The Gooner, along with a few others, received an email from Arsenal's supporters' liaison officer Mark Brindle yesterday. The club are asking supporters to try and get in early for the FA Cup tie against Manchester United, so as to help build the atmosphere a bit, in contrast to the normal scenario with three men and a dog in their seats moments before the teams come out.
There will be a light show before the teams enter, ‘Good Old Arsenal’ will be played on the PA as there is no Premier League anthem tomorrow evening. There are hopes that we may get an airing of ‘She Wore A Yellow Ribbon’ at the end of the game. Fingers crossed for that one.
Fans are also being requested to dig out their bar scarves (everyone was sent one in this season’s membership pack) with the hope that we can get a few hearty renditions of ‘Que Sera Sera’ going.
So here’s an idea for you. Just suspend your disbelief and act like the game is a 7.45 kick off for a Champions League knockout first leg game against glamorous opposition. In reality it will be 7.55, but you will be in your seat to help turn the Emirates into something a little closer to a bearpit and you’ll be entertained by the floodlights doing their thing.
Now one for the younger readers. Before stadiums were all seater, people used to pay on the day at the turnstile to stand behind the goals at either end of the pitch. And to guarantee they had a good spot, fans used to actually get in early – often an hour before the game. So when the players came out to warm up, the PA wasn’t blaring out, and the supporters created their own atmosphere by singing chants for all of the players. The players in turn would acknowledge the crowd. For a very big game, there would be lock-outs, meaning there were already so many who had gone through the turnstiles that those who were at the back of the queue simply didn’t get into the game. So the bigger the match, the more got in early. There was a tiny bar at the back of the North Bank that sold beer, soft drinks, tea, coffee, bovril, pies and crisps. It wasn’t much bigger than a garden shed and it took an age to get served. Well, at least one thing remains consistent to the modern day then!
Arriving more than five minutes before the game starts must seem like a very strange idea to the modern match attendee. Their place is secured, whatever time they wish to turn up (although it can be a pain getting in if you are more than 15 minutes late as most of the turnstiles have been closed by then). So the vast majority turn up in the 10 minutes before kick off, leading to long queues to even get to the turnstile. And if you are in the upper tier, you can add 2-3 minutes to the time it takes to reach your seat. When the players are doing their warm up, there are maybe 5,000 people in their seats. Even when the teams enter for the match proper there are often many thousands of empty places due to people leaving it late. I will be fascinated to see what happens with the 5.55 kick off for the Bate Borisov game in February.
Still, the immediate focus is on the FA Cup and United. So to give the team the best chance of progressing to the last 16, the club are making efforts to entertain everyone in the hope they can be in place before the teams come out. So just pretend the game starts at 7.45 and do your bit.
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