Why Spurs v United was a surreal experience
It’s the same season but a very different world. A world of disinfected corner flags, empty stadiums and face coverings.
It was a surreal experience at Tottenham Hotspur’s awe-inspiring new home. The 'new normal' includes filling in a medical declaration form and taking a temperature test before being allowed in. The wearing of a face covering is mandatory once you enter the stadium bowl, although, thankfully, you’re allowed to take it off to commentate on the game!
The lower tier of the stadium is dressed with Spurs banners and flags. There are Zoom screens at either end showing the faces of the lucky few Tottenham fans who can feel part of the cold, clinical event. Staff at the North London club have done all they can to try and mitigate the lack of a crowd, but there simply is no substitute for people.
However, there was a bigger problem than that: the media room was closed and that meant no grub! Now, I’ll let you into a secret - journalists covering Premier League games are very well looked after when it comes to food in the press room - Chelsea’s spread reminds you of a wedding reception and Arsenal have little individual ice cream pots. Sadly, there was no chance to sample Tottenham’s culinary delights!
Commentary with no crowd noise is difficult - there’s no handy button in the stadium to turn on the sound effects of 60,000 fans. It feels so odd to be screaming and shouting at the key incidents when you feel like you’re in a library. You half expect to be shushed at any moment!
The stadium is divided into three zones: red, amber and green. The red zone contains the tunnel and dressing rooms, which are totally off limits to media. We are in the amber zone. Access to pitchside is very limited but I was able to make my way down after the game to carry out some interviews.
The two-metre rule meant we needed to use a long boom mic to ensure social distance with the interviewees. The verdict from messrs Solskjaer, Fernandes and Shaw was that a point was the very least United's efforts deserved. The unbeaten run continues and on we go to the next game in this new world and a return to Old Trafford.
Walking away from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, my main emotion was hope - hope that fans will be in attendance the next time the Reds are in this part of town. I also felt lucky - lucky to be one of the very few people actually allowed into the game. I know there are United fans who haven’t missed a game home or away for years… they will feel a little sad tonight.
A number of people have told me that we’ll soon get used to watching football this way, but I hope we don’t. Fans are right at the heart of our great game. I can’t wait until the 'new normal' involves fans roaring on their heroes in person and when Zoom is remembered again as just a song by Fat Larry’s Band.
The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.
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