visitors if anybody is interested). We had obtained three return train tickets down to London for a total of £39 meaning that each of us paid less than £20 combined for ticket and travel.
The Moorlands sports ground. Home to Lincoln Moorlands FC.
 this is the kind of ground that i am use to.
The Next Generation series is a competition for under 19 sides and the format is very similar to that of the Champions league. The main difference being that teams apply to join the Next Gen instead of qualifying through league positions. Last season saw Internazionale of Milan defeat Ajax of Amsterdam on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw. The final was staged at East London's most glamorous location; The Matchroom stadium, home of Leyton Orient, in front of over 3,500 people. 
This may only be the second edition of the series but it is already growing in popularity. This season it has been extended to 24 clubs and is being screened live by Eurosport. Tonight's game was the first match to get the TV treatment. 

We jumped on the train at Newark at 2.00pm and were we on our merry way down to London for the second time in a week. Leaving from Newark did mean a drive down there from Retford but, given the difference in ticket price, it was well worth it. After spending much of the journey down giving out relationship advice and entertaining everybody in our carriage (which wasn't very full). We arrived in London at just gone 3.30pm.
One of the many good things about London is that you can pick up a free London Evening Standard to read whilst you are travelling around on the tube. As we had plenty of time to kill we took a ride over to the Emirates as Felice has a "soft spot" for the Gunners. Its very rare i get to see big grounds like this and you can't help but be impressed by it. I didn't take any pictures though as i didn't want to look too much like a tourist. The clubshop (Or armoury as it is known as) Is quite impressive but it failed to have the elusive Arsenal year book for sale which was our main reason for coming out here. Which meant valuable drinking time was lost and this little journey has to be put down as a wild goose chase. So with this charade behind us we made our way to White Hart Lane.
There are no tube stations near the stadium so you need to get an over ground service from Seven Sisters to White Hart lane over ground station and from here it is just a short walk to the stadium. Its fair to say that the area around the station could do with a little tidying up, but you could say that about most of the stations in inner London.
One aspect of going to large grounds that i like, is that you often get lots of independent stalls selling club merchandise and especially badges. Many of which tend to be better than the official ones on sale in the clubshop. Two badges for £5? Sounds good to me.
The future?
By now i was gagging for a pint so we headed into a pub just next to the entrance to the West stand. The pub was decent enough and the ale went down a treat. After a couple of beers we headed off to check out the club shop. Although it was smaller than Arsenals i think the range of merchandise for sale was much better in my humble opinion. There was all the normal stuff you would expect plus a range of ladies underwear that i would imagine would go down well on valentines day. Its certainly something that Lincoln City should look at producing because lets face it we need something to cheer us up at the moment. Whether the good lady folk of Lincoln would relish the chance to wear a bra and panty set with the Imps crest on though is open to debate.
We still had plenty of time to kill so we headed over to the next pub. This was smaller than the first one but was much busier. The weather was decent enough so we took our drinks outside and chatted to some Spurs fans about the club and the new ground. There is a picture of it as you approach the current ground and although it looks very nice, it will be a shame if they do leave, as White Hart Lane has bags of character and is a real football ground with plenty of pubs and eating places around it.
Due to a good marketing campaign, ticket sales for tonight's game looked to had gone well. Originally only the west stand lower was going to be opened but such was the demand, the club opened the stand behind the goal and a few rows of the upper west tier. The club did issue a programme of sorts but all it was was a single folded bit of card with profile pictures of the two squads and each teams previous result in the competition so far. In fairness to the club it was given away free at the turnstiles but i had hoped for a little bit more given the stature of the two clubs playing.
The views from our seats were pretty good and the legroom was decent enough. To our left was the Spurs singing section who made a decent amount of noise all the way through the game including a great song about Ledley King being better than John Terry (which he is in my humble view) As most people know Barcelona have been known to play some great football over the past few seasons (unless they are playing Inter Milan in the Champions League) and much has been made of their fantastic youth set up. With all this in mind i was looking forward to seeing what they have coming through the system at the moment. Much of the great passing that Barca have been famous for was in short supply in the opening exchanges as Spurs really got amongst their visitors and forced them back without really testing the visiting keeper. As with the first team, Barca are a big side, but they appeared very lightweight compared to Spurs. What they didn't do though was panic in defence when they had the ball; looking to pass their way out of trouble instead of just booting it up field.
On 17 minutes Barca took the lead out of nowhere when Adama crossed in for Sandro to finish coolly at the near post. It was tough on Spurs but you can't afford to switch off for a second when you play Barcelona. This goal really took the wind out of Spurs' sails and they started to panic a little on the ball. This in turn allowed Barcelona to settle on the ball and they looked much the better side for the remainder of the half.
Since Barca have started playing the so called "Ticka Tacka" brand of football every man and his dog seems to have got the idea that you have to complete 50 plus passes to score a goal. This is of course utter tripe and over hyped by the media. Barcelona themselves disproved this myth with their second goal. Joseph Ondoa (the latest in a long line of eccentric goalkeepers from Cameroon) In the Barca goal, launched a goal kick down field. The Spurs defence let it bounce, which allowed Sandro to control it, take a few steps, and smash it past the Spurs keeper to seal the points for Barcelona. After this Spurs did make some changes but they struggled to create any real chances and Barcelona saw the game out quite comfortably in the end. Fair play to the Spurs fans though who kept on singing and created a great atmosphere all through the match.
After the game we headed back to Kings Cross, had a kebab and sunk a few beers. Standard end to an away day for us really. Earlier on in the blog i mentioned ticket prices. Before the game we picked up some Spurs home programmes for this season for something to read on the train on the way back home. The page that caught our eye the most was the ticket information. Had we wanted to buy the same seats we were in tonight for a category A game (Manchester United,Arsenal etc) They would have cost us £71! (£81 on the upper tier) with Cat C a mere snip at £47. I really enjoyed my trip to the Lane but would I cough up 71 quid to watch Spurs? No. When you see prices like this you realise why you are seeing more and more empty seats at football grounds these days, although to be fair, Spurs always sell out so some people are happy to pay these prices. And to those who do i tip my hat.

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