And no, we don't mean David O'Leary at Villa. It was Members' Day yesterday at Arsenal's brand, spanking new Emirates Stadium (or Ashburton Grove in old money - pictured above recently decked out in England livery) and the supporters weren't the only ones in unfamiliar surroundings. GilbertoSilver on Gunnerblog takes up the story:
...a silver car came flying round the outside of the stadium. Except, it was going the wrong way. And it was about to crash into a team of paramedics, who were treating someone suffering from the intense heat. After much waving and shouting from the paramedics, the driver stopped, and wound down his window. It was Kolo Toure. He was looking for the dressing room, and he was lost. After learning he was in fact going the wrong way around the circuit, he was forced to perform an embarassing u-turn to the ironic cheers of the Arsenal fans. Being the diamond guy that he is, he still found time to chat to the fans and make fun of himself.
General opinion from some of the 20,000 fans who attended seems to be that the stadium is indeed the kind of awe-inspiring new home you'd expect from a pad built for Champions League finalists and a project costing in the region of £400m. They were impressed at the decision to keep all the seats plain red and free of sponsors' logos (at least for now) though they would like some white seats in the mix, too. Dismay was largely reserved for food prices with, for example, a burger setting you back £7.
The first match in the stadium will be played on Saturday when Dennis Bergkamp's former club Ajax visit to give the old master a suitable send-off. If you haven't already got a ticket, it's too late as they sold out a while back. In fact, forget going to the stadium at all ever if you're neither a member nor an away fan. Although the new capacity of 60,000 is a 55% increase on Highbury it looks as if the club expects to fill the stadium with members for the foreseeable future. Saturday's friendly is live on terrestrial tv so non-Gooners can satisfy at least a little of their curiosity.
To lose one's colleagues, Mr Touré, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose one's opponents looks like carelessness. As Kolo strives to avoid that unfortunate fate it has already happened to Ryman League Division One South club Croydon Athletic whose opponents, Epsom & Ewell, for this Saturday afternoon have apparently cancelled on them. If you fancy taking on former Welsh U21 international striker Andrew Martin and his teammates call Croydon's chairman Dean Fisher on 0207 556 6092.
Picture of the Emirates Stadium via Scouserdave's Flickr stream.