Sunday, 18 September 2011

Behind the scenes of Arsenal's Blackburn trip and meeting the Gunners' chef

New on Away Days is Lucy Grattan's first hand account of Arsenal's second awful experience in the north west, this time at the hands of Blackburn Rovers. Lucy was there to take in all seven goals and recounts her experience of the trip of yesterday's Premier League game.

So we faced another away trip after a long but fun road trip to Germany (via France, Belgium & Holland). When my alarm went off at 04:45 I struggled to remember what day it was. Quickly reminded myself that it was time to go on the road with the Gunners once more.

I travel with the Arsenal Supporters Club and we get picked up from Toddington Services on M1 - I am very lucky as have only been regularly going to away games for around 10 months and with a great load of people.

We usually stop en route and today was no different.  At Stafford Services we met the official travel club "Kingsferry" coaches and the services were a sea of red and white..with some blue.  It's always funny to see the non-fan's faces as they're quiet coffee is over run by Gooners.

Continuing on in torrential rain and sun we got to Ewood Park around two hours before kick off.  The local "away" pub was charging £2 to get in and the queue was a joke. We decided at that point to enjoy our pre-match in the ground.

It's pretty small the away end (but over two blocks that don't meet in the middle weirdly) but nonetheless good selection of food/drink at usual football ground prices, with Sky Sports on a couple of screens...if we needed reminding how early it was, Soccer Am was STILL on.

The staff/officials and even the police were nice (considering that some I've come across this year haven't names but Old Trafford might be a clue) Lots of shared banter - Dortmund stories and even more banter about betting on our new German to score first!

It's great to travel with the same faces but also to recognise other fans from other away trips...Danny who I sat next to in Dortmund's last words to me on Tuesday evening were "see you Saturday"...more out of politeness than anything I think ... lo and behold on Saturday lunchtime there he was, standing next to me at the away end at Ewood Park.

I'm going to gloss over the frustrating.. We sang our hearts out - my favourite being "your ground's too big for you" and the fairly standard "you only came to see the Arsenal".

There were huge gaps in their ground. Maybe the chicken's not that good after all?  And only we could go to a ground where the fans are protesting about their manager.  I got the impression that our fans were a little nervous...Having missed our goal in Dortmund as was in the Ladies seeing seven today was quite incredible and we traipsed out very despondent on the wrong end again of an away result - only Arsenal could score five and lose 4-3.

On the way back to our coach, we walked passed the team bus; one of the kids in our group, from our coach, didn't believe me when I said there was a kitchen on board. So I walked him and a mate, over to the bus and asked Rob the chef (who was sitting at the front all in his apron and gloved up) if he could satisfy their curiosity. He did and we got a "tour" - most exciting thing to happen all day!

Their food selection was amazing - lasagna, chicken wraps, salad, cheesecake, fruit salad and his famous banoffee pie. Although I was advised that it was unlikely many of the players would eat due to the result!  I was tempted to hide under a table though for that spread.  M Wenger and Mr Rice's food was already to go in their places at the front of the coach...

The mood on the coach home was as to be expected - usually there are some of my fellow passengers who have shall we say, a "heated" discussion about who did what well or not so well etc. Today interestingly not a word. Most were asleep by the time we got onto the M6!

The journey home was uneventful and quite quick for a Saturday afternoon.  We got back to Toddington at just after 6pm..I walked into my flat at around 7.30pm. The first thing I did was put the TV on and was "lucky" enough to catch Cesc's amazing assist for a Barca's fifth and it was just half time.

Oh well life as a Gooner goes on and I will be one through thick and thin until I meet my maker!

Up the Arsenal!
PS Barca won 8-0!  The joy of it..... is looking for a fan heading to Tottenham on October 2 and also someone heading to Marseille on October 19 to write about their away day experience. If you'd like to get involved, contact us via Twitter or Email.

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