Bram: Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham – The London Trader

This title should never happen as a true football fan. These are some of the most heated rivalries in England and to tour all of them in one day is basically unheard of. However, since were touring the top stadiums in Europe, I’m sure that these fans would respect us thinking that there team and stadium was a top club. And so our tours to some of the biggest rivalries in London begin.

We left West Ham’s Upton Park early in the morning because today was going to be another busy day. The reason I didn’t put them all together because these three stadiums; Stamford Bridge, Emirates Stadium, and White Hart Lane were done in one day. We arrived at the subway and something that I didn’t mention in the West Ham blog was that we had met this bloke from the subway. He looked about 6’4 and built like a brick wall. When we had told him that we were touring around the biggest stadiums around Europe he obviously had to ask us which team we support. We tried to lie and Eric said Toronto FC (not that he’s not a fan of TFC but his main team is not TFC) and I said PSV Eindhoven but he then got it out of us. He ended up being a big Chelsea supporter and didn’t want to let us through but he was a top bloke and pulled us aside and showed us some pictures that he had taken at Stamford Bridge and tried to convert us for the rest of our stay in London. It was nice knowing that there are fans of Chelsea prior to the Roman Abramovich. No chance but good try lad!

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We started by going to Stamford Bridge, home to Chelsea FC. Something Eric had informed me before we got to England was how the stadiums here are incorporated into the community so that people would just walk by it and see it as another building until Football Day! It would be really hard to do this in a big city like Toronto due to the fact that its already packed with buildings and to fit a 25,000 seat stadium would be near impossible. However it is really unfortunate that you can’t have this in Toronto because it definitely adds something to the fan culture here in England. The way Eric told me prior to me coming to England about how the stadiums are built into the community is the exact way I’d describe Stamford Bridge. We walked from the train station and I just happened to look into this little alley and see a Chelsea FC logo and there it was Stamford Bridge home of now one of the biggest teams in Europe, unbelievable. Now the majority of the places we visit on this trip is based on either tours or games at each stadium. It would be amazing to see a game at each place, but we don’t have the time for each one. For today’s blog I will only be talking about tours. I still find tours essential for any fan to go to. The things you learn here in tours are unbelievable and you get to have some amazing pictures of the stadiums. We also got to tour the Chelsea FC museum and to think back and think that players such as Claude Makelele, Arjen Robben, Damien Duff used to play there just makes you think if every Chelsea supporter abroad did some basic research even only 10 years ago and have some basic common knowledge of their club then a lot of people wouldn’t be calling them superficial fans. Anyways moving on to the tour. Our two tour guides were great. We’ve had some amazing tours and we’ve had some less good ones. The tour guides really adds something to it and the passion that these two lads had for Chelsea FC was really good and added to the tour.

By not going to a game you miss some of the true fans during the games and maybe you get more of the superficial fans during the tours. We had fans on our tour from all over the world and only a couple were actually out and out Chelsea supporters. There wasn’t one fan from London on this tour. However, during our journey’s around London we met some Chelsea supporters through and through so we know they exist which is good to hear. Being a great stadium takes a bunch of things but some of the essentials are in my point of view is; a great capacity, a great atmosphere, and a great fan base. With this you can build your fortress and Chelsea FC look to build on Stamford Bridge this year as current head coach Jose Mourinho hasn’t lost a game there yet as Head Coach.

Here are a couple of facts they told us about and that you might not know:

The cheapest box ticket you can get is 250,000 pounds per year and it can go to the most expensive 1 million pounds per year. The other catch to this is that you have to buy for 10 years at least. There’s also a 20 year waiting for this. The other thing this allows people like Adidas to do is have access to the box at all times so they can have meetings inside Stamford Bridge whenever they want. Which would be incredible to have at your disposal.

Before Jose Mourinho joined the club the away supporters were right beside the home dug out. The amount of away fans that yell at just regular home supporters is ridiculous I would not want to know what they would do to the home team, scary.

In 1887 Stamford was built for racing and athletics and such things. In 1905 Chelsea FC was born and since then it has been just for football.

