Ten years on from the opening game at the Amex

Tottenham were the first opponents Albion faced at the Amex, on this day a decade ago.

By Luke Nicoli • 30 July 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Albion line-up ahead of kick-off with chairman Tony Bloom.

Today marks ten years since Albion's first game at the Amex, as Tottenham Hotspur visited for a pre-season friendly a week before the start of the 2011/12 Championship campaign.

Marcos Painter retells the tale of facing Harry Redknapp's men, on a landmark day for Albion.

“Every day, on the way to training up at the university, we could see the new stadium rising out of the ground,” recalls ‘Paints’. “We said that if we could achieve something that season, we’d have an unbelievable venue to then showcase what we could do in the Championship.

“That was always in the back of our minds and I remember Derek Chapman taking the players on a tour of the stadium before it was finished and we were all in awe at what had been built. That visit just fuelled our desire and we ended up winning the title in style. We went to the stadium full of confidence. We couldn’t wait to play there in front of our fans.”

Given the well documented history that surrounded the move, the official opening – for the pre-season visit of Tottenham Hotspur – was an emotive occasion for all Albion fans present. Painter certainly felt a different vibe in the air that day.

“It was a big moment in the history of the club,” he recalls. “All the fans were excited for that first game and I clearly remember a buzz about the place as we arrived at the stadium.

By Paul Hazlewood
Albion fans got to enjoy their first Amex Stadium experience ten years ago today.

“After winning the league, it was the perfect story; we were gearing up for a new division, in one of the best stadiums in the country, and we were opening it against Spurs, with all their star players like Bale, Lennon, Van der Vaart and Defoe. I remember we also wore a commemorative kit to mark the occasion and there was plenty of activities going on before kick-off. We all knew this was a special day.”

Putting the fanfare to one side, there was a game to be played and one that provided Albion with the chance to fine-tune ahead of the season-opener against Doncaster Rovers the following week.

“We’d had a few training sessions on the pitch in the build-up to the game, to get used to the dimensions of the pitch and our surroundings, but there’s nothing like a competitive game to really test yourself,” Marcos adds.

By Paul Hazlewood
Marcos Painter played every league game as Albion were promoted from League One in the 2010/11 season.

“What really hit us as we came out for the kick-off was the noise. Remember, we were moving from a stadium with a capacity of eight or nine thousand, to now having 22,000. While the fans were great and really passionate at Withdean, sticking it out in all weathers, the majority of them had no cover, so much of the sound was lost. But the way the Amex is built, the acoustics really keep that noise in. When we heard it for the first time, it really motivated us as players – and I’m sure it still does for the players to this day.”

While the occasion was one to behold for everyone connected with the club, Painter’s memory of the game itself is patchy. For the record, Ashley Barnes opened the scoring on 11 minutes, only for Spurs to take the lead with two goals shortly before half time through Younes Kaboul and Vedran Corluka. Kazenga LuaLua equalised in the 62nd minute, but Harry Redknapp’s men ran out winners following a Jake Livermore goal.

“I don’t remember that much about the goals scored, but do remember Kaz giving Corluka a bit of a tough time. He wasn’t as young and as athletic as Kaz – who was really explosive and quick off the mark. He used to play in front of me quite a lot and I remember shifting the ball out to him and he was having quite a lot of joy.

By Bennett Dean
Albion supporters would be treated to a number of Kazenga LuaLua's flips throughout his time with the club.

“Tottenham were class though and what sticks with me was Aaron Lennon’s pace. He was at the peak of his powers then and he was on my side of the pitch. Then he would decide to swap over and I had Gareth Bale to contend with instead!

“With their quality, they didn’t give the ball away very often either – and if you gave it away, you knew you wouldn’t get it back for a long time. It was tough and a bit of an eye-opener, but it also showed us what we had been doing to teams in League One.”

On the bench as an unused sub for Tottenham that day was a certain H Kane. Whatever happened to him?

“We later came up against Harry in his days on loan at Millwall and Leicester, and I recall he was quite a big lad and never someone you thought would go on to have such a stellar career. It just goes to show that players can be late developers and it’s no doubt that he’s now one of the best strikers in world football.”

Albion 2 Tottenham 3

Pre-season friendly

Albion scorers: Barnes 11, LuaLua 62

Spurs scorers: Kaboul 42, Corluka 44, Livermore 69

Referee: Dave Phillips

Line-up: Ankergren (Brezovan 45), Calderon (Vincelot 76), Greer, Dunk, Painter, Bridcutt, Sparrow (Buckley 75), Dicker, LuaLua (Bergkamp 90), Barnes (Noone 64), Mackail-Smith