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Wednesday 30 August 2006

Anyone Gotta Light!

(then why not burn down the new stadium so Arsène can bolster our squad with the insurance!)

Hi folks

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!

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Anonymous said...

what about crack cocaine? can we smoke that at da emirates?

Anonymous said...

why do you feel it necessary to mention that the kids being hassled by the plod were black - surely they are just kids ?

Bern said...

Funnily enough we have all been so conditoned by this PC bollix that the thought actually went through my head that I bet someone picks up on this and tells me that I wouldn't have referred to the fact that they were white

I'll tell you why I felt it necessary, because from the way I perceived this large group of burly white old bill crowding around these two small kids, I got the distinct impression that they wouldn't be nearly so likely to be hassling them if they were white

To be specific the two kids looked to be of North African origins (ie more arabic than african) and with all the recent incredibly racist talk of "profiling", I wouldn't mind betting that these two almost perfect "fit the profile" youngsters have a much higher chance of getting grief from an institutionally racist police force than absolutely anyone else

I was actually upset I didn't have two spare tickets because it felt a bit unfair for me to force the two of them to choose who would use the ticket

What's more while these old bill had nothing better too do than to hassle thse youngsters and obviously try to move them on, from what I assume was a public place, where they had absolutely every right to wander around, it would have given me even more pleasure if I'd had two tickets and could needle these bullies by giving both kids not only every right to be there, but a chance to get in and both see the game

However I am sure I sensed that my actions threw a spanner in their efforts to move them on and I only hope that I didn't cause a problem for them by giving the old bill an opportunity to pick apart there story up to that point.

So I hope my typically long-winded explanation demonstrates why I felt it necessary to be a little more detailed

Meanwhile if there was any inference in your comment then that's OK, as its subject which always merits discussion and my feelings are that we are all racist to a greater or lesser extent as a result of the pre-confitioning we receive as children and due to various other influences

In fact in my (limited?) experience, the only people on this planet who are totally guiltless when it comes to having preconceived notions about various creeds and colours, or when it comes to stereotyping, are those folk who live in a something of a closed society with no contact with any outsiders.

As for the rest of us, those politically correct folk amongst us who claim not to have a racist thought in their head, myself I believe they are totally deluded.

My missus who was a bit of a hippy in her youth, came over to this country from Ireland as an extremely innocent person, with absolutely no racist pre-conceptions that Indians all own corner shops because she came from a community which was hardly cosmopolitan because there was no immigaration. However after living in London for many years, even she now has to admit, much to her disgust that she is occasionally guilty of racist stereotyping. With all the media bombardment etc, personally I think it's impossible to live in a capital city like London without being infected in some way

I also happen to think that we all now delude ourselves that everything is rosy because we supposedly live in this politically correct world, when in fact, while folk these days are a lot more educated and most try hard to be tolerant and treat each other as human beings, the racism is still there bubbling under the surface, repressed for the most part by those neanderthals who appreciate that their opinions are no longer acceptable to many.

Although I didn't actually hear or see anyone do anything (including myself, I am ashamed to admit), I was quite reassured last Wednesday night to see the look of horror on so many faces around us, when we all overheard this blathered bozo somewhere behind us have a pop at one of our own players with a "lazy black b*st*rd" comment which thankfully I can't recall hearing on the terraces for some time

Now there's an issue worth concerning oneself with, as I've spent the past few seasons - ever since I sat near a Spanish geezer at a La Liga game in Tenerife, where I was horrified to hear his daughter aged only about five, mimic her old man's "burro negro" (black donkey) remarks about one of the Tenerife players - spouting the argument that I couldn't understand what on earth would possess any black players in this country to want to go and perform for teams in Spain and Italy, where they had to endure such blatantly racist comments from their own fans

It might be progress that players in this country no longer have to endure hearing such offensive remarks from the terraces (at least not very often!) but do I really have cause to criticise the game on the Continent when I know full well that there are still plenty of fans on the terraces who still think in this ugly fashion, but either because half their own team is black, or because they know that they can't get away with vocalising these thoughts without being subject to a whole heap of disapproval, thankfully they now tend to keep schtum.

However the fact that it exists, albeit not obviously, does this actually make us any better than those on the Continent?

Bet you wish you hadn't got me started
Peace & Love