Friday, August 11, 2017

How to Go to an Arsenal Game -- 2017-18 Edition


This afternoon -- our time; evening, their time -- the 2017-18 Premier League season opens. The season opener features Arsenal Football Club, current holders of the FA Cup (and, as of yesterday, the Community Shield, having beaten Premier League title holders Chelsea in both), hosting Leicester City Football Club, winners of the 2016 Premier League title, a day before everyone else plays.

I root for the Arsenal soccer team. Sorry, forgot to "speak English" there: I support The Arsenal Football Club. They are the only team I support for whom I have not yet done a trip guide -- and that includes my alma mater, East Brunswick High School. So this is how you go to one of their games, in a season that runs through May.

Before You Go. The first thing you should do is choose your game. The season opener (this year, on August 11), the season finale (May 13), the last game before Remembrance Day (November 11, what we call Veterans Day, and this year has a quirk of Arsenal's last home game before then being October 28), Boxing Day (the day after Christmas, December 26), New Year's Day (January 1), Easter weekend (March 31 and April 1 in 2018), and the games against rivals -- such as fellow London clubs Tottenham Hotspur (November 18), Chelsea (January 1) and West Ham United (April 21), and historical rivals Manchester United (October 14) and Liverpool (December 23) -- will be very difficult to get, and you should probably avoid them.

Easier to get may be games in the FA Cup (which doesn't start until January), the League Cup (which is usually over by then) and European tournaments, but these may also be more expensive.

Once you know when you're going, then sort your lodging. Just as hotels in New York's suburbs (New Jersey, Long Island, Westchester) are cheaper than in the City, hotels will get cheaper the further you get from central London. Indeed, you can probably get it considerably cheaper close to the stadium -- not exactly an option in the South Bronx, and only slightly more of one in Flushing.


You need a passport. You don't have a passport? Get one. You do have one? Make sure it's valid and up to date. This is not something you want to mess with. Customs officials do not fuck around: They care about their national security, too.


Make sure you call your bank and tell them you're going. After all, Britain may be an English-speaking country, and a democracy (if a parliamentary one), but it is still a foreign country. If your bank gets a record of your ATM card making a withdrawal from any country other than the U.S., it may freeze the card, and any other accounts you may have with them. So be sure to let them know that you will, in fact, be in Britain for a little while.

Do yourself another big favor: Change your money before you go. There are plenty of currency exchanges in New York City, including one on 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenue.

Leave yourself $50 in U.S. cash. At last check, on the morning of August 11, 2017, $1.00 = 77 pence – or, £1.00 = $1.30. That's down from $1.49 after the recent "Brexit" vote, but up from the bottoming-out of $1.22, at which point fully 1 out of every 5 pounds sterling had been flushed down the loo by a bunch of xenophobic morons. Nevertheless, London is every bit as expensive as New York, and the exchange rate still favors them.

Under the old system, a pound (or "quid") was divided into 240 pence (from which we get the word "penny"). It was also divided into 20 shillings (a.k.a. "bob"), each of which was further divided into 12 pence. Since the 1971 "decimalisation," 1 pound = 100 pence.

Coins, all of which have Queen Elizabeth's right profile on them, come in denominations of 1 penny, 2 pence (tuppence), 5 pence, 10 pence, 20 pence, 50 pence, 1 pound and 2 pounds. Bills (a.k.a. notes) come in denominations of 5, 10, 20 and 50 pounds. The £5 shows Winston Churchill, the £10 Charles Darwin, the £20 Adam Smith, and the £50 steam engine pioneers Matthew Boulton and James Watt.

We don't think of London as a city with nasty winter weather. Rain and fog, yes; snow and bitter cold, no. But it is at 51 1/2 degrees north latitude. For the sake of comparison, that is further north than every city in North American major league sports except Edmonton, while New York is at 40 1/2 degrees north.

The Summer (which we are now in) and early Autumn can be rather warm. But by October, it can get cold, and stay cold well into the start of Spring in March. This is why the main team-themed accessory for the English "football" fan is not the logoed cap, as in our sports, but the scarf. Scarves can seem ridiculous in MLS, with its Summer-based season; but in Europe, with its Winter-based season, they make a lot more sense.

Also, be aware that the British Isles get a lot more rain than America does. Scotland and Ireland are particularly known for being rainy. But, with environmental controls in place, London's infamous fog, remembered from countless movies based on Jack the Ripper, the Sherlock Holmes stories, and the novels of Charles Dickens, is considerably rarer.

