contact us

Use this form to contact us. We are always glad to hear from fellow Gooners!

1405 Ben Sawyer Blvd Ste 103
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
USA

Welcome to Charsenal!

Blog

Random ramblings about Arsenal. 

Filtering by Tag: The Emirates

Live in London: An American Gooner’s Tale

SJS

By Daniel Brock

(@rockandbrock / @charsenewenger)

Right, so recently I ventured to Jolly Old to celebrate my 30th birthday by taking in my first Arsenal match, a 2-0 win over Fulham.

Happy birthday, indeed.

Right to it, then.

I landed at Heathrow at 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 17, hopped on the Piccadilly line and 50 minutes later emerged from the Holloway Road Station, London, N7.

I had booked a room in the Morgan Mansions via online travel service Airbnb, and my lodgings were an easy 4-minute walk from the tube. Unit 40 was on the third floor of the complex, a quintessentially English set of row houses, and quite nicely I could glimpse a BBQ Express from the window -- oh, and also the Emirates Stadium.

After a reinvigorating shower, I made for the stadium, which itself was only about four minutes away. I felt very comfortable strolling around, as I had Google Earth … ed? the shit out of Islington leading up to my visit.

I was not disappointed upon my arrival at the main gates of the Grove. The bowl's glass-and-steel exterior gave the arena something of a spaceship feel, while further steel accents and ubiquitous gray stone in the plaza and on the wide staircases lent an apocalyptic menace. (Think a tamer Agro Crag.)

It was straight into the self-guided stadium tour, where I was greeted with a hearty, "Welcome to Arsenal," and a hand-held media player and head set. I was ushered through the bowels of the Emirates and up into the Directors Box, which was replete with busts of Arsenal legends such as Herbert Chapman and Arsene Wenger. (Unfortunately the bust of Mandy Capristo was not included.)

I passed through the hospitality area (where each week Ivan Gazidas serves up secret-recipe “Larseagna” to officials from visiting clubs) and emerged into the open air and glorious scenes of the Emirates interior.

A sea of red, the undulating roof, the white cannon dotted in the seats on the far side, the banners, the famous emerald green pitch, the clock.

I wept. Or felt like it, at least. The morning was crisp, invigorating. I felt alive in a foreign land.

I took a seat in the director’s chair, front row, aisle. Never has there been a more posh place to rest one’s backside. Plush, supple, like being cradled in the Father’s bosom.

After a time, I stirred. I didn’t want to leave, but there was much to see. Suddenly a man in a top hat showed me the way to a boat afloat on a river of chocolate.

Wait, that’s not right.

No, it was up to the Diamond Club, where the highest high rollers raise their collective pinky skyward. The way I understand it, seats must be purchased in pairs, at 15,ooo each, for a minimum of three years. That’s 90,000 in all. (I’m not sure if it’s paid in dollars, pounds or souls.) Whatever the case: Up the Arsenal? Up my credit line.

There was one sour note in the Diamond Club, however, as the attendant admitted to being a Spurs supporter. Aghast, I immediately reported him to Human Resources. The last I saw of him, he was being thoroughly tased by a pair of burly security officers in neon yellow jackets.

My next stop was the players’ entrance and changing rooms. Peering into the car park, I saw ample portions of both concrete and high-end cars. There was so much of each that, for a moment, I thought the American rapper Pitbull might appear for a couple of verses and a soda endorsement. I assume he would have referred to himself not as Mr. 305 but rather Mr. 4-2-3-1.

Following a quick glance at the time capsule (The Deeper the Foundation …), it was a short, photo-lined walk to the visitors changing room, a space graced by greats such as Wayne Bridge and Bolo Zenden. Truly hallowed ground.

Straight away, I was off to the home changing room. The hallway down featured a black-tiled wall on which, in white tiles, was written Arsenal. (I will make every effort to replicate this look on my kitchen's backsplash the next time I remodel.)

On the left of the corridor was what I can only describe as a stainless steel hot tub, one in which I assume Arsenal WAGs party post-game. Along the right of the hallway was the Abu Diaby Fitness Emporium.

Finally, I rounded the corner into the inner sanctum. Wooden cubbies lined the wall and curved around the room in a U shape. Arsene apparently insisted on this setup because its feng shui facilitates better communication. Players are assigned their seats by formation, starting with goalkeeper, and the captain is placed in the middle of the U.

