The Emirates Cup 2015: an upstairs downstairs report

By Blacksheep

After what seems to have been a very short summer break football was back at the Emirates and I set off to get my early pre-season fix this weekend. This year I rang the changes a little, decided to go BOTH days and to experience it from different vantage points.

As you may know I am lucky enough to have a season ticket so I get to go to the Arsenal a lot but for many of those attending this weekend, this was their first (and sometimes only) visit to the home of football.

This is quite obvious to those of us that go regularly and, for me, brings out conflicting emotions. It is quite annoying, for example, when people get up and wander around during games, or when they don’t know which way to queue to get to the tube and just stand in the road gawping. In fact its pretty much like my reaction to tourists elsewhere in London: I’m always polite and helpful when asked but generally wish they’d move a little quicker!

But the other (and more dominant) emotion is that of pride and shared pleasure. It is lovely to see people looking up at the stands with wonder, and being so excited when the team run out. I’m not a fan of Mexican waves but the joy on people’s faces as they see it fly round the stadium is infectious. So I’m all for the Emirates Cup – its not the same as a cold February night against Stoke, but its definitely a ‘good thing’ and if you haven’t been, you should give it a go next year.

Anyway, on the Saturday I took my young lady and we went in Club Level (I thought she’d enjoy that more than the ‘cheap’ seats – and I was right, she loved it). Seats here usually cost in the region of £100+ so are generally out of my price bracket. But for the EC they were going for £39 which is less than my ST seat costs for most league games.

For Club level you enter by one of the glass doors,  not via the turnstiles, so immediately it is a quite different experience. An escalator whizzes you up to Club level where there are a series of bars and eateries. It’s carpeted and the toilets are not crowded, there aren’t long queues for food and drink and the stewards open the doors to the seating blocks for you, doffing their caps and showing you to your seat with a cheerful ‘there you are sir, madam, please do enjoy the game’..

The view is magnificent; we were in row five (I guess there are about 10-12 rows in Club) and overlooked the North Bank corner on the East Stand. Even though you are high up the pitch feels close, the players audible (notably Ollie when he was fed up with a lineman’s decision). It was a beautiful sunny day in North London** and at points in the second half of the Arsenal game I was struggling to see the action. Özil’s goal was a blur and even the screen replay didn’t help much. Fortunately weather like that is rare during the season proper!

At half time in the Wolfsburg/Villareal game we ducked out to sample the food offering. There is a posh dining room (in the Woolwich suite) and places to get pizza, dogs and burgers in others. We opted for the Legends Bar (very surprised there was no lithograph of Tony or Walter amongst those of Adams, Henry, Wright etc – sort this out please Mr Gazidis).

Having cunningly beaten the queues (which were never massive) we were sat down eating burgers and skin-on fries within minutes. Great burgers, served in what I heard one punter describe as ‘dog bowls’ – metal camping like containers – rather than plates. Well it’s trendy innit? Fries were good too, crispy and not at all soggy. But you might baulk at the price: £12.50 for burger & fries, £9 for the burger on its own (we had 2 burgers with one fries – but you get loads). Drinks are about standard for this sort of venue – £4.80 for a beer, £3 for coke etc. Last year Tony said his Merlot cost him £7 but they had it for under £5 on Saturday.

Club level is not cheap but it is fun and if you want to treat someone to a special day out (and they like football!) I’d recommend it. After the game we hung around for 10 or 15 minutes wandering the corridors and looking at the photos and wall prints, and popping in and out of the different bars and lounges. It’s very chic and stylish and shows what a classy club Arsenal is.

On Sunday I had quite a different experience. I took the twins (who will be 18 in couple of weeks…) and bought seats in the North Bank. In fact I picked MY seat and the two adjacent ones so they would get to see where I sit (or rather usually stand) most weeks.

We went with Tony (I met them at Finchley and we walked down from Archway as usual). We stopped at our regular watering hole (The Swimmer at the Grafton Arms) for burgers and Weiss beer (cheaper food and drink and, it has to be said, better than Club level) before rolling up at the ground just after Villareal/Lyon had kicked off. The twins paid a very brief visit to the Armoury while Tony and I waited in the rain (it was VERY wet on Sunday).

Once in I could look up to where I’d sat the day before and the view is quite different. But so is the atmosphere. Even though this was a friendly the North Bank is noisier. There were still lots of newcomers (seats here were £25) but they were happy to cheer. The game was also tighter and more competitive than the 6-0 drubbing of Olympic Mayonnaise. Cech got a great reception and Theo scored his goal at our end.

I enjoyed being there with the twins (normally they sit in the family enclosure at the Clock End) and despite the rain there was a good positive vibe in the ground. We didn’t stay for the presentation of the trophy (it’s at least an hour and half to get back to Northampton – and it took longer because of traffic today) so getting out was surprisingly quick.

