A Vital Guide To....Etihad
Where next? Etihad Arena, Manchester City.
Where are we seated? Behind the goal in the South Stand, where 3,000 of us red and white clad will gather. The visiting supporters will be split between the upper and lower tiers. Tickets are £51 each. Thanks FFP!
What`s It Like? The stadium is less than ten years old, so you can imagine it`s decent. City appear to have overcome the fact that it wasn`t designed specifically for them, at least on the inside. A literati of banners envelope the upper tiers to lend it that imposing feeling. Some are quite good, ("This is our City" for one), others vomit inducing. ("Manchester Fans Thank Sheikh Monsour" directly opposite the Director`s Box is one of the most pathetic things I have ever seen in a football ground. Worse than the North Bank façade).
But the stadium has a pleasing elliptical shape that makes sight lines good from all areas of the ground, particularly the upper tiers. However, the outside of the stadium and the concourses do rather give away that this was not purpose built for Manchester City. It does look a bit like a car park from outside and the staircases- in the away section anyway- are bare grey concrete.
What are the facilities like? Adequate. Concourses are roomy enough, plenty of leg room with a steep enclave of seats, which makes sight lines good even if you`ve got Peter Crouch sitting in front of you. Food and beer was certainly cheap enough last year (particularly if you reside in Laaaaandan and are used to being routinely ripped off for everything). But with FFP in effect and City looking to meet requirements, driving revenue from supporters is pretty much your best way of doing it. Hence the rise in ticket prices, I wouldn`t be surprised if food and drink had gone up too.
Nowadays, the police separate home and away fans on their way out of the stadium as they make their way towards the adjoined car park. This can sometimes lead to the odd unpleasant exchange. Everyone gets braver when there`s a fence in the way. But on the whole, City`s is a stadium boasting all mod cons.
What are the home fans like? The atmosphere isn`t quite what it was at Maine Road, probably due more to a wider malaise in modern football than anything specific to City fans. For evening games, they dim the lights for a tingling rendition of Blue Moon as the teams emerge from the tunnel. It`s one of the few 'interactive` attempts at getting an atmosphere generated inside a stadium that I have ever actually seen work.
Clearly we liked City fans much better when Arsenal used to roll up, spank them 5-0, both sets of fans sing about how much we hate Man United together and then went home again. But match going City fans are still a good bunch generally. There`s a buzz on the forums that City fans have lost their legendary humour with money and success. In truth; that impression is probably inflated by our own resentment.
How to get there? On this occasion, me and mine shall drive. A return train journey to Manchester Piccadilly on a Sunday will set you back north of £70. If you are to get the train, the ground is around a 20-25 minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly, or else you can grab a local train from Piccadilly to Ashbury`s, which is closer by. If you want to get a club coach, you will have the luxury of being parked yards away from the away turnstile in the club car park.
Any historical landmarks? There is a memorial garden next to the ground, which includes a touching remembrance of Marc Vivien Foe. But the ground really is in the arse end of nowhere, so not really. It`s still situated more pleasantly than Maine Road was though. Police used to have to escort away support from their turnstile after matches at the old ground due to its proximity to the ugly end of Moss Side.
Where to drink? There`s precious little in the way of pubs close to Eastlands and the ones that do linger in the shadow of the arena are generally home fans only. Your best bet is to drink in the city centre. Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria have an array of pubs with nearby public transport networks to bus you to the ground. Apparently the Townley pub on Albert Street is doable if you aren`t visibly in away colours. But if, like me, you have a notable London accent, best to don shades and a parka and give it your best "ah reet r kid?" accent when ordering beer in there. LD.