The kit man’s table was in the center room and at the far end hung a tactics board that the tour informed us had never actually been used.

After (smelling Mesut Özil's jersey) some quick photos, I doubled back down the corridor and took a left into the tunnel that leads to the Emirates pitch. I kept an eye out for pizza, but saw none.

I stopped for a moment, rolled my neck, wriggled my arms and jumped up and down a couple of times, then exited the tunnel onto the pitchside technical area. I was now just feet from true holy ground, but a barrier of some sort (probably a velvet rope) had been strung up to discourage me from sprinting out and sliding across the grass on both knees. Instead I took a right toward the home bench, known colloquially as the Ju-Young Park Stand.

I plopped down in Steve Bould’s chair and was able to coerce an attendant into snapping a photo before he covered up the seats, as it had started to rain.

Once back in the stadium, I ducked into one of the post-match interview rooms, all of which are incredibly small. So small, in fact, that I don’t quite understand how Arsene – or any number of our players through the years – haven’t throttled a journalist or six in there.

Finishing up with a tirade about a dodgy penalty, I proceeded to give a frosty press conference in the media center before storming out and concluding my tour in the Armoury, Arsenal’s retail mecca. The store featured a massive clothing selection, as well as a selection of massive coats. At one point I tried one of them on and was immediately transported to Narnia.

Purchases made, I hoofed it across the Danny Fiszman Bridge with the intent of viewing Highbury. I was lagging at this point, so I stopped in for an espresso near the Arsenal tube station. Refreshed after that respite, I embarked on what turned into an impromptu mini pub crawl.

First up was the Auld Triangle (@AuldTrianglePub) where I chatted with Jaime, a Gooner, and Mark, the proprietor. From there it was to the Twelve Pins and finally the The Gunners. It was at the latter that I bumped into quartet of Norwegian Gooners I had seen during the tour. Tor Alf, Jburkensen, Dumbledør and David were a lively bunch, as were Kevin and George, Gooners from Phoenix who were celebrating a 50th birthday. The latter two began discussing whether to purchase Diamond Club seats at the Emirates for entertaining clients. And, might I say, I brought up the idea, so, um, ring me up some time.

A final note on The Gunners: the Spanish bartender, for some reason, had a terrifying hand puppet with which she pantomimed eating one of the Charsenal cards. Very odd.

By the time I left The Gunners, I was well sodded, but I felt I would have been remiss to neglect Highbury. I wandered into the garden area at the now luxury apartment complex and soaked in the history. Unfortunately, in my reverie I must have passed some sort of time milestone, because when I went to leave, the gates were closed and I was trapped inside. (I eventually escaped when I followed a resident out.)

Relieved, I staggered to a nearby fish and chips shop, the Chip-In, where I shoveled down some golden-fried deliciousness. Eventually, I made it back to Morgan Mansions and slipped into a coma for three hours.

That night I went out in Islington and was up until 5 a.m., but I won’t bore you with all that. Suffice to say, the Charsenal card and the backstory of my trip got mad respect, yo.

Match Day
There are consequences for staying up drinking until 5 in the morning, notably, as Arseblogger would say, the *boilk*.

Still, I rallied and was out the door just after noon, on my way to the Tollington, henceforth referred to as the Tolly, a pub just blocks from the Emirates.

(Now would be a good time to address my communication situation. I had no power source for either my computer or phone, and no service for the phone anyway. Essentially, once those went dead, I was incommunicado. Well played. Only later did I learn my hosts had an iPhone charger with a British plug-in and that I could still use Wi-Fi abroad.)

At any rate, the plan was to meet Chris (@suburbangooner), my ticket facilitator, for a pint ahead of the match.

When I arrived at the pub, I was struggling. Still, I soldiered on, nursing a Guinness until I was able to strike up some friendly banter.

The crowd had steadily grown into a teaming, packed mass, and a check of my watch revealed that 1:30 had come and gone. Then 1:45, then 10 ‘til two. I wasn’t entirely sure what Chris looked like, and the sea of humanity was doing me no favors.

It was then the possibility that I might not get a ticket began to weigh heavily.

I made a lap around the bar, but turned up nothing. So, arriving at the front of the pub once more, I hopped up on a bench to survey the crowd, to no avail. As I was getting down, I sort of brushed against a guy and offered a quick apology. He turned around and asked if I was all right.

Suddenly, there was a beat of silence and a furrowing of our brows.

And then … the heavens opened, a light shone down and I even think a dove flew by.

