My friend Derek had very kindly got his wife a tour of the Emirates Stadium for her to go & see the hallowed turf. He had even managed to get the legendary Charlie George to be the tour guide.
Emirates Stadium Tour.
As we all know there will eventually be a but, so here it is. But his wife Carol for some reason didn't want to go. Maybe she didn't fancy the long & arduous train journey to get there, maybe she thought the excitement of meeting Charlie George would be too much for her. Or maybe the fact that she is a fan of Norwich City & couldn't give two hoots about Arsenal, the Emirates or Charlie George had something to do with it, but there it is, she didn't want to go. She did however suggest that Derek take me along instead. After making sure my sister could look after my mum for the day, I agreed to accompany Derek to modern-day football's greatest ground, home of the 2013/14 FA Cup winners, Arsenals home ground, The Emirates Stadium.
It was a beautiful day & I walked to the train station, being excited I was half hour early, Derek had come on the bus & arrived just in time to catch the train. Our train seemed to stop at every station but it was a pleasant journey with a young lady opposite me providing us with something pleasant to look at. After arriving at Waterloo I discovered that my Oyster card wasn't working & I had to purchase a travel card. After the purchase, we were soon on the underground heading for Arsenal Station. The station brought back memories of going to the old Highbury Stadium on match days with my dad when I was a kid. The difference was today it was empty & there weren't thousands of people filing through the station to the ground.
After leaving the station at about 12:00 we had enough time for some liquid refreshment before going to the stadium. We walked to The Gunners Pub but it was closed so we walked to the Arsenal Tavern, it was also closed so we walked to the King's Head where I had a quick glass of apple juice & Derek had a ginger ale. After a brief rest, we then walked to the Armoury Store where we would begin our tour.
We were soon taken through the store into the stadium via the large car park under the stadium. I don't know whose cars were there but there were a few AFC plates on the cars parked there. We were soon sat in the Director's box in big plush leather seats. Charlie George met us here & gave us information about the stadium, he gave us all the facts & figures but gave it with a lot of humour. What I was surprised to hear was that the stadium does not have planning permission already in place to be extended from a 60,000 seater to a 100,000 seater stadium. Charlie told us that this had never been given by the council & that the story that many of us had heard that it already had permission to be extended to a 100,000 seater stadium was not true.
We were soon off to tour the rest of the stadium. We went into the home dressing room & Charlie told us that Arsene Wenger believed that a square dressing room was unlucky, which is why the dressing room was in the shape of a horseshoe, a lucky horseshoe. He also told us that the away team dressing room was square. Everybody sat down & had their photo taken by their favourite player's shirt. Charlie told us not to nick the shirts as they all still had the electronic security tags still on them, I think he was joking but I didn't check.
After seeing the dressing rooms, the physio room & the hydro pool we then moved to walk down the tunnel to the pitch. Charlie told us all about the pitch & how it was built & cared for & told us which seat was Arsene Wengers. It appears Arsene is superstitious as he takes seat 13. I knew that in China 13 was a lucky number but it appears that it is also a lucky number in France as well. I, like the majority of people on the tour, sat in his chair & had my photo taken. Lots of the people on the tour had their photos taken with Charlie George whilst we were in the Diamond Club section of the tour, I had decided if I was to have a photo taken with the Arsenal Legend it would be pitchside. He was very gracious & had his photo taken with both Derek & I, pitchside even though security were trying to move us along because of a security alert, caused by some twit leaving their rucksack next to the home team dugout.
Next, we were shown the pressroom & interview rooms before we all sat down with Charlie where he told us a few more stories & had a question & answers session. He really did have a good sense of humour & it was great to listen to his stories. The tour over we were then told we could go back anywhere we had been to take more photos. I went back to the room where the FA Cup was to have my photo taken with it.
After the tour, I went back to the shop & purchased a nice new Arsenal shirt with my name & the number 7 on the back. Number 7 was my favourite Arsenal players shirt number, Liam Brady, another true Arsenal legend. After my spot of retail therapy, we walked round to the Arsenal Museum. I have to say the Arsenal Museum is very small is poorly laid out & a lot of the interactive displays were not working. All in all, I thought the stadium tour was fantastic especially having done it with ex-Arsenal player Charlie George. I would recommend the Legends Tour to anyone, the museum however was poor & I wouldn't recommend it at all. I had been to the Nou Camp tour & museum in Barcelona & found the museum there a lot better, maybe because it was part of the stadium but it was just better laid out & a lot brighter.
With the tour done it was now time to head back to Waterloo to catch our train back home. Unsure of where the nearest station was, we went into The Drayton Arms pub to ask for directions. They refused to give us directions until we bought a pint, so we had a pint & then followed their directions. Unfortunately, the directions they gave us were not very good & we soon had to stop & ask for directions in a pub called Horatia. They were very helpful & after a couple of pints, we were soon on our way again. The walking was very hard work in the heat & to prevent us from dehydrating we made pit stops at The Lamb, The King & Crown & The Bailey before arriving at The Famous Cock Tavern where we had a pint & some grub.
Now feeling refreshed we headed back to Waterloo to find our train wasn't for half-hour. This gave us just enough time to pop into the Hole in the wall pub for a swift shandy before getting the train home.
Today had been a great day out, we had visited the home of football, met an Arsenal Legend had a good walk in the sun & made sure I had my recommended daily allowance of fruit for the day, all be it in liquid form.