In this series, I want to explore stadiums from around the world and their connection with the Arsenal. Looking into the homes of various teams can reveal a lot about club and their traditions, and many stadiums have brilliant histories to go with them. I’ve been to a few on my travels, including away days with the Arsenal, so I’ll add in my own pictures where I can.
First up is good ol’ Wembley.
The Gunners have a special link to Wembley which I’ll explain later, but the national stadium is mostly known as the venue for cup finals and international games. Thought the Old Wembley stood from 1922 to 2000 and played host to many a important matches; while the newly constructed Wembley which opened its doors in 2007 has had its fair share of events as well.
Well known as the home to the England national side, it hosted the 2011 Champions League final and regularly hosts the FA Cup Final and Semi Finals, The Football League Cup Final, The FA Community Shield and The Football League Play Off Finals; plus other sporting events and music concerts.
Whats makes its turf so hallowed for the Gunners?
In total, Arsenal have played 2 FA cup semi-finals in the stadium and contested 13 FA cup finals at Wembley, winning seven and losing six. The club has also featured in 6 league cup finals in the stadium, losing 4 and winning 2 (1987 and 1993, the year I was born. What a good year!) As well as this, various Charity Shield matches have been played at Wembley, which the Arsenal have won 11 of and shared once. An impressive haul overall.
Suprisingly, not all Gooners know that the old Wembley was proposed as a new home for the Arsenal when we outgrew Highbury. In March 1998, Arsenal made a bid for the 82,000 capacity all-seater which was considered the best choice, after Highbury was deemed too small. Having played two seasons of Champions League football at the ground (1998–99 and 1999–2000) before it made sense; but the bid was later withdrawn after plans to build the Emirates Stadium were made.
Nevertheless, The 39 steps in the old stadium which made up the trophy presentation route have been climbed many time by the Arsenal. The 107 steps in the new Wembley stadium have had less wear and tear from Arsenal boots, but are surely awaiting our entrance sometime soon. I can just picture them polishing the steps for us and rolling out the red carpet as I write!
The most recent example of a visit to Wembley was a year and 1 day ago today. Our Carling cup final defeat to Birmingham is hard to forget, and the spectacular combustion of our season thereafter. Not counting RVP’s leg breaker of a goal (that actually kept the injury prone captain out for the rest of the season), the game will probably be best remembered for the time when Woj and Koscielny decided to do a little tango in the penalty box, leading to Brum’s winning goal. More dance lessons needed boys; and not on the pitch.
The redeveloped Wembley stadium with its glass bowl exterior and three tiered seating system is a thing of beauty in my eyes, though the plastic red seating in the stadium had to be replaced shortly after its opening, as they turned pink in the sun. A pink Wembley? sounds alright to me.
The retractable roof is another excellent feature of the stadium; though if you’re looking into the sky during a game (as you might be, if you’re watching Stoke playing hoof-ball), you might notice the most striking arch, towering some 133 metres above it. It comprises of white tubular steel, and with a span of 315 metres, is the longest single span roof structure in the world and is visible right across London.
As you can see from my photo, it looks particularly spectacular at night when it is lit up. It does though have a practical use in being a load bearing support frame for the roofs of the stands, but most people have likened it to some sort of theme park ride which you half expect to come into action at half-time. Another great use I can think of would be to send all the red-carded players up to the top of the arch in a glass bubble, until full-time. Or maybe longer, if it’s a Spurs player. That’ll teach ‘em…
So there you have it. A rich history involving the Arsenal, with hopefully more history to be made in the new future. I’ll leave you with an Arsenal sing-song; it’s and oldie but a goodie.
“She wore, She wore, She wore a yellow ribbon,
She wore a yellow ribbon in the merry month of May,
And when, I asked, Oh why she wore that ribbon,
She said its for the Arsenal and we’re going to Wembley, Wembley, Wembley,
We’re the famous Arsenal and we’re going Wembley!”