Him: “Are you Brock?”

Me: “Yeah!”

Both: “Aaaaaaah.”

From there the day sped up into this whole Guy Ritchie montage sort of thing.

We’re drinking pints, sharing laughs, Chris is introducing me to his mates, we bolt from the Tolly and join lockstep with @Block_5_Gooner, I stop to take a picture outside the Emirates but get dragged along by the guys who had doubled-back, we’re going inside The Rocket (base of @REDactionAFC), we’re pouring pints out of pitchers with Chris’ boss, we’re out of there and heading to the stadium.

(An aside about Chris: He seemed to be ripped from the pages of a Nick Hornby novel. Stylish jacket, quick wit, well-coiffed. He actually reminded me of Jimmy Fallon. The point is, he was a top, top quality host.)

Finally we summited the steps at the Emirates, heading toward Turnstile 3. Chris handed me the card that served as a ticket, I scanned it and entered The Home of Football.

“Welcome to Arsenal,” Chris said once I was inside.

“That’s what they told me on the tour,” I replied.

“Welcome to the real Arsenal.”

We passed through the concourse, into Block 5 and down to Row 11. I was on the aisle, Chris just inside.

The scene was sumptuous: a stadium at capacity, the crowd expectant. The teams emerged as we arrived at our seats. (Those were never put to use, by the way. That area of the stadium doesn’t sit.)

A quick glance over our left shoulders revealed that Thierry Henry was present in his box. If you squint, in one of the selfies Chris took of us, you can see Titi up there. So, yes, we were (in essence) photobombed by Henry. Another interesting note from his box is that we could have sworn Emmanuel Eboue was serving drinks. I assume the club signed him for free in that role.

Our opponent on the day was Fulham. The football in the first half, as you know, was a bit flat and, an Özil chance aside, not much happened. But that was no matter.

At the half, we popped out for a couple of Carlings, a program and some good banter.

Things livened up after the break (including one “how did that and that AND THAT not go in!?!?” sequence). When the first goal finally came near the hour, it was through Cazorla’s sliding, right-footed shot.

The crowd erupted volcanically, cinematically. Chris was to my right screaming as we jumped up and down together, the whole of the North Bank was heaving, the PA announcer was declaring the goal scorer, Santi’s name was ringing out around the stadium.

Magic.

The second goal arrived minutes later, again through Santi. This time it was from his left foot outside the box. Same reaction as before, and the game was killed off. (Although last year’s 3-3 draw with Fulham had been discussed earlier in the day.)

Still, “We are top of the league,” said everyone.

Lukas Poldolski also had an interesting cameo. The crowd was quite enthused when he came on, and he nearly blasted home from 30 yards with one of his first touches. Chris and I talked at some length about the German’s puzzling exclusions, but having watched him in person (yes, I went there), I think there are legitimate concerns about his movement and work rate.

We exited at the final whistle and made the short walk back to the Tolly, for what Chris called a “stubby,” essentially a Hobbit-sized pint. He lives in Uxbridge, you see, which, in distance, is sort of like the Summerville of London. So he was facing quite a train ride. At any rate, when he walked over from the bar, he was carrying two regular-sized Carlings – apiece.

Top man.

We guzzled the beers, Chris said his goodbyes to a group that included @janeybear123 and disappeared into the night.

I carried on and watched the Liverpool-Southampton game with some more blokes who purchased me a couple of birthday pints. (Oh, yeah. Saturday was my birthday, after all.) Sorry chaps, I can’t recall your names, because by that point in the day, well, you can understand.

Later on, I headed back to Morgan Mansions, but not before grabbing some chicken wings and chips. I must say the Brits are much bigger fans of chicken – fried and otherwise prepared – than I gave them credit for.

Anyway, I slipped into a coma once more, went out again later and did a ton of tourist stuff the next.

Who cares about any of that?

I saw The Arsenal win.

Epilogue: On Supporters
During our time together, Chris posed an interesting question about American supporters, but then sort of answered it himself. He, and I’m sure many Brits, wanted to know why Americans would get behind a team from thousands of miles away.

He said, for him, the best part of football was going to the ground with his mates, developing a community with the people in the block and sharing a deep camaraderie.

While none of the lads in Charsenal were born in Islington, we’ve essentially come together for the same reason. Our Block 5 is Local 616. It’s Travis and Stan and Kleckley and Caldwell and Dwayne and the Breaux Bros. and Chip and the rest of the lot.