So my verdict? I’d always plump for the rough and ready North Bank experience over the comfort of Club Level but once in a while (and next EC for sure) I’ll be heading back to the posh seats. One day, who knows, I might get to experience a box (one can dream!). Tony has a magnificent new seat over the 18 yard line (he rang me from there on Sunday!) and hopefully both of us will have a great view of the Untold Banner when it goes up (hopefully for West ‘am).

Here’s a suggestion – how about an Untold day out at the Emirates Cup next year? If Untolders fancied it we could meet up and have a beer or three?


* OK, I made that last bit up – only Tony gets that service at the Emirates (with M. Wenger popping by to check his new seat is satisfactory)

** or God’s Own Country as we call it down here


We’re on Twitter @UntoldArsenal

Tony rambles on about football and dancing on Facebook (TonyAttwoodofLondon)

and the series on pre-seasons past has reached 1992: A record breaking season but where did the entertainment go?


19 Replies to “The Emirates Cup 2015: an upstairs downstairs report”

  1. I have to agree. Eating & drinking before arriving is the much better ( & less expensive ) option. I can never understand people coming to a match to eat & drink . You have to queue and perhaps miss some play and the food is dead rough and overpriced. I mean is a couple of hours too much for some people to go without for?
    My season ticket was in the family section (row 15). It’s not bad there, but you can’t see the corner at the far end where it meets the North bank.

  2. I had a burger at the Swimmer last time Tony and it wasn’t bad. I’ve eaten worse before a match 🙂

  3. @Tailgunner,
    Couldn’t agree more about the ridiculous prices foisted on a captive public at football grounds, airport terminals and the like.
    I once had a Club lunch at Highbury and never again.
    And you are quite right in pointing out the danger of missing play. 😉

  4. But I thoroughly enjoyed Blacksheep’s detailed catering report. A nice change from purely writing about the football. More please. 😉

  5. I was in club on the Saturday, I took my youngest daughter for her first visit (she is 5, so just old enough to grasp what’s going on) and must say the food was pretty decent in the ‘Royal Oak’ although not cheap as you say. Having said that fish and chips for £12.50 isn’t that bad at a sporting venue. I did tell my youngest not to get used to the luxury mind, I explained that not all football spectating is like this!! Unfortunately with kids they have to eat when they are hungry, even though we had lunch before the game!

    But 6-0; what a great day to pick for a first game for her!

    On a separate note, if any readers were in the North Bank Club Level; did you hear the charming young lady screaming at the top of her voice all game ‘come on Arsenal’ and ‘close em’ fu**ing down’ even when we were 5-0 up? We had to get the steward to have a word once the swearing got worse: I think she had been on something a bit too strong! Priceless!

  6. I took my 7 yr and my father in law on Sunday. We got the tickets on the top but from the top as well, the pitch looks like a carpet and view is not bad. Next yr will get the club level or the seats closer to the pitch so that we can see and hear the players.

  7. Hamburger as a meal, has a large quality range. Lots of people from the USA, think that only the USA has good hamburgers. Lots of articles about the Top 10 (12, 20, …) hamburgers in the USA, New York, Dallas, or whereever. One story sounded like it was going to talk about the best hamburgers in the world, but then you visit the article and it is only the USA: 129 different burger places discussed.

    Just to talk good beef, the USA is not the sole source. Canada and Australia both produce a lot of beef, and I’ve heard that Argentina does as well. And then there is Wagyu/Kobe from Japan. Japan has a love affair with the USA, and anything well done in the USA is going to be deconstructed and reverse engineered in Japan. There would have to be good burgers in Japan. And a web article talking about best int he world seemed to go out of its way to present a bad example of a hamburger in Japan to prove its point that the only place to get a hamburger is the USA.

    I stumbled across a website called TheBurgerGuide, which rates burgers from all over the world. I don’t think it has been in operation long enough, as the map and sampling doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. For example, the only good hamburgers in Canada are in Toronto or Vancouver. One place in Nova Scotia mentioned. No places in Alberta mentioned (although I have heard of a place near Camrose, Alberta that raises Wagyu).

    In any event, their World’s Best Burgers page, starts with the best being at some place in London, England, rated 11/10. Zooming the map into the vicinity of the Emirates, there are no places especially close. There seems to be 4 locations all about the same distance away, and the highest rated burger (at 9.6/10) is actually two different places on Essex Road in Islington.

    Wenlock and Essex – 9.6 (near Gaskin St.)

    Psychic Burger – 9.6 (near Elliot’s Pl, Colebrooke Pl)

    Maybe someone wants to check these places out. I know people have earlier said there are no good food places near Wembley, so I looked at their map in the vicinity of Wembley, and there is nothing noted on their website.

    Their map claims that the only good burgers in England, are in/near London, except for some place Canterbury. No good places in Belgium (sorry Walter). Frankfurt and Munich apparently have a good hamburger somewhere. Paris and Versailles in France. And only Madrid in Spain.

  8. An excellent write up, looks like Club level is well worth trying – now and again!

  9. thanks for the guide Gord; the humble British burger is having something of a renaissance at the moment – a few years ago I believed the only quality samples were Stateside but London (and even little Northampton) has plenty of piquant pleasing and more than passable patties on offer. I will certainly be trying the burgers on Essex Road because I am Islington born and bred!

