Outside the Box: Olympic stadium row comes 100 years after Arsenal move

  • @stevetongue

The prediction by West Ham's co-owner David Sullivan that there would be riots if Tottenham were to move to the Olympic Stadium in what is considered to be Hammers' territory may be a self-fulfilling prophecy but it does remind us of how Spurs themselves were the victims of an even more audacious manoeuvre almost 100 years ago. Henry Norris, the ambitious Woolwich Arsenal chairman, was convinced that his club's historic base in south-east London was too isolated. He proposed moving to Craven Cottage for either a merger or ground-share with Fulham, and when that was defeated decided in 1913 to cross the Rubicon, aka the Thames, for a site in Islington. Tottenham protested in vain at this invasion of their north London patch and so they, rather than Chelsea, became Arsenal's great local rivals. In the late Seventies, the two clubs' directors sat round a table to discuss sharing a new stadium at Alexandra Park but could not come to any agreement. It would have saved time, money and aggravation had they done so and could have paved the way for similar arrangements up and down the country, including the solution to Liverpool and Everton's problems. Meanwhile, the neglected party in the Olympic Stadium discussions, as chairman Barry Hearn pointed out with characteristic vigour last week, are Leyton Orient. Struggling on gates of less than 5,000, but noted for much excellent community work, they would suddenly find (presumably) Premier League football within one mile of their Brisbane Road home, which Hearn says could kill theclub off.

Poles apart at Euros

No counting of English chickens here, but whichever teams qualify for the European Championship finals will find the schedule more sensible than at the World Cup, when teams and supporters of each nation found themselves regularly trekking from one end of South Africa to the other. As sensible as it can be, anyway, given that Uefa have opted for co-hosting between Poland and Ukraine, at venues so widespread that the distance between the two cities staging the semi-finals, Warsaw and Donetsk, is almost 800 miles. As of last week, the hosts have been allocated their place in the draw, as teams A1 (Poland) and D1 (Ukraine), each playing all three group games in their own country. The top seeds in the other groups, teams B1 and C1, will play each group match in the same city, Kharkiv and Gdansk respectively, so that supporters can make their base there. On current rankings, however, and assuming no great shocks in the current qualifying competition, those top seeds would be Spain and Germany rather than Fabio's boys, who are rated only fifth in Europe. For those wishing to make summer holiday arrangements, Warsaw gets the opening game (Friday 8 June) and Kiev the final (Sunday 1 July).

Keeping a hypnotist handy

Could more footballers benefit from hypnotherapy? Brentford's goalkeeper Richard Lee, the penalty hero of victories over Everton and Orient in the Carling Cup and Johnstone's Paint Trophy respectively, claims to have done so since he started seeing a hypnotherapist called Dave Sabat. "I've seen Dave four times now prior to each game and the impact he has had on my game has been immense," Lee said. "He puts me in a hypnotised state, which bypasses the conscious mind and then we go through the imagery of the game to come, so I'm feeling in a very positive state of mind. I needed a boost and since seeing him I've never felt more focused during a game in my life. I think my last four performances are proof of that." Lee, who once spent a season on loan at Blackburn, had been mentally low after making a "big decision" to leave Watford last summer, only to be dropped by Brentford after two pre-season games. Frustratingly, his man-of-the-match awards in four cup games this season have still not earned him a single League One appearance, Ben Hamer having kept the jersey since being signed on loan from Reading. "At the risk of sounding arrogant I see myself as a keeper who could perform well in the Premiership, as I have done already, and I find myself in the position I do," he says.