(then why not burn down the new stadium so Arsène can bolster our squad with the insurance!)
I was sorely tempted to start tapping away at my keyboard, when I eventually returned home late Saturday night, if only to vent my frustration in your direction, rather than lying in bed, mulling over my Arsenal misery. Mercifully, after such an exhausting outing, sleep soon came like a welcome friend. So hopefully I am now able to put our worst ever Premiership start into some proper perspective, instead of inflicting a long-winded rant on everyone.
At least my miserable day out didn't do too much damage to my pocket, as I didn't have to stump up an extortionate sixty quid on the train, thanks to being offered a lift in a Gooner pal’s people mover. Mind you if I was 'cream crackered', I can only imagine how tired he was, after having spent ten hours at the wheel. I'm not sure whether to feel grateful or insulted that John didn't fancy my driving for a stint at wheel, but I’m extremely grateful to him for having taking us all the way there and back
Another mate who couldn't make it to Manchester had given me his two tickets to see if I could find a suitable home for them and Femi, a Nigerian Gooner on the Arsenal mailing list who was flying into London on Saturday was contemplating travelling to his first ever away game. I'd explained that his Arsenal education wouldn't be complete, until he'd taken in an away match. But to be honest, I was glad he decided against it, as aside from the complicated arrangements, it was demoralising enough travelling up from London for such a dreadful result, let alone schlepping all the way from Lagos!
One of the spare tickets went to one of the six of us in the motor and I was hoping that I'd get rid of the other when we got to the ground. But we were delayed by so many traffic jams on route that we only arrived with a few minutes to spare and although I hung about outside right up until kick-off, there were no takers. However I am always loathe to walk into a ground with a spare ticket in my pocket and with so few stragglers outside, I didn't think it worth leaving it with a steward.
I spotted a couple of young black kids being hassled by an intimidating bunch of coppers and so I walked up to them and asked if one of them wanted to use my one spare ticket. The copper nearest me piped up "I didn't hear that", to which I replied "what's the problem, there's no money changing hands". It's absolutely outrageous that the old bill at some stadia won't hesitate to nick genuine fans who are merely trying to flog face value spares, while all too conspicuous touts can operate outside most every ground with apparent impunity.
As I hurried off to get to my seat, I overheard the copper continuing to question these kids "I thought you said you were meeting up with the person who has your tickets?" With our home form in some doubt until we settle into the unfamiliar surroundings of our new stadium, we're desperate for a consistent run on the road. While my charitable act wasn’t quite so pre-meditated, I was kind of hoping for an instant return on my good karma. I certainly didn’t expect this depressing defeat!
Once inside, it soon became clear that I would’ve been lucky to place the other ticket, as although it didn’t seem like there were many spare seats amongst us Gooners, I was surprised to see so many empty seats elsewhere in the stadium. I get the distinct sense that Sky’s wall-to-wall live broadcasts are finally beginning to have a more significant impact on attendance figures.
With the cyclical nature of football, I’ve found myself predicting that the Premiership bubble might be bursting these past few years. However after the boom in football’s popularity has seen Premiership clubs playing to mostly full houses ever since it started, the sight of so many empty seats at almost every live game on the box this season, might actually suggest that the high cost of tickets and the carpet coverage have eventually found the beautiful game’s breaking point.
I was amazed to see so many at Highbury…sorry, it’s going to be a while before I am able to break that habit….at our new stadium last Wednesday for what, at 3-0 up after our encounter in Zagreb, was basically a dead leg. However I suppose if there is a marked downturn in attendance figures, the Arsenal will be insured against it for some time, by nature of the number of pre-sold season tickets and the fact that every footie fan wants to check out our spanking new home
Our new gaff has a far more grandiose feel to Man City’s municipal facility. But considering it was built to stage the athletics in the Commonwealth Games and compared to a dilapidated Maine Road, it’s quite an impressive ground, not too dissimilar to our own. From inside, the main difference is that the curve of the upper tier leaves the majority of seats along the side, rather than behind the goal. Official figures suggest they sold 40 of the 48 thousand seats on Saturday, but to my eyes, although there weren’t many empty seats in the lower tier, higher up it appeared almost half full. This might serve as a warning for the future for the Arsenal suits.