Roman Abramovich has a reputation as many of you will know of firing managers after each season and his intimidating face can be seen by each manager as his box is right across from the manager on the other side of the stadium so that he can see there every move. Now if that’s not intimidating I don’t know what is. Usually dug out is a bit of centre and so the owner would usually have his box in the middle but this is not the case for Mr. Abramovich.

We were able to sit in the press conference area and where players like John Terry, Didier Drogba, and Frank Lampard have sat also famous coaches like Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink. Our tour guides informed us that prior to 2004 players would sign there contracts here in front of the press. The last player to do so was Frank Lampard on a contract extension. Now it gets done in the privacy of Chelsea’s training ground.

Lastly, Michael Essien is the club DJ.

So that was Stamford Bridge we were able to see the Home and Away dressing rooms and the tunnel where the players get to walk onto the pitch (we weren’t able to go onto the pitch though) those were some of the highlights. Take a look at some of the pictures from Stamford Bridge.

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Next we headed to the Emirates; home of Arsenal FC. Now this is an interesting journey. I grew up watching Arsenal play at Highbury (their old stadium) and I remember when they switched over to the Emirates. I was looking forward to seeing this stadium and if a more modernized stadium ruined some of the history that Highbury held. Everyone I’ve talked to about this stadium says that this is the best stadium in England and after taking the tour I’d have to say it was the most modernized for sure that we’ve seen.

It was really cool how they built the stadium because when we walked off the train we couldn’t see the stadium like a lot of other stadiums that we’ve been to so far. We had to ask for directions and the guy directed us and when we got there it was just a small building with a couple of Arsenal logos. For me this was cool because it didn’t ruin the neighbourhood with a massive big stadium. Then you walk over this bridge and you see this massive stadium. It’s incorporated the traditional England stadium field where its been integrated within the culture here of the city and yet it’s a spectacle that fans can be proud of. A place of torment for big teams to come here and see the history of the club. Outside the stadium you can see statues of players like Tony Adams, you can see special quotes about legendary players like Robert Pires and Thierry Henry from Arsene Wenger (current head coach of Arsenal) and fans. Check out the pictures on facebook.

We learned later that Arsene Wenger had a huge role to play in designing the stadium and you can see how he’s built in the history of the club into the new modernized stadium, which is really great to see. This helped me realize that the best way to incorporate history from an old stadium like Highbury to a new modernized stadium like the Emirates is to help the fans remember history when the walk into the ground. You have to be proud to be a fan of your club and even through the hard times you can remember the good times. For someone like me who doesn’t like change it was nice for me to see change in a positive way. I don’t know if they had the plaques at Highbury but another thing they did like a lot of other clubs are doing now is you can buy a plaque with your company name on it or your name on it or whatever a message of sorts and then you can have it put around the stadium. Check out the pictures on facebook to see where the Emirates have put there’s.

When we got to the tour it was really the only disappointing thing that happened on this whole journey of the stadium. They set us up with these annoying little gadgets that spoke to you everywhere you go around the stadium. You didn’t really get to ask those important questions to a tour guide and they kept breaking down and slowing you down. Eric just stopped using his I tried to use mine to get these details to you. I hope you enjoy them.

It took 123 weeks and 2 days to complete the stadium. At it’s peak 1400 construction workers were on site.

Highbury was Arsenal’s stadium from 1913-2006. So the Emirates has been open since 2006.

Arsenal used to be called “the Arsenal” but Hubert Chapman (a man they claim changed there club hugely and is one of the big reasons why Arsenal is the club it is today.) changed the name so that Arsenal would always be first in alphabetical order.

Something that Arsene Wenger has put into place that’s different from any other teams in the English Premier League is that the whole team has to wear either long or short sleeve jerseys. It’s the captains choice also which one they will wear.

This is a big one for me. The kit manager now is the most successful coach ever for Arsenal. He was the ladies coach from the 1980’s till 2000’s. It didn’t say how many trophies he’d won but that’s impressive. Arsene Wenger has been at Arsenal for over 10 years and after Sir Alex Ferguson (coach of Manchester United) retired last year is the oldest serving coach in the current English Premier League.

I don’t know how true this next one is but they claim that it’s reported that the Queen is an Arsenal fan.

