Sunday, March 24, 2019
On this day one year ago, J’Neill Bennett etched his name into the
history books as Tottenham Hotspur open their new stadium with a win
FOLLOWING AN EXTENDED stay on the Wembley ‘couch’ Spurs finally opened the doors at their brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the first of three ‘ramp-up’ events.
The Lilywhites under 18 side were provided with the inaugural opportunity to sample the lush greenery. I recall making my way to the press box, then taking a step backwards at what was in front of me – a footballing colosseum – If it had taken my breath away, what must be running through the minds of the Spurs and Southampton youngsters, charged with the task of offering the sizable gathering something to remember?
I’m not a Tottenham supporter but enjoy working alongside the club. I’ve always thought I’m there for someone else. A man I should have spent so much more time with – my Grandfather, a man by the name of Albert Timson, who used to travel on the tram from Kentish Town to watch the Lilywhites in action.
Bizarrely, football-daft Grandpa and his pals from the Harmood Arms favourited camaraderie over rivalries. If Tottenham were at home, the bar-dwellers headed to White Hart Lane – Arsenal and it was Highbury. The banter was aplenty but friendship fiercely honoured – A sign of simpler days and certainly poignant during these uncertain times.
‘Tim’ – as he was affectionately known – passed away when I was quite young. Fortunately, his stories survived him, fondly passed to me via family keen to keep his candle burning.
One such tale told of a North London derby. The date, venue and scoreline never divulged – possibly the 1920’s or 30’s – it really doesn’t matter.
Having piled out of the pub and onto the tram, it quickly became apparent that several players from both Spurs and the Gunners were travelling alongside the somewhat inebriated group.
The footballers – much more accessible to the public than those worshipped today – endeared themselves further by passing around Woodbine and a bottle or two of Brown Ale from which they were supping. Such innocency – It’s hard to believe they were about to face each other in what has subsequently developed into one of the biggest fixtures of the global footballing calendar!
Anyway, I’m reminiscing – back to the present. Grandpa died almost half a century ago. I still hold on to some of his footballing treasures, but one, a programme from Tottenham’s 6-0 Division One victory over Leicester City in March 1959, has made its way to today’s grand opening.
Terry Medwin scored four times for Tottenham that afternoon, while respected skipper, Danny Blanchflower, and Dave Dunmore – the latter who would go on to represent both West Ham United and Leyton Orient – completed the rout. The programme holds a particularly special place in my collection – Grandpa had carefully scribbled in the team changes, goalscorers and even filled in the half-time scoreboard – I can only picture him painstakingly penning amongst the bustling 30,561 audience, briefly stopping for a swig of ale – for medicinal purposes, obviously – I somehow believe the fragile artefact will draw him to my side on this historic day and wonder exactly what he would make of it all.
I look up from my seat in the immaculate stadium media area, there’s a buzz from the crowd. the youthful gladiators enter the arena. Good luck to them – As for me, I’m about to scribe my thoughts on a piece of football history.
Tottenham Hotspur Under 18’s 3-1 Southampton Under 18’s
Brian Jeeves reporting from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
J’NEIL BENNETT scored the historic opening goal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as the Spurs Under 18’s side comfortably saw off their Southampton counterparts by three goals to one in the inaugural test event to be staged at the Lilywhites new 62,250 capacity home.
The Spurs youngsters – coached by Ryan Mason – went into the game unbeaten and sitting second in the Premier League Under 18 South Division, while their counterparts from the south coast found themselves eighteen points further back in fourth.
Armando Shashoua was a whisker away from opening the scoring, meeting Dilan Markanday’s deep centre with a looping headed attempt which drifted over. However, the historic strike wasn’t long in coming – J’Neil Bennett sending an angled right-footed strike crisply beyond Saints stopper, Jack Bycroft and into the corner of the North Stand net.
Spurs swiftly doubled their advantage. James Morris was clumsy on the lively Markanday – handing Harvey White the responsibility of dispatching the resulting spot-kick.
Southampton reduced the arrears just after the hour mark. Kornelius Hansen sending a low fizzing strike past Josh Oluwayemi in the Spurs goal.
Despite the Saints’ second-half improvement, Spurs as good as sealed the contest when Markanday picked up the pieces after Bycroft had spilt White’s initial effort.
The appearance of Mauricio Pochettino’s 17-year-old son, Maurizio, as a late substitute drew a rousing reaction from the majority amongst the 28.987-strong crowd, who had thoroughly enjoyed their first experience of a new Spurs era.
Tottenham Hotspur will stage another test event at their new stadium on Saturday, March 30 when a Spurs Legends XI take on the Inter Milan legends (5:30pm).
Tottenham Hotspur: Josh Oluwayemi, Jubril Okedina (Max Statham 79’), Dennis Cirkin, Oliver Skipp, Malachi Walcott, Brooklyn Lyons-Foster, Dilan Markanday, Harvey White, Rayan Clarke (Chay Cooper 71’), Armando Shashoua (Capt), J’Neil Bennett (Maurizio Pochettino 79’) Subs not used: Kacper Kurylowicz (GK), Elliot Thorpe
Goals: J’Neil Bennett 11’, Harvey White (penalty) 21’, 77
Southampton: Jack Bycroft, Kayne Ramsay (Capt), James Morris, Caleb Watts (Lucas Defise 86’), Oludare Olufunwa, Alan Tchaptchet, Rio Glean (Pascal Kpohomouh 46’) Alex Jankewitz, Benni Smales-Braithwaite, Jack Turner (Roland Idowu 79’), Kornelius Hansen
Subs not used: Ryan Cluett, Oliver Wright (GK)
Booked: Alex Jankewitz (foul)
Goals: Kornelius Hansen 62’
Referee: Craig Pullen
Assistants: David Moreno-Rojas and Andrew Hickman
Fourth Official: Tim Donnellan