I also find it hard to believe that the Arsenal managed to flog all the Club Level seats at the prices they are charging and can only imagine most have been paid for as a business expense (can you still write off such “corporate entertaining” against tax?). It was some sight seeing this vast arena, fairly full, under floodlights for the first time. However the criticisms continue to flow a lot quicker than my compliments.
Under the bright lights the bare grey concrete fascia on the front of each level looks even uglier than it does in daylight. I am amazed that the club has yet to flog any of this space for advertising, or tart it up with a lick of paint. Personally I think it’s the ideal area for some Arsenal-ification of our new gaff.
Although perhaps they already have on our side, the East side of the ground. I was relieved when we first went to the ground to see that the electronic advertising hoardings were only on three sides and not the one facing us as I find the bright flashing colours can be dreadfully distracting. However we wondered at first whether they just hadn’t got around to finishing. Whereas thankfully it would seem that this isn’t going to happen, either because the main camera position is on the opposite side to us, or so that the players and bench have unobstructed views or access.
It’s also a bit embarrassing to see so many of the Club Level seats empty when the game restarts after the break. I imagine many of them are still quaffing their complimentary drinks. While I’d guess others are too busy ‘networking’ with all the high-rollers, to bother about the game, as it would appear that there are some up there who can only justify the expense, by doing the bit of business which might see them garnering a return on their Gooner investment.
Such apparent disinterest in proceedings on the pitch is hardly likely to inspire the players and what’s more it leaves us wide open to all sorts of “prawn circle” piss taking. However what is a bit annoying for me must be a dreadful wind-up for those who’ve stumped up a small fortune simply for their fabulous view, only to find it being disturbed every few seconds by the constant trickle of those who eventually remember the reason they are there in the first place.
Mind you my typically tardy arrival for kick-off and my eventual return from sucking on a couple of fags in the stairwell during the break, to raise my nicotine level for the second half, has already resulted in several dark looks from those I disturb in my lower tier row. Although our seats are very luxurious and we enjoy more leg room than I can recall experiencing at any other stadium, most have already discovered that the length of the base of our seats means that you can no longer merely raise ones bum to let other pass, but have to stand up completely.
It remains to be seen how strictly the stewards enforce the no-smoking policy. There seemed to be a lack of consistency so far, as at the Villa game, there were absolutely loads of people smoking blatantly all the way along the upper tier concourse. Perhaps something has been said since, as on Wednesday everyone was congregating for a fag in the stairwells, with the stewards appearing every now and again to call a temporary halt to the habits of all of us disgusting nicotine addicts.
They tried to introduce a similar total smoking ban at White Hart Lane, but Spurs were eventually forced to relent when all the smokers also started to congregate in the stairwell at half-time, as this presented a serious health & safety risk, which, unlike their patrons self-inflicted lung damage, the club would be responsible for. So now the Spurs punters are only not allowed to smoke ‘while the match is in progress’.
To my mind this is worse than no ban at all at White Hart Lane, as was the case at Highbury. Instead of folk puffing away in the fresh air, the passive smoking problem is magnified, as the air within the tight confines of the concourse at half-time is utterly polluted. Whereas this wouldn’t be a bad compromise at our new arena, with such high ceilings and airy vestibules. What’s more it’s one which might well be needed before long, because if our bad form should continue, we’ll all be back on the fags within a month!
Peace & Love
PS. I adored the Reo-Coker rumour in this Sunday's Observer, as West Ham's young captain appears to have stacks of the sort of "roll up ones sleeves" type personality that I've referred to in this week's piece. According to the article in the paper Reo-Coker has a buy out clause which entitles him to leave if any of the top three Premiership teams make a suitable bid, which would seem to rule out a 4th placed Arsenal? What's more it would be totally out of character for Wenger to spend the sort of money on a British youngster, which would buy him three experienced continentals. Go on Arsène, suprise us all and whilst you're at it, why not go for a "twofer" deal and get them to throw in an injured Dean Ashton!
e-mail to: LondonN5@gmail.com
Wednesday, 30 August 2006
(then why not burn down the new stadium so Arsène can bolster our squad with the insurance!)