Now here’s where the science comes into play in Arsenal. Apparently they have cushions in the dressing room. Now what they claim and it must be true but they told me that when players come in at half time they are all warmed up but what happens when you sit on a wooden bench or something else like it slows down your blood pressure and cools you down so when you go back to the pitch you have a higher chance of tearing something in your first sprint on the pitch. That was a really cool fact for me I’m definitely going to be looking into this.

Another interesting fact for me being a student in Massage Therapy and wanting to go into sports after I’ve been Registered is the Physio’s arrive 1:15 minutes before the match. This allows them time to get all sorted and bring all there equitment with them. Apparently the head physio says the Massage Therapist’s get there as well and are usually sweating just before the match because of how aggressive the players treatment is prior to the match.

Something else that’s scientific that they had a group of psychologists come in and tell them that they shouldn’t’ have corners in there room as this creates a negative atmosphere. That’s why when you see pictures of Arsenal’s dressing room it’s shaped in a horseshoe shape. This allows everyone to see each other and have that positive atmosphere.

Since Arsene has been renowned to work with more younger individuals he’s put a lot of focus into the mental part of the game. Some managers don’t get into that and some do. He does and it makes a lot of sense. He also incorporated these whirlpools in the dressing room but there more cold baths right after the game a lot of players do it for rehabilitative reason’s he said such as preventing big bruising but some do it because it feels good. He said he did this for the major reason being that it allows players to bond after the match rather than just showering and going home.

I also heard from the lead chef at Arsenal and he said that his first day cooking for the team he was really nervous and hoped that they liked his food. Arsenal lost that day and they didn’t touch anything that he made when they got back to the training centre he was really angry but was told that they don’t eat when they lose the next time they won and they ate so much that he actually ran out so its something that takes getting used to I guess. Luckily he says he gets to keep his job because they win more than they lose.

Lastly, Arsene himself (through our little gadget!) told me that he doesn’t do pregame talks right before the game in the dressing room. He does that at the hotel or at the training ground. He believes that you must leave the players alone at some point to get into their routine. The players know what they have to do and for them to get some head space right before the game is something that they need.

During the tour a guy who was testing one of the guards about her allegiances toward Arsenal asked “What would you do if I put on a Tottenham jersey?” Either the guard cared about her job or wasn’t a football fan and said “Nothing but don’t know what my friends would do.” So we figured we could probably ask her where White Hart Lane was and she told us like it was nothing. To get from Stamford Bridge to the Emirates we had actually gone two stops further from the Stamford Bridge stop to ask someone else how to get to the Emirates because we feared they would get mad at us for doing a tour at Stamford Bridge and then going to there rivals ground. She explained that it wasn’t far. We hadn’t planned on going to White Hart Lane but it was only about a 20 minute train ride away and we had a bit more energy so thought we couldn’t not go.

We got to the stadium. Now Stamford Bridge and the Emirates weren’t in a posh area of sorts, but West Ham and Tottenham definitely had this rougher neighbourhood. We didn’t think of anything though until the guy inside the store said put away your camera when you walk around here. That definitely put us on edge it had been a long day and we might have not been thinking 100% but we were really glad to have that piece of thoughtful advice. We had to take a bus to the stadium this time though the stadium was kind of the centre of the community and it kind of gave this rough neighbourhood something to cheer about. We also saw the design of the new stadium outside the stadium. On the tour they informed us that they were going to tear down White Hart Lane and build up the area for a social place for struggling individuals as part of a way to give back to the community, which was really good to hear.

In the store after buying our traditional scarfs we met a guy with a funny but familier accent. He was from Ottawa and he was part of the Tottenham fan club back home in Canada. He came here to get a job and found one at the club store. Now that’s a dream. Crazy! He informed us that we would have to come back for a tour and we did we were there the next morning and had a great tour.

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We arrived a bit late but had just enough time before the tour guides had really started the tour. The main tour guy knew a lot about the ground and was really informed about the history of the club. Sadly a lot of people have just started to become fans of this club in the last couple years because of the recent success but before their recent success they had success a couple of decades ago that you might not have known about so again here are something’s that we learned:

Apparently Tottenham Hotspurs were the first team ever to do the double – the FA Cup and the equivalent of the Premier League today.

In 1899 White Hart Lane was built.

In 1963 – they were the first English team to win a European metal.

