The sceptic might suggest that Tottenham's sudden decision to incorporate a single-tier bank into the design for their new stadium, which the club revealed last night, followed the realisation that the ground was in danger being known as Emirates-lite. In most other respects the planned successor to White Hart Lane does bear a notable resemblance to its slightly larger neighbour.
Whatever the motive the move is to be welcomed. Not only does it increase the architectural variety of the new wave of stadia but it should also create an atmosphere frequently absent in the modern arena.
Once most grounds had a Spion Kop, a bank of terracing which rose up behind the goal housing the most vociferous fans, and those most tolerant to the 'yellow river' which usually ran down it. Many still do, albeit now with seating and modern facilities, but of the great traditional Kops only those at Anfield and Hillsborough remain. Aston Villa's Holte End and Arsenal's North Bank (even before the move from Highbury) were both converted into two-tier structures, along with so many lesser-known ones. A combination of architectural and economic factors, including the development of cantilever stands, the desire for roofing, growing capacities, then the need to incorporate executive boxes, were the prime causes.
Even Anfield's Spion Kop, which originally had a capacity of 28,000, was only licensed to hold 16,480 (less than the Holte's 19,210) in the more safety-conscious post-Hillsborough era. Post-Taylor Report it's capacity is 12,429. This is still thought to be the largest single-tier seating capacity in Europe and on a big European night the decibel-level, as results have shown, is either awe-inspiring, or intimidating, depending which colour shirt you are wearing.
The Anfield Kop is not, though, the most impressive 'end' in Europe. That is the south stand at Dortmund's Westfalenstadion. It holds less than 10,000 seated fans, but for Bundesliga matches is converted to a 'safe standing' area with a staggering 24,454 capacity.
Tottenham are not proposing anything so ambitious, not that English safety legislation would allow them. The new tier, if passed by Haringey Council, and built, would hold 9,275. It would nevertheless give the ground, due to be completed in 2013, a distinctive look – and (itals) sound (end itals).
Also on the drawing board is the redevelopment of Bramall Lane where Sheffield United intend to lift their Kop to a capacity of 13,400. Like so many building plans –including those across the city at Hillsborough - this is influenced by the desire to host 2018 World Cup ties. It would eclipse the Anfield Kop, at least until Liverpool's much-discussed but as yet un-built new stadium appears on Stanley Park. This includes plans for a Kop seating 18,500. Those in the back row should bring binoculars.
Origins of the Kop
Spion Kop is Afrikaans for look-out, and was the name of a hill in Natal, South Africa, where 322 British soldiers died in battle during the Boer War. The first recorded use at an English ground, found by noted stadia expert Simon Inglis, was not at Anfield but at Manor Field, one of the venues Woolwich Arsenal used before decamping to Islington.