We banter, talk shit, share inside jokes and passion for Arsenal and, ultimately, have fun. We’re a group. It’s a thing, and it all started when Travis and I bumped into each other one bleary-eyed morning for a 7:45 kickoff.

Personally, I began getting into European football in the late 1990s. I played growing up and in high school, but the 1998 World Cup took my fan interest to another level.

The seminal moment of my Arsenal support was Dennis Bergkamp’s goal for Holland against Argentina. I wanted to know more about that guy.

Of course, I then discovered Arsenal, but not just The Greatest Team the World Has Ever Seen, but also the intrigue of the Premiership. It wasn’t just the top, top quality football, it was the drama, the flying pizza, the undefeated seasons, the irascible characters. It was – and is – awesome.

And football itself – Stokes of the world aside – is very often this beautiful, flowing, breathing entity that culminates in crushing lows or unmatchable highs. (Or draws.)

As an Arsenal supporter, I experienced all that alone for a number of years. I had friends who were also into football, but it was always Manchester United or Chelsea or some flavor du jour (that’s the flavor of the day), and it was never at my level of passion.

In the early days, catching games on TV was rare, and I religiously followed Soccernet for my news. Most of my senior year computer class was spent monitoring progress on Wenger’s second double. If there was an upside, it seemed like we were winning something every time I logged on.

Now the EPL is more accessible on TV in America than it is in Britain, which I find shocking. We have every match, every week. And I understand why it’s more restricted in the UK, but hearing the fans there talk about having to wait to watch highlights on Match of the Day doesn’t seem right.

Anyway, I respect the hell out Chris and the season ticket holders who told me they had been raised in Islington and were Arsenal fans since birth. I hope, too, as more U.S. supporters make trips like the one I just completed, that they’ll understand we share their passion.

I mean, I flew to London by myself – on my birthday – to watch Arsenal. And it was one of the best experiences of my life.

Oh to be a Gooner.

Now, check out the pictures - charsenal.com/photos!

Short Round

SJS

Over the last nine days we've all been beaten over the head enough with how bad international breaks suck, how the team must bounce back against Southampton at the Emirates this weekend, how much we are looking forward to the returns from injury of Theo and Poldi (among others), who we should be buying in January (does that rumor cycle ever end?). When the biggest news of the break is that Flamini cut the sleeves off his top, that tells you all you need to know.

If you're anything like me, you've just about reached your breaking point while waiting for 10am on Saturday morning. Having been awash in two weeks worth of Interlull dreck and infinitesimally detailed team analysis, how about a little distraction palate cleanser before we reassume our title campaign?

Football as Football

How clever is this? American football logos redesigned in the German, English, Spanish and Italian football logo styles.

Carolina Panthers in the German style (Credit Football as Football - footballasfootball.com)

Carolina Panthers in the German style (Credit Football as Football - footballasfootball.com)

Shrunken Footballers

Does what it says on the tin: pictures of photomanipulately-diminutive footballers.

Not So BFG (Credit Shrunken Footballers - twitter.com/shrunkenfooty)

Not So BFG (Credit Shrunken Footballers - twitter.com/shrunkenfooty)

Have fun passing some time with those two.

Up the Arsenal. Bring on the weekend!

Across the Pond and Back Again: An Arsenal Journey

trav

I have seen my beloved Arsenal once before, April 27, 2010 at home to Man City. My wife and I planned to end our honeymoon in Europe at The Emirates (her idea!) and managed to get two seats in the North Bank. It was a seemingly uneventful 0-0 draw, but we don’t remember it that way. Instead, we remember the roar of crowd as our lads came out the tunnel and onto the pitch, the jeers towards Adebayor (who was sporting some ridiculous braided pigtails), and the various chants about Theo and a certain somebody who is not worth naming. Even though we enjoyed the game, it was the pregame antics that I remember most. Being shoulder to shoulder in a pub with equally passionate Arsenal fans was something that we had never really experienced. It was this feeling of belonging that led me to establish an Arsenal America branch in Charleston. And it was this experience that led me back there on Saturday.