The cheapest box is 50,000 pound and the most expensive box is 100,000 pounds so a little cheaper than Stamford Bridge and Emirates stadium. I assume that will change with the new stadium.

Bill Nicholson who was a very good player and managed Tottenham Hotspurs and is quite a legend around White Hart Lane had his ashes spread underneath the field and is the only person to do so. Out of respect of him and how they want to bring many memories back to the new stadium they are going to carefully gather his ashes and bring it to the new stadium and put it under the grass there as well. Also apparently there’s a legendary picture of him closing some gates and they’re going to create a statue to replicate that and there going to use the current gates which is the ones he would have used to create the statue.

All in all for a top team in Europe it’s not really enough and you can tell at how simple it is and this might be me talking right after seeing the most modernized stadium in England, the Emirates stadium. But the dressing is normal and the players leave there expensive things just on the bench and have no where to put anything. I found that really odd. But obviously the owner agrees and that’s why instead of updating the dressing room he’s building a whole new stadium that looks absolutely amazing and will end up comparing to the Emirates stadium. If you’re a football fan you will know that Tottenham and Arsenal do not like each other at all.

They told us a story that before a FA cup semi-final I can’t exactly recall the year but Arsenal gave Tottenham a gift (this happens frequently between teams but maybe not these two) Now Tottenham hadn’t prepared anything they had never before so why now. Tottenham won the match and they sent Arsenal the next day a huge picture of the goal with the goal scorers signature on it. Just a small fact that I found entertaining that I thought you might enjoy.

But that being said White Hart Lane in this day and age isn’t up to modernized standards in my opinion but the history that this place holds and the atmosphere that I’ve seen here and how it brings this town together to forget the hardship and all problems that this area must be in. That sometimes is better than anything modernized can give you and we just have to sit back and enjoy it while we can.

London is full of different teams we had a great 5 days here and saw 5 amazing stadiums (Wembley is the other one and will be in another blog) 5 days 5 stadiums I’d say a job well done. Our legs are dying and were going back to Liverpool to rest up but we won’t have time as Eric has informed me we have tickets for the home opener and English Premier League opener Liverpool vs Stoke City at Anfield.

Just a last thought that I had to share about all of these tours that we’ve been doing. I’m not going to tell Toronto FC and the MLSE how to run there business because when it comes down to it everyone in Toronto would like to tell them how to do it. But something that they might not have thought about is tours for BMO field. It’s seems simple enough to organize and I’m sure it’s not in this day and age but here are some reason’s why it could help the organization and not just for the profit.

In 2007 BMO Field and Toronto FC began. It was a dream season for the MLSE off the pitch. The fans had been amazing everything was perfect really except for the results but that would come they told us. Now 7 seasons later they’ve been lowering ticket prices so that people will keep there season tickets and the numbers have started to dwindle. Toronto FC has to give supporters a reason to call BMO Field home.

Just like the Ajax Amsterdam supporters call the Amsterdam Arena home and like the rest of Europe every supporter calls their home stadium their home. Having a tour and knowing the history although it is a short history gives fans a reason to call themselves fans and not just putting on the jersey to look like a fan.

I’ve been lucky enough as a player to see behind the scenes and go into Toronto FC’s locker room. As a supporter of Toronto FC I enjoy watching post-game interviews and interacting with players after the game to get their thoughts and a quick picture.

Toronto FC has been working hard to get their name into the community, as they have to fight with Hockey, Baseball, Lacrosse and more to get their name across. It also doesn’t help that 2/3 of what I’ve just mentioned is owned by the same people as Toronto FC.

For the youth of Toronto and some of the supporters to be able to go into the dressing rooms, walk out of the tunnel, sit where Ryan Nelson, Torsten Frings, Dwayne DeRosario have all sat before them would give the supporters of Toronto FC something to be proud of. I’ve seen what they’ve tried to do organizing public autograph sessions and doing events for the youth of today. That is all great and I’m glad there doing it. This might be another idea to add to it. I could go on for hours about this but I think I’ve made my point. Let’s see if they’ll listen!

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One thought on “Bram: Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham – The London Trader

  1. You can tell that Football is a passion of yours Bram. Wow, did you ever catch many interesting points to share with your readers. And, yes, I agree, MLSE need to think more about offering tours to their fans.

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