HARRISON, N.J. – Before kickoff Saturday afternoon, members of the media were treated to a special interview session with Tottenham Hotspur’s Director of Football Administration, Darren Eales. Eales’ stop at Red Bull Arena was preceded by trips to LA and Baltimore, where Tottenham will be playing the LA Galaxy (July 24) and Liverpool (July 28) before finishing their preseason tour in New York on July 31. Being well-accustomed with the growth and background of soccer in the United States—Eales played for Brown University for four years and was named Ivy League Player of the Year in 1994—he was more than pleased to see an arena built solely for the game.
"It's a brilliant soccer stadium,” Eales said. “We've been to Baltimore at the M&T Bank Stadium, which is where we'll play the second game on the tour, but coming here to a soccer specific stadium, it's really impressive."
“The closer you can get the fans to the field, the more noise you can create, the better it is because then you create that real home advantage, and that's certainly what you've got here at the New York stadium. It's really good atmosphere wise."
Growth of MLS
While Eales’ tour was primarily meant for Tottenham’s summer travels, experiencing a soccer-specific arena like Red Bull Arena had an extra layer of significance for him. After wrapping up his University-playing career, Eales played for the New York Centaurs, New York’s A-League professional team before the birth of MLS. In his first training session he was picking up broken bottles leftover from Lollapalooza. Standing inside Red Bull Arena, Earles’ sense of appreciation for how far the game has come was obvious.
“What I've been struck by is that they've actually, and I think what the MLS has done to their credit, is they haven't tried to change the sport to become something that it's not,” he said. “I think what they've done is, it works with the rest of the world so let's keep it credible. I think that's what the MLS has developed over the years."
Credibility of league
From his North London club’s perspective, the credibility of the league has been noted through the loaning out of players. Tottenham loaned Simon Dawkins out to San Jose, and Eales has noted the level of development players get in the league.
"There's a real feeling that it's a credible league now, and we're looking to loan players to the MLS because certainly players are developing their game.”
Eales also pointed to the example of Tottenham’s former Irish international striker Robbie Keane.
“To be fair to the MLS, if you take someone like Robbie Keane, he came back in January to be play for Aston Villa and he was one of the best players,” he said. “That is a player who genuinely came into the Premier League and made an impact from the MLS. It's always difficult to grade the standard of the league. They're clearly aspiring to be better and better year-on-year. I think genuinely from coming back and watching games, seeing it season-on-season. I think it's getting better and better as each year goes on."
Goals of Tour
Eales views Tottenham’s summer tour to be beneficial for a variety of reasons, and he has no doubt the trip will be a success for his club.
"From our perspective the first goal and the most important of a preseason tour is getting ready for the English Premier League season,” he said. “Coming to this tour is it ticks all those boxes, because we've got great facilities, superb stadiums and great opposition.”
Not only will the trip serve as a crucial preparatory phase for Tottenham, Eales has his sights set on more long-term objectives.
“We like to think that, from our point of view, we’re an entertaining team and we’d rather win a game 4-3 than, 1-0. I think that fits in with the American sports fans mentality that we try to play attractive football.”
The trip may seem brief, but Eales and Tottenham hope that this trip will help build a legacy of sorts stateside.
“The idea is that we want to show that we’re here to try and help the game in America rather than just come in, play a game and shoot out.”
New York Appeal
Spurs will wrap up their coast-to-coast schedule in the US by playing the Red Bulls on July 31 at Red Bull Arena (tickets available here). Eales could not hide his excitement at ending the tour in New York.
“It's good games for our guys, and the players like coming to America,” he said. “It's an easy sell from that point of view because they like America, they're comfortable, lots of them will come to visit New York, so, as an ending, it's a perfect ending for the tour to come to New York and have that as the last game, because it's one of the great cities of the world, a massive sports city."