Written by charybdis1966
Being a tardy sort of chap I finally managed to undertake the Stadium tour of N5 about four years after they became an option, so what better day than Christmas Eve 2010 to find out more about the off pitch set up at our ground and further indoctrinate my sons into all things Goonerish?
First off we are shown through the Diamond Club entrance to the Directors box which sits in the second tier above the player’s tunnel entrance and directly below the TV camera gantries. The extra padded seats and maroon coloured leather, as opposed to the Arsenal red, differentiate them from all the other seats in the Stadium and offer the best view as you would expect for the Directors box, where the home and away directors would watch the game after being dined at Raymond Blanc’s(who is a Gooner according to the tour guide) eatery; the thought of Slimy Kenyon, replete with shining pate and unctuous smile, being wined and dined there on Monday sent an anticipatory shudder up and down my spine.
A short hop on the extremely ornate lift (with a Dial Square Crest motif embossed in the floor) from the exalted luxury of Diamond club and it’s down to the players tunnel.
This appears smaller than it seems on TV when you see ManU Sports (aka Sky Sports) cameras showing the players shortly before they walk out side by side onto the pitch (the players coming out side by side is another Herbert Chapman innovation incidentally) however the walk through the extending tunnel with the Middle Eastern airlines logo on it is still awe inspiring and you can only imagine what it feels like to make that short walk pre match.
As some may already know there is a plastic weave sewn into the base of the turf to hold the roots of the Dutch grass roots together which has been found to be the optimal for the requirements of the playing surface in the climate we have in London with the pitch having a camber of around fifteen inches or so around the sides. The racks of lights being shone onto sections of the pitch were to encourage growth, it being more or less the winter solstice, rather than to defrost the pitch as my eleven year old correctly surmised and yours truly incorrectly assumed.
I raised the question of at half time watering the end we attacked (in the second half) only, as I’d seen done at the home of Pullis’ oval ball chasers however I’m told this is contrary to premier League rules; mind you not adding on injury time for time wasted by ball wiping with towels is another Stoke-ism that has gone unnoticed by referees.
The guide pointed out the location of the away allocation at which point I asked why didn’t the club consider putting them in the upper tier of the portion between the East Stand and the Clock End? This would be to diminish their vocal effect and make them less effective a presence, as it is done at many European grounds. The answer seemed to be possibly the danger of away fans throwing missiles at home fans in the lower tiers directly below them however the Bar codes have an upper tier allocation for away support and in Europe netting is used to prevent this.
Now some will tell you that all Arsenal employees are merely bureaucrats who couldn’t care less about the team; however he seemed to be of a like mind to me in that anything that gives us an edge at home was worth considering and he suggested e mailing the club.
From here on in I noticed a recurring theme of the guide’s narration namely the differences in the home team’s facilities and the away teams.
The home teams dug out, to the left of the players as they enter the field of play, has a heated floor area for the first two rows(the two rows behind the front two for non-playing squad members) while there is no such heating in the away dug out.
There was a warm up area we weren’t shown where the players could have a pre match kick about; again this facility is only given to our team and not the away team – and rightly so!
Next onto the home dressing room which has one semi-circular end rather than a completely square room; this is, according to Japanese Feng Shui principles, the most positive and uplifting of all living space shapes – a square room is the most negative and depressing shape, so needless to say the away room was made completely square. It’s no surprise one of Wenger’s many inputs into details of the stadium design is prompted by his time spent with Grampus Eight.
As you enter from your left the players are grouped goalkeepers first, then defenders, midfielders, strikers then substitutes, with the Captain at the time located at the apex of the semi-circle at the right hand end of the room as you enter. Proof of our current Captains stardom evident by most of the tour group wanting to be photographed at our number fours bench space, myself I plopped myself where our enigmatic Russian number 23 would ready himself for the game. The bench places of Nasri and Eboue and Van Persie also proved popular choices to be photographed in front of.
Pretty soon after the first few games at Ashburton Grove Wenger decided that padded cushions in front of each of the players spaces were to be introduced – I can see doomers now saying “Typical, we’re molly coddling our players by giving them comfy seats for their pampered behinds!”
Wrong, it was found that sitting on a cold hard surface at half time increased the chances of hamstrings tightening – of course no cushions for the away team.
The flooring was of a non-slip variety suitable for studded boots, while the shiny, slippery version was installed in the away dressing room. The guide wryly remarking that Drogba has never slipped over on that glossy surface but as soon as he takes to the pitch he’s barely able stay vertical, especially in and around the penalty area.
There is a hydrotherapy room and sets of physiotherapist’s couches in another room next to the dressing room, obviously no such facility for the away team.
Next, onto the media room where all managers have to give post match interviews, except of course Lord Fergie of Govan who can flout these rules. For some reason old bacon face doesn’t send the assistant manager to face the media when his team wins – coincidence?
Initially managers were interviewed at the same time, however the problems this can cause soon made separate interview slots necessary – who could cause such contentious post match interviews?
Step forward, as ever, Sir Alex Chapman Fungus-scum.
After the conclusion of the tour a walk over to the Arsenal Museum is highly recommended and brought a welcome respite from the hurly burly of last minute Christmas shenanigans.