Tuesday 5th August 2008

Went to North London today, to attend my second ever Members Day (first at the Emirates). I got up quite early (considering it was a day off work) and caught the 7.41am 32 bus into town. The driver nearly ran out of bus stop space when he pulled over into the lay by on John Hall Way. I decided to take this earlier bus rather than wait for the 100 to ensure I got into town and to the train station early. With hindsight I think I made the right decision, even if we were delayed entering the bus station by a National Express which blocked the entrance. The Polish bus driver would not let me out early, so I had to wait until we parked up in a bay. Even though he did not speak any English and just communicated to me with hand signals. I then rushed across to the train station and took the 8.25am train from platform one into Marylebone. I sat back relaxed and put the volume up on my Zen. I noted it was 8.31am, as I we drove through Beaconsfield and that I hoped to be outside the stadium within an hour. A tall task but manageable. I rushed off the train and down onto the tube and went to Oxford Circus changed onto the Victoria Line to Finsbury Park. (For a split second, I thought I was on the wrong train but was stupidly looking at the opposite end of the line!). I was surprised that there were no other Gooners in the carriage. I then made my way up to the ground, walking past the new refurbished Arsenal store right next to the underground station. It was lightly raining as I walked to the stadium. The Highbury complex, now luxury apartments nearly looked complete. After all, it has been nearly a year since I was last making this journey for the Man City game (my one and only attendance last season, if you exclude The Emirates Cup 2007). There were a big group of fellow fans making their way down to the stadium. I got to the right turnstile (M) eventually and went through. I was handed a leaflet by a cute girl, a big improvement from the completely lack of information at my last Member’s Day in 2005. However, due to technical problems with my host at the time, I did not get a chance to mention the day or upload the photographs. I have corrected the photo issue by uploading a new set to FlickR.

Members Day Leaflet

I made my way directly to the lower tier and found a spot and sat down, there was a light drizzle. It was just gone 9.40am, not too bad for timing. There was quite a big crowd gathered, and more flooding in as I settled into my seat and got my camera out. Plenty of children and families, after all it was the summer holidays. Wet, dull, grey, overcast and cold. A typical British summer. From my leaflet I could see the training session was not due to start until 10.30am, so I had just under an hour to kill. However before long there was already some action. Eduardo appeared to a rapturous applause from the fans and did some light running around the pitch. It was great to see him back and after the incidents from February at St. Andrew’s against Birmingham City. I still have the picture in my head of fans holding up Eduardo’s shirt in respect for the injured striker whose season was written off in a moment of stupidity. Here he was running around the pitch and a few months away from first team action. It was half an hour later before the first team finally did come up the tunnel and out onto the pitch. There was quite a subdued applause as the master of ceremonies read out the names of the players. There was a big roar when Arsene Wenger finally appeared and started directing the training session via Pat Rice and his other members of staff. The players first did a few laps of the pitch before splitting into groups for light jogging around small patches of the pitch, designated by cones. After this there was a practice match between the squad, red and white bibs. I lost track of the score, just like last year but Van Persie, Adebayor and the third choice keeper (who he is, I do not know) also got onto the score sheet with a cracking long range effort. It was 11.30am, I decided it was time to leave and head to the Armoury before the rush, buy the new away kit and then head over to Denham. All the photographs have been uploaded to a new set. I was the first person to leave and had to ask for a steward to buzz me out, to my surprise there were still a few people coming in through the turnstiles. I made my way in the light rain over to the Armory and went to see if the old away shirt from last season was available. I thought I would buy this, as it would be much cheaper. However, it was a case of one extreme to another. They had baby sizes, practically newborn and then nothing but XXL. I asked the sales assistant if they would have any for sale on the club web site but his reply was a distinctly unconfident, “Maybe”. I opted to buy then, the new away shirt, long sleeve and get a name and number printed on the back. At first I considered Nasri with eight but soon came around to one of my favourite players. The Spanish wonder kid, so got his name instead. I would rather not say how much everything cost, including two Premier League badges but all I can say, is that it is a good thing I only purchase a shirt once every two years. In fact, two of my Arsenal shirts (from 1999 and 2002 respectively) were actually gifts. So I have only purchased three myself, not that it makes it any easier to justify to anyone but myself.


After making my purchase and avoiding any of the other wonderful things on display, I headed back to Finsbury Park and my journey home began. Well not quite home, I went to Denham to meet an ex-colleague and friend for lunch. Although he had already had lunch with clients, so I ended up getting a sandwich at The Bellhouse Hotel. Kindly I was given a lift back home which was a bonus but it meant I could not do a few odd jobs in town but as they were not urgent it does not really matter. So much more to blog about but all that will just have to wait.

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