This trip, however, was a bit different. There was no Mrs. Charsenal in arms, but instead my two mates, Adam and John. It made for cold nights in bed, but a delicious surplus of beer and fried food. In route to London we made a pit stop in Dublin. Given that this is a blog about Arsenal I will not dwell on our Irish escapade, but I should mention a few things: what they say about Dublin Guinness is undoubtedly true; it is the greatest consumable liquid on earth. (There is a difference between a good pint and the perfect pint.) And the Guinness brewery has an uncanny resemblance to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory—and like that factory it inspires a feeling of being a kid in a candy store. A fun time without a doubt, but the only thing on all of our minds in Dublin was how the weekend was going to unfold at The Emirates.   

Friday morning and the three of us are fetching a cab at 5:00am for our flight into Stansted. Flying budget airlines are great if you don’t care where you sit and can manage just one carryon. However, not providing passengers a vomit bag could have had dire consequences for those sitting near us. Luckily for them it was only an hour flight. We arrive at 9:15 with tunnel vision, find the mini cab bloke and get to Highbury. The 45 minute ride from the airport seemed a lifetime. It also didn’t help that our Bulgarian driver drove like a bat out of hell. Nonetheless, we arrived at our flat which was no less than 600ft to the Danny Fiszman Bridge. On the day’s agenda: Emirates Stadium tour. But first, smug pictures at the Arsenal letters, a couple pints at The Gunners, and some fish and chips at The Highbury Barn.

I remember the first time I walked across the now Danny Fiszman Bridge, with The Emirates bearing down on my wife and me. It certainly took our breath away and by the looks on Adam and John’s faces, I’d guess it had the same effect. But nothing could prepare me for what was around the Clock End bend, The King. As far as iconic Arsenal figures go, Thierry holds a special place in my heart. When the Premier League was first televised in the U.S. it was he who drew me in. His skill, swagger, and class ultimately turned me into a gooner.

The Emirates stadium tour was almost as highly anticipated as the game itself. And since we missed the tour back in 2010, I also did not know what to expect. Exiting the club level doors onto the stands to see that bright picture perfect green pitch was like walking out of a dark strip club on a sunny morning. I think we all stood in awe for a moment, imagining the stands full of devoted fans the next day. We sat for a good while, in somewhat of a daze, before we worked up the energy to continue on down the club level elevator and into the changing rooms. This is what I looked forward to the most; an opportunity to stand where both victory and heartache has taken place, imagining the pregame strategizing, halftime talks, and post-match celebrations. Just as we thought we had reached the apex of Arsenal induced joy, we were led through the player’s tunnel, and onto the sidelines. Looking down onto the pitch from a fan’s point of view is one thing, but looking up into the stands as that of a player produces a whole other feeling of amazement. The thought of putting one of those neon green blades of grass in our pockets was heavy on our minds. On the other hand, so was the watchful eye of the omnipresent, 250lb+ guard.

Match day and having spent most of the prior evening in The Armoury, like kids in FAO Schwarz, we were ready for the pregame antics. We surveyed all the pub options and while we wanted to try them all, we knew our focus was on the day’s events. We decided on a quick pint at The Gunners on the way to The Tollington.

Gooners seemed to congregate from about 50 or so when we first arrived to over 500 in the course of an hour. We drank, heckled at some bloke named Van something on the tele, and drank some more pints. Before we knew it, it was time for us to head towards the Emirates. Our seats were in the North Bank, center upper right above the keeper. We could see every corner of the stadium, sidelines, and players. The atmosphere in the first 10 minutes was a bit tense to say the least. We all knew the importance of this game and hoped for an early goal to put us at ease. The unlikeliest of all heroes responded to our calls. Gervinho! Wait, what?  But unfortunately, for Reading, Saturday turned out to be Gervinho’s finest performance this season.

Going into the second half the three of us felt confident. We were also hoping for more Arsenal goals since Reading’s goal was now right beneath our feet. Some fine work by Gervinho and a beautiful lob into the back of the net by Santi left us really at ease. There’s not much more to say about the other goals besides that they were much deserved. Le Situation, The Ox, Arteta, and really most of the team put in a shift and we left London with three vital points and discussions of our next trip to see The Arsenal. 

Watching Arsenal at our pub in Charleston is fantastic. We cheer and grieve with the rest of gooners. However, there seems to always be something lacking; the atmosphere at The Emirates. What we experienced on Saturday is something that can never be conveyed via media broadcast. The vibration of the stadium, off camera communication by the players, and varying chants of the fans are unfortunately masked by television commentators critiquing our lads or camera men zooming in on Wenger’s zipper malfunctions. It would make for a much more entertaining match if we could just crank the stadium up. Cheers!