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Wednesday 14 October 2009

Nuff Respek Ivan

Hi folks,

As someone who has always felt that watching the Arsenal would never be quite the same at the new stadium because of my deep-rooted emotional attachment to the old THOF, I have to admit that the new gaff is growing on me.

Or should I say, it's growing on me, now that at long last the club have focused on spending some money on something other than the parque floors, glass chandeliers and ice sculptures, purely for the benefit of their most affluent high-rollers (which aren't exactly football as I've always known it!).

I have to admit that I was seriously impressed the first time I looked up to see the first mural at the North End of the ground, at the West Brom game a few weeks back, as it did look great. It seemed to have the texture of translucent fabric and since I usually approach the ground from across the North Bridge, it's an extremely striking image that I'm confronted with as my first view of the place.

Instead of lingering in my seat at half-time, I've spent most of the home games since then wandering around the lower tier, to catch my first glimpse of all the effort going on inside the ground, to transform the large grey expanses of concrete into a more interesting visual experience. But then quite frankly that wouldn't be hard, as no matter how splendid the surroundings in the Diamond Club, Club Level and the Exec Boxes, quite frankly up until recently the rest of the stadium has been dull as dish-water, with an anonymity about it that only contributed to the problems I was having accepting the place as my new Arsenal home.

But I love the fact that this is now a work in progress and that there's something new to discover at every match. Last time out, I didn't have to spend the entire break scurrying around the length of the lower tier concourse, scouring the walls for evidence of the latest addition. A crowd had gathered at the wall opposite the entrance to my block, Block 18, to study the latest adornment, a role of honour listing all the Arsenal's hat-trick heroes.

Although I'm certainly not old enough (thank heavens) to have seen any of the earlier ones, it was great reading though this long list, reflecting on those from the 70s onwards, recollecting some of the amazing goalfests I've been privileged to be present at.

Considering how often I've moaned about how anonymous I've felt at the new place, as just one of 60,000 mug punters, compared to the Arsenal family vibe of old, where so many faces of fans and stewards alike were familiar enough to at least be on nodding terms, how much better is it now to be able to tell a mate to meet under "the Hat-Trick Heroes, instead of using a number, letter or colour as a location.

However as we all know, to some extent this is all just window-dressing, as it's some genuine history and a proper atmosphere that the place really needs, in order to feel more homely. And yet whatever it is, this is nevertheless a million times better than the drab blank walls of before!

So when I heard from a mate who queued up for Liverpool tickets on Monday morning, that there's a second mural up outside the ground, I simply had to make a small detour down Benwell Road to the roundabout on Hornsey Road on my way home this evening, to take a look for myself. I parked my bike up beside the canons in front of the main entrance and took these couple of pics.

THOF was so special because with it's marble halls and it's grand Art Deco facade, as a football ground, the place felt truly unique and as someone suggested to me yesterday, there's something very Arsenal about this whole "Arsenalisation" process of the new gaff, as even with my extreme bias, I reckon that when all eight of these murals have been completed, it's going to look truly spectacular, with 32 Arsenal greats of past and present, linking arms, almost around the entire ground (now if they could only obscure the annoying airline adverts, it would be close to perfect!).

I'm not the greatest fans of modern architecture. Sure our new stadium is an imposing landmark on the North London landscape, but at the end of the day, as far as I'm concerned, it's merely another variation on the glass, steel and concrete theme. It looks good, but compared to THOF's Art Deco lines, emotionally it leaves me cold. But when all eight murals are finished and up on the walls, our new stadium will be like no other football ground on the planet and you won't need any architectural knowlege to know it's the Arsenal, as it will become instantly recognizable to every football fan in the world.

In light of our financial circumstances and with the enormous debt resulting from this massive project, after blowing all the decorating budget solely for the benefit of all the big spenders, it felt as if the Arsenal board were in no real hurry to make the place more homely for the thousands of ordinary season-ticket holders. I guess it wasn't a priority because they knew that lick of paint or no, we'd renew every season and even if we didn't, there would always be a queue of Gooners willing to take our place.

Many have suggested to me that it's been our new MD, Ivan the not so terrible, who's been the driving force behind all this work. So even with the problems they're experiencing, with the serious downturn in the property market and the struggle to flog all those flats, Gazides has made the Arsenalisation of our new home a priority and the work goes on apace.

Thus the "septic" is certainly winning friends and influencing people as far as I'm concerned.


Jammathon said...

Good read. Projecting a bit with the imagination, it definitely has the potential to take the breath away.

But when will the current 'legends' get emblazened on the stadium after we run away with an unprecedented quadruple this season?