London is on Greenwich Mean Time, which is 5 hours ahead of New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly. In other words, the traditional Saturday afternoon kickoff of 3:00 PM London time is at 10:00 AM New York time.

Tickets. The Emirates Stadium seats 60,432 people. That's more than any current Major League Baseball stadium. Don't let that fool you: Getting tickets is not easy. This is partly because Arsenal are always a good team (though some people consider what they've done the last few years to be "failure"), but also part of the shameful legacy of English "football hooligans."

They have ways of keeping out "the bad lads." These ways have worked: Hooliganism is way down from its 1985 peak, and, in the Premier League in the 21st Century, is almost an afterthought. But these ways are still in place, and you need to know how to work with them.

According to the website Gooner News:

By far the best thing to do before you go any further is to join Arsenal as a Red Member. If you go to Arsenal.com you’ll see a section called “Tickets and Membership” – click on that and you can go to the membership section.
There you will see invites to join either as a Red Member or as a Junior Gunner (depending on your age). Once you are a Red Member, you’ll be eligible to buy tickets for all Arsenal games. Now that doesn’t mean that you can get a ticket to any match you want – but for every match, some tickets are available for Red Members. What you do is take a look at the Tickets page on Arsenal.com and that will tell you when you can buy and how much it will cost.
And it is always true that some games have tickets on sale virtually until the day of the game. Of course some games do sell out almost at once – so don’t pin your hopes on getting a ticket of your choice for a game against one of the bigger clubs. But if you just want to go to the Arsenal from time to time, this is the way to do it.
Virtually every match sells out – but that fact shouldn't put you off, because Arsenal run a very effective ticket exchange system. As you probably know, about 40,000 of the 60,000 seats at the Emirates are sold to season ticket holders. But many of those season ticket holders can’t get to every game – and when they can’t go to a game, they can sell their ticket for that match back to Arsenal through the ticket exchange.
The next big question is, how much does it cost? Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to this. Arsenal have three different price levels for games, depending on how popular they are. Arsenal v Tottenham, and games like that, are the most expensive. Arsenal v Southampton – the game I couldn’t go to – was classed as being in the lowest price level for games, and my upper tier ticket went for about £38 – even though Southampton were challenging for top spot in the league at the time. 
But there’s not only a variation in prices – there are variations according to where in the ground you want to sit. And there are special discounts for Junior Gunners and for the Family Enclosures. Indeed if there is an adult taking an under 16 member to seats in the family enclosure, the price can come down to around £10 or £15 for a ticket.
There’s yet another variation. Arsenal always sell the tickets for the home games in the League Cup at £10 for upper tier and £5 for lower tier. Indeed, when Arsenal reached the semi-final and played against Ipswich a couple of years back (2011), even that semi-final game was at the £10 and £5 level.
These tickets are offered first to season ticket holders (as league cup matches are not included in season tickets) but most of them tend to choose not to take up their option. So it is common for around 30,000 tickets to be available to anyone interested. Certainly many of the people I met at the Arsenal v Chelsea league cup game this year were again first time visitors.
"Can I get a ticket without all this membership stuff?" Touts (what the British call ticket scalpers) operate around the ground, and do sell tickets. But remember, touting is a criminal offence, and the ticket you buy might be a fake. So you could end up wasting your money, and being hauled off to a police station for the duration of the game. lus remember that the price via a tout is going to be much inflated for most games. 
Arsenal do sell some special packages for matches which involve hotel accommodation and meals – so if you are coming to London for a special event, you can have a look at those, but mostly the process is as I described above.
If a game doesn't sell out to Red Members, it does then get offered to the general public – but there is no telling if this will happen or not, so you could be waiting quite a while to get a game.
I’d encourage everyone to become a Red Member. You get some nice stuff each year as part of the membership, and you are then part of the club. And as time goes by, you can also rise up to be a Silver Member, which gives you an earlier choice of match tickets (although a set percentage are always held back.
As is always the case with these trip guides, it's best to have your game ticket(s) sorted and either in your hand via mail or computer printer, or waiting at the will call window, before you leave home.

If worse comes to absolute worst, there may be another way: At some of the chain hotels, concierges (yes, I know, that's an I before E, after C) have ticket connections. Though you may have to pay the ticket markup and tip the concierge. How desperate are you?