  10. Seeing as we have (at least) one civilised Chelsea supporter who visits regularly, what looks like the closest to Stamford Bridge is Adminral Codrington, 17 Mossop Street.

    Sorry, no places listed in Manchester for the civilised Manchester people who stop by.

  11. That place near Stamford Bridge was rated 9.5.

    Do spuds eat hamburgers? As near as I can tell, the closest burger joint to WHL is one of the ones closest to the Emirates. Neon Burgers, 179 Stoke Newington High Street which is close to the A10? It is “only” rated a 9.0.

  12. The Untold star guide to finest beef? Amusing and astonishing to read any discussion of best beef without the name of Ireland mentioned. Sorry chaps, but your research must be a tad incomplete (or rubbish to give it the more accurate term 🙂 )
    Sure it’s a well known and scientifically proven fact that when God invented the cow, he/she looked around for the best place to put it and decided in Ireland. Think it’s the rain, it helps with making Guinness, real whiskey and horses too!
    Beef from anywhere else is just pale imitation, better off eating chicken!!!!

  13. No stars here, and this was restricted to hamburger, which is usually ground beef, but not always.

    I would have thought that the established fact, is that the beef you grew up eating was the best. It sounds like Dec is from Ireland, hence the vote for Ireland. The USA (and by association, much of the Canadian Prairies and perhaps a lot of British Columbia) tends to fall into the feedlot and grain side of feeding cows. It seems like much of the rest of the world, settled into grass fed. And some cows are mostly grass fed, but then decide to finish at a feedlot. I think one of the arguments for grain, is that animals put on weight faster, and that a good chunk of that weight is fat which contributes to marbling.

    Much of the world seems to consider Kobe (Japan) to be king of beef, except apparently for some people in Japan that prefer beef from other places in Japan (Matsuzaka and Mishima). Grass fed, they also get regular beer of some kind (pilsner?) and massages with raw gin. They are also couch potatoes that get no exercise. As far as I know, the brand of cattle from Kobe, when raised outside of Japan is referred to as Wagyu. Marketing people like to push untestable positions, so there are people that insist that Angus, Hereford, and other kinds of cow are the best.

    Most beef tends to partition on flavour and toughness issues into the grain fed versus grass fed. Some people think they can taste the difference between the different countries that grass feed (or grain feed). People seem to think that telling Argentinian (probably grass fed) is easier than most, a common description being that it is “gamier”. Which would fit with a different kind of grass, as the thing that differentiates deer, moose, elk and so on from cows, is the kind of grass they eat.

    If you feel that small island, grass fed cow is the meat to eat, apparently Vanuatu (in the Pacific) apparently raises cows and exports beef.

    Apparently cattle in Normandy, France get enough extra salt (blown in from the Atlantic) to possibly affect the meat.

    Apparently good things are said about Brazil, especially near Curitiba. Beef typically needs to be aged, and you can age wet or dry. It seems that Hermosillo, Mexico has a reputation with dry aged beef.

    As near as I can tell, marbling is a steak and roast thing, and many issues with (lack of) tenderness are cured by the grinding process in making hamburger. I don’t believe in eating fat just for the sake of flavour. But if I have to add fat to something for cooking reasons, I might as well use better fat. For lean meat, I actually prefer bison to cow. I have heard good things about ostrich (big chicken I suppose). But, making hamburgers from a mix of ground beef and ground pork is common. And in sausage making, pork fat rules. I can imagine some situations, where a person might want to look at duck or goose fat to be added to the ground beef.

    But please, don’t equate “best hamburger” with any fast food chain.

  14. Oh chicken.

    Apparently chicken now is far more efficient than cows or pigs at turning food into meat.

  15. @ Blacksheep – thanks for this write up , really enjoyed it.
    It would be a great idea for the AKBs here on UA to meet up sometime to chew the fat , drink wine or whatever and generally have a good laugh at ‘them’ ! Hopefully after having won the lot !
    As for the Mexican wave , we could always modify it to include some dance , or or yoga ,or calisthenics moves ,so that we can burn all that fat off the fatty foods ! Or Tony can add some jive steps to it !
    Nice touch , that Olympic Mayonnaise bit !

  16. I was born in Nairobi (same place as Froom). The beef in Kenya along with the dairy produce was second to none in the 1960s/70s. British farmers with livestock from Europe on best grazing & climate was the key.

    In 1980 I had the pleasure of eating beef bought from the diplomatic store in Moscow. The Angus beef was to die for (tasted good raw & melted in the mouth). The pork in Ireland was excellent so too in Portugal. Argentine beef available in Portugal for the horse fair in Golega, Portugal (early November each year) is also very good washed down with some quality reds.

    In summary, beef is excellent when properly hung. I still think salt beef takes the biscuit when it comes to simple eating.

    I’m in India to see the monsoons after many years. It is quite amazing when howling winds accompany buckets of water from the sky.

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