Ashburton Grove; A Day at the Arsenal (Part 2 of 3)
The morning had been an awesome buildup of getting the layout of the Highbury area and seeing all of the Arsenal spots that I’ve spent my entire life hearing about. I laughed to myself at each stop, thinking “the locals don’t even blink an eye at this”. With the excitement finally at a maximum, I was about to enter Arsenal stadium for the first time.
We were directed to the back of the Armoury and into a back entry where we would head straight up into the stands to meet Charlie George. We were sat in the very comfortable seats overlooking the stadium and he joined to introduce himself and give us a brief history of the Arsenal and his role, past and present. Even though he played before my time, I love the stories of Charlie and watching his signature stretched through-balls and shots. I was torn for the ten minutes to follow between his introduction and my first exposure to the Emirates stadium. I was flashing back and forth between both, eyeing up the north bank, the clock end, the pitch, etc. It was imposing and the entire place was stunning for me. I know the comparisons to Highbury, but I’m proud to be a fan of a club with such fantastic facilities. The tour proceeded up to the diamond club and the director’s box, which you can imagine the glamor. Lavishness aside, there were formal tributes to the club and its legends at every turn. The bust of Arsene Wenger stood out among the cannons and various frames filled with significant records and dates.
Continuing the tour through the back hallways, we were taken to the locker room and various player facilities. I was pretty stoked to notice last week’s team sheet still posted on the wall with the time and the lineup. Also, Vic Akers was cool enough to fill the u-shaped locker room with the players’ home kits. Charlie mentioned that Arsene had the room designed in this shape because he felt that the corners of a rectangular room weren’t as positive for the players.
The pitch was immaculate. Looking up from the ground into the stands sent chills down my spine. How had I let myself get to my mid-twenties without playing for the Arsenal?! It was roped off and guarded, but I would’ve done anything at that moment to get out to the center circle for some runs or touches on the ball and shots at goal. Even better, a quick juggle in our dress shoes with Charlie George!
After stretching under the rope to feel the pitch, seeing the bench, and fantasizing about the glory of my name on the back of an Arsenal kit, we headed into the press room to finish the tour. Multiple attempts were made, including one of my own, to mimic Wenger’s most popular phrases on the mic.
The group sat in a very comfortable setup around Charlie George who had all of the time in the world for Arsenal chat and questions. He was asked about his famous celebration and all of the usual jokes. The most significant answer for me was his opinion on the manager. Remember that this was in the fall of 2016, the beginning of the 16/17 season. He stated very genuinely and without hesitation that he believes that Wenger is the best man for the job and that everybody within the club was happy with the current manager. He was confident that a mutual agreement to step aside would be reached when the time was right. I am paraphrasing and I realize that we were on a club-guided tour, but no part of me felt that his overall optimism on the topic of the manager was disingenuous.
We shook hands and thanked him for welcoming us to the home of this truly great club. I walked out with my pride for the Arsenal at an all-time high. The experience was amazing and I highly recommend that every supporter makes the trip.
- Keep an eye out for the parts of the article to follow on the Features & Guests page!
- Listen to the podcast where the boys from Gunners Down Under recommended the tour!