Wembley Stadium FA

Tottenham Hotspur and the so-called Wembley ‘Advantage’

Tottenham Hotspur impressed on the weekend as they comfortably drilled three goals past Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium, advancing them through to the F.A Cup semi-final. The FA Cup game will be played against Man Utd, it will be played mid-April, and it will be played at Wembley Stadium.

Since Spurs smashed Swansea on the road, critics and rival fans have been taking to social media to express their outrage at the ‘unfair’ advantage that Spurs will have when they take on the Red Devils at the supposedly neutral venue.

It was not too long ago when critics and pundits and fans mocked Tottenham Hotspur for their terrible run of form at the national stadium. Spurs had lost seven out of ten matches at Wembley and the squad was dubbed to be jinxed, cursed, and destined to squander any opportunity to secure a top-four spot. Recently, however, Spurs have been victorious in 10 of their last 12 games played at Wembley, drawing the remaining two. So the matter of Tottenham playing at Wembley is no longer a source of ridicule, but a source of frustration.
Eric Dier found the complaints amusing, and after the quarter-final commented that,

“One minute Wembley is bad for us and next it is good for us. Lots of teams have good records at Wembley in general as well, so it depends who we get… The FA Cup is a completely different competition, a one-off game and the fans are split down the middle, the atmosphere will be different to a league game.”

The Wembley ‘Advantage’ will no doubt be criticised even more if Spurs win the F.A. Cup

 

Well, Tottenham Hotspur have drawn Man Utd. It is true that a team can become familiar with a stadium, and that certain teams play better in front of large crowds, or better on pitches of a certain dimension. This is essentially what is meant by the ‘home’ advantage. However, this argument can be just as quickly dispelled as it is proposed. Man Utd will not be playing in front of 80,000 Spurs fans like they did when they were comfortably beaten 2-0 at Wembley in January. No, tickets will be distributed equally: no advantage there. That leaves the dimensions of the pitch to split the difference. The Wembley pitch is 105 metres by 69; the Old Trafford pitch is 105 metres by 68. Not much of an advantage. I suppose travelling to and fro the location could be used to muster some sort of argument for advantage but I personally don’t think this applies to teams that both play inside the UK. Besides, the only viable stadium that is equidistant from Manchester and London is probably Villa Park – and that is not going to happen. The familiarity of the facilities? No, team’s don’t win trophies because they’re accustomed to the same bathrooms twice a month.

 

No doubt that if Spurs advance through to the final, also to be played at Wembley, and they win, then their success will be somewhat undermined by rival critics who will place the location, and not the merit of the football, as the reason for their 9th F.A. Cup victory. These will probably be the same critics who affirmed the ‘Wembley hoodoo’ not six months ago. Well, the bad news for Spurs fans is their ‘advantage’ is not really an advantage at all. Like Dier uttered, anything can happen in football, especially Cup football. With Man Utd in 2nd and Spurs in 4th in the Premier League, the game is set to be an exhilarating, and fair, fixture for all fans of British football.

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