Here's the prices from the club website:

Category A games (the hardest to get): Upper Midfield £97, Corner £85.50, Behind Goal £92; Centre Lower £71.50, Corner Lower £65.50, Goal Lower £65.50. Yes, the lower level is cheaper than the upper level, because, as with American football, unless you're in the first few rows, the view isn't as good down low as it is up high.

Category B games: Upper Midfield £56.50, Corner £50.50, Behind Goal £53.50; Centre Lower £40.50, Corner Lower £37.50, Goal Lower £37.50.

Category C games: Upper Midfield £39.50, Corner £35.50, Behind Goal £37.50; Centre Lower £29, Corner Lower £27, Goal Lower £27.

Getting There. It's 3,470 miles from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to Heathrow Airport in London. Right, you weren't thinking of taking a cruise ship, were you? And the idea of a road bridge across the Atlantic Ocean is going to continue to be ridiculous for the next century. Even if it wasn't, you're talking 2 days' drive. And there aren't a lot of hotels in Greenland (which would be, roughly, the halfway point). So, no car, no bus, no train.

Don't fool around with, as they used to say on Match Game, El Cheapo Airlines. You get what you pay for. And, unfortunately, while Emirates Airways, sponsor of both the team's shirt and its stadium, flies out of New York, and it flies into London, it does not do so directly. So, forget them.

But if you go to a reputable airline, like British Airways or United, you could get a round-trip flight for under $600. However, between $1,000 and $1,300 is much more likely, unless you want higher-class service.

I've heard that the cheapest day to fly in either direction is Monday -- which might be a problem if the only game you can get is a Sunday or a Monday game. If you get a nighttime flight out of Newark or JFK Airport, with the flying time and the time difference, you'll arrive in the morning, and will essentially have had your 1st night's hotel bill settled. Either way (pardon the pun), get to the airport at least 2 hours before your scheduled takeoff, because you never know.

A taxi can get you from Heathrow in Hillingdon, West London, to Central London, 17 miles, in 45 minutes with a decent traffic flow. But it will cost you about £70, and, hearing this, you will use your first expression from British English: "Bloody hell!" Better to take the subway, known as the London Underground or the "Tube," for £6.00, taking a full hour.

Once In the Country. The full name of the country is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It can be shortened to the initials "UK," or "Great Britain," or just "Britain" without offending anybody.

As Jason Sudeikis asked in his "Ted Lasso" commercials for NBC's Premier League coverage, "How many countries are in this country?" There are 4: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. When the Republic of Ireland won its independence in 1921, the Emerald Isle was partitioned, and 6 Counties chose to remain loyal to the Crown, as "Northern Ireland."

The UK is sometimes, like our own country, called "The Union." And that familiar flag is "The Union Flag," with "The Union Jack" being the nickname. The flag consists of the flag of England, the Cross of St. George, a red cross on a blue field; the flag of Scotland, the Cross of St. Andrew, a white X on a blue field; and a former flag of Ireland, to represent Northern Ireland, the Cross of St. Patrick, a red X on a white field.
Wales does have its own separate flag, a red dragon on top of a flag that's white on top and green on bottom. This is not to be confused with the Cross of St. David, yellow on a black field. (In Welsh, "David" becomes "Taffydd," hence Welshmen are called "Taffys" or "Taffies.")
Northern Ireland also has a separate flag, a St. George Cross with a 6-pointed white star containing a red hand raised in a "stop" gesture, topped by a golden crown.
You are unlikely to see the flag of the Republic of Ireland other than outside an Irish-style pub (thus making it familiar to you as a New Yorker), but it's a tricolor, 3 vertical stripes of, left to right, green, white and orange.
Common nicknames: England, Blighty or Ingerland; Wales, Cymru (their name for themselves in their own language); Scotland, Alba (ditto) or Caledonia; Northern Ireland, Ulster. Just as the people of the Republic of Ireland have the Gaelic motto "Erin go bragh," meaning "Ireland forever," the Scots say, "Alba gu bragh" -- and while their native language is also spelled "Gaelic," they pronounce it GAL-ick, instead of the Irish GAY-lick. (There may be good modern reason for that.)

Never, ever confuse "England" with "Britain." Especially, don't call a Welshman or a Scotsman "English." It would be like an Englishman calling someone from Alabama a "Yank."

Also, don't call them "sheep-shaggers." (This is a common slur for the English on the Welsh, but it is also sometimes used for the Scots, and even Northerners.) You could probably get away with calling the Scots "Jocks" or "Sweaties" (from "rhyming slang": Jock, sweatsock, sweaty), but absolutely do not use