‘SPE­CIAL’ FAREWELL

Tot­ten­ham de­ter­mined to leave White Hart Lane on a high

New Straits Times - - Sport -

Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur man­ager Mauricio Pochettino ex­pects a “spe­cial” day to­day when his side play Manchester United in the last game at White Hart Lane.

With Chelsea hav­ing wrapped up the Pre­mier League ti­tle by win­ning at West Bromwich Al­bion on Fri­day, Spurs’ farewell to their home of 118 years will now be the cen­tral fo­cus of to­day’s game.

“I hope Sun­day will be the most spe­cial day in the last three sea­sons. It will be spe­cial for our fans, staff, play­ers, peo­ple who love Tot­ten­ham,” Pochettino said.

“At the same time I am ex­cited about the new sta­dium be­cause the soul and the smell of White Hart Lane will keep there.

“When the new era and sta­dium ar­rive there will be dif­fer­ent ex­pec­ta­tions, but, most im­por­tant, al­ways in our mem­ory will be White Hart Lane, the soul and the smell.

“When you move to another area it’s so dif­fi­cult, but now we are chang­ing noth­ing be­cause the new sta­dium will be in the same place as White Hart Lane and that is fan­tas­tic.”

What­ever the out­come, to­day will be a deeply poignant oc­ca­sion as Spurs say good­bye to a ground graced by such club greats as Jimmy Greaves, Danny Blanch­flower, Steve Per­ry­man, Glenn Hod­dle and Paul Gas­coigne.

A cer­e­mony fea­tur­ing fig­ures from the club’s past will take place af­ter the game and fans have been of­fered the chance to buy their seats for £50 (RM280).

De­mo­li­tion work on the Lane, Spurs’ home since 1899, will be­gin to­mor­row to make way for the club’s new 61,559-seater sta­dium, which will be com­pleted in time for the 2018-19 cam­paign.

Spurs had hoped to bow out at the at­mo­spheric old ground with a first league ti­tle since 1961, but although that ob­jec­tive has now dis­ap­peared, they still have a chance to make his­tory.

Pochettino’s side are gun­ning for a 14th suc­ces­sive home league win, which would equal the club record, set over two sea­sons in 1987, and es­tab­lish a new mark for con­sec­u­tive home vic­to­ries within the same cam­paign.

They can also go un­beaten at home in a league sea­son for the first time since 1964-65.

United have un­happy re­cent memories of a farewell match at a ven­er­a­ble London venue.

Their Cham­pi­ons League hopes went up in smoke last sea­son af­ter they lost 3-2 to West Ham United in the fi­nal game at Up­ton Park.

United went 14 games with­out de­feat at the Lane be­fore last sea­son’s 3-0 loss, but gone are the days when their for­mer man­ager Alex Fer­gu­son could dis­miss Spurs’ threat with a dis­dain­ful: “Lads, it’s Tot­ten­ham.”

Spurs will fin­ish above United this term for the third time in four sea­sons and Jose Mour­inho’s side have lit­tle mo­ti­va­tion to spoil the farewell party.

Four points off the top four, Mour­inho has aban­doned hope of qual­i­fy­ing for the Cham­pi­ons League via the league and is likely to rest play­ers af­ter Thurs­day’s Europa League semi-fi­nal suc­cess against Celta Vigo.

“In the Pre­mier League we can only fin­ish fifth or sixth, I think,” said Mour­inho, whose team’s 25game un­beaten run came to an end in north London last weekend fol­low­ing a 2-0 de­feat at Arse­nal.

“But ob­vi­ously, like we did against Arse­nal, we didn’t throw the match away. We played, we tried to win, we gave a dif­fi­cult match to our op­po­nent.

“That’s what we’re go­ing to do. We’re not go­ing to say that matches are not im­por­tant.

“But we have one (the Europa League fi­nal) that is more im­por­tant than oth­ers. The match on Sun­day is im­por­tant for us too.”

Marouane Fel­laini, whose goal helped United se­cure a 2-1 ag­gre­gate win over Celta Vigo that set up a meet­ing with Ajax in the May 24 fi­nal, is un­avail­able due to a do­mes­tic sus­pen­sion.

Pochettino has no new in­juries con­cerns. Danny Rose is not yet match-fit de­spite hav­ing re­turned to train­ing af­ter in­jury, so Ben Davies is ex­pected to con­tinue at left-back. AFP

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