Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Tuesday March 27 2012
Time and wherewithal permitting, this is something else I am going to attempt on a regular basis on these pages. I`ve been fortunate enough to have gotten to every Premier League ground by now- most on a multitude of occasions. So in advance of every away game, I will try to produce something of a bluffer`s guide. As a disclaimer, these are based solely on my own impressions and experiences. I`ll not lift from established sites in this area because, let`s face it, you can just go and look at them yourself if you want. I`m not a driver, so don`t expect road directions! But expect decent pub recommendations…….
NB, if you happen to be a supporter of the club whose territory I am writing about, please try not to get too offended if my impressions are unfavourable. Like I say, it`s just my personal view and I`ve no desire for it to be considered anything other than subjective.
Where next? Loftus Road, Queens Park Rangers.
Where are we seated? Behind the goal in the School End. Arsenal have been allocated the upper and lower tiers of the ground. Ticket prices range from £55 adults in central positions to £50 in the wings of the lower and upper tiers. Concessions available for over 65s and under 16s. Some tickets in the away end are either marked 'Restricted view` or 'Severely restricted view.` Prices are discounted accordingly. Arsenal will bring 2,600 fans. As ever, the allocation has sold out.
What`s it like? Hmm, how to describe this delicately without using the words "hole" and "sh*t"? Views from the School End are generally not very good. If your ticket is marked "restricted view" QPR aren`t messing you around. If you`re anywhere other than the centre of the upper or lower tiers near the front, you`ll likely have a huge pillar in your way. If you`re in the upper tier and more than roughly ten rows from the front, you won`t be able to see the goal directly below you. If you`re placed right at the back of the upper tier, you`ll be fortunate to see any of the 18 yard area in the School End.
In the upper tier wings, you may not even have a seat that faces the right way. I`m serious. In an attempt to cram more seats in, there is a small block where the seats face directly outwards, meaning you have to crane your neck to the left and peer at the pitch like meerkats. Just for added fun, you will also have a pole in your way. From the back of the lower tier, the roof of the upper tier will obstruct your view. Basically, if your ticket is marked "severely restricted" they`re not being cute. If you see more than 50% of the pitch consider it a minor miracle. Since my last visit in 2004, I`m told a video screen has been appended to the School End, further obfuscating views from the upper tier corners. What`s incredible is that even the severely restricted view seats are more expensive for Arsenal fans compared to untroubled views at Ewood Park, the DW Stadium, the Britannia and the Reebok. My first visit to Loftus Road was to see us win 6-0 in the F.A. Cup in 2001. I didn`t see any of the goals. But if you yearn for a genuine 1970s experience, Loftus Road is probably your best bet.
Facilities? For anyone taller than Andrey Arshavin, expect to get earwax on your ankles should you attempt to sit down. The seats are incredibly cramped. Be sure to arrive at the away turnstile at least half an hour before kickoff, as access and egress to the stadium is very limited and extremely compact. The concourses are narrow too so it may take time to get to your seat. If there is a fire or any emergency evacuation is required, bend over, put your head between your knees and kiss your arse goodbye.
For those of you in the lower tier, bring a hat. The previous two occasions I have sat in the lower, the toilets in the upper tier have leaked. Again, I`m not joking. If you want half time refreshment, don`t bother. I`ve never tasted any of the food or beer there because I haven`t ever thought it worth my while spending half a day queuing and negotiating the possibility of being crushed to death and pissed on. How Loftus Road has a health and safety certificate is a mystery on a par with the signing of Park Ju Young. Nevertheless, Queens Park Rangers will be charging Arsenal fans more than any other Premier League club has this season. Mark Hughes and Joey Barton aren`t the only reasons to want them relegated.
What are the home fans like? Generally, there`s very little beef between Hoops fans and Gooners, so my experiences have never been fraught. If you`re sat near the home support, expect some banter, but without the fear of having to run for your life when you leave the ground. It`s a small enclosed ground, so Rangers fans can make a racket when the mood takes them. But they`re quite a genteel and good natured lot. Perhaps not as cuddly and affable as Fulham fans, but not quite as snarly and spitty as Chelsea and Spurs. Wearing colours should be fine, but probably not an idea to stand outside the Springbok pub, showing your bare arse to the punters whilst singing, "Who the f*****g hell are you?"
How to get there? The nearest tube station, strictly speaking, is White City on the Central Line. However, that can be a little busy, Wood Lane station on the District & Circle is only another 3-4 minutes down the road and much less busy. If you`re looking for a pint before kickoff, Shepherd`s Bush Market is probably your best bet. The ground is about ten minutes away from there.
Any historical landmarks in the vicinity? BBC Television centre is situated in Wood Lane, not far away from the ground. Other than that, the Westfield shopping centre is a short saunter away if you fancy a browse. Shepherd`s Bush Empire is also nearby, one of London`s most famous concert venues.
Where to drink? The only public house in the immediate vicinity of Loftus Road is the Springbok pub on South Africa Road. The policy here rotates as to its tolerance to away supporters, but you`re likely to be met with short shrift if you try to bowl in the doors in red and white. The police approved away pub is the Walkabout in Shepherd`s Bush market. The proprietors of said premises have e mailed Arsenal supporters` clubs promising swift service friendly to away support and screens showing ESPN and Sky.
The O`Neil`s in Shepherd`s Bush market is another away fan friendly pub; the Central Bar is a Wetherspoons inside the vue retail complex directly adjacent to Shepherd`s Bush station. However, if you fancy a quiet beer away from the numbers and off the beaten track, the Goldhawk near Goldhawk Road is a little further on your legs, but a nice pub with sofas and good ales.
So there you have it, if you`re going on Saturday, bring your voices with you! LD.
Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA
Date:Tuesday March 27 2012
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