As a New York based fan of Arsenal Football Club, the opportunity to see the team I support play live requires a trip across the pond and a lot of planning. Fortunately, Arsenal’s global fan base is huge and social media has made it easy for fans all over the world to connect. It is through my Arsenal contacts on Twitter that I was able to secure tickets for two matches and make my journey a reality.
I just returned from two weeks in London and was able to experience Arsenal matches both home and away. In addition, I explored Arsenal’s stadium, museum and the club’s surrounding neighborhoods.
Here are just a few of the highlights from this experience:
The stadium holds close to 33,000 fans and I was among the 3000 travelling Arsenal fans that made the trip. Southampton have been one of the English Premier League’s surprising team’s this season and pushed Arsenal hard throughout the match. The Gunners came back from a 1-0 deficit to take a two goal lead. Unfortunately for Arsenal fans, Southampton battled back and the match ended in a disappointing 2-2 draw.
Some of the notable sights outside Emirates Stadium include:
- Three bronze statues honoring legendary Arsenal figures; Herbert Chapman who managed Arsenal from 1925-1934, former captain Tony Adams and the club’s all time leading goal scorer Thierry Henry.
- At the entrance to the South Bridge are seven giant concrete letters which spell out Arsenal. As you walk along the bridge dedicated to former Club Director Danny Fiszman you pass banners honoring a number of past Arsenal stars. This route leads to the Herbert Chapman statue and the Clock End Entrance.
- At the front entrance of the stadium are two cast iron cannons and an area known as Armoury Square. Here you will find personalized engraved bricks surrounding benches and the entrance to The Armoury, Arsenal’s team store.
- Eight large panels surround the stadium. Each one depicts four former Arsenal stars linking arms as if in a huddle.
Not far from Emirates Stadium are the remnants of Arsenal’s former home ground known as Highbury. Arsenal called Highbury home for 93 years before moving to their new and larger home in the summer of 2006.
The East Stand and the West Stand of Highbury still remain today. The interior of the stadium, however, was demolished and turned in to an apartment complex known as Highbury Square. The former stadium’s playing field was converted in to a communal garden for residents.
Next up on my itinerary was a look inside Emirates Stadium and the official Arsenal Stadium Tour. The tour allows visitors a behind the scenes look at areas of the stadium that fans rarely get to see. These consist of the Director’s Box, the home and away dressing rooms, the team’s medical facilities, the interview rooms and the tunnel through which the players enter the pitch on match day. Also included is the opportunity to stand on the pitch and take in the stadium from a truly unique perspective.
Entrance to the Arsenal Museum is included in the price of admission to the Stadium Tour. The museum features memorabilia, video highlights and interactive displays taking in Arsenal’s 128 year history.
Later that week I was lucky enough to secure tickets for Arsenal’s home match versus South London club Crystal Palace.
Prior to the game I paid a visit to Piebury Corner. The English love their meat pies and Piebury Corner serves up a variety of them named after former Arsenal greats. Paying homage to Arsenal’s former ground Highbury, Piebury Corner is run by a husband and wife team of loyal Arsenal fans.
After enjoying my “Ian Wright” pie (lamb and vegetable) I headed over to meet friends for a pre-match pint at The Tollington. The Tolllington is one of the most popular pubs near Emirates Stadium and is a meeting place for Arsenal fans. In addition to regular pub fare, the Tollington has an extensive menu featuring Thai cusine.
I completed my Arsenal journey watching Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over visiting Crystal Palace. The atmosphere inside the stadium was amazing. Despite losing, the Crystal Palace fans sang their hearts out for their club. In return Arsenal fans serenaded the visiting supporters with a chorus of “you’re going down” (in reference to the possibility of Crystal Palace being relegated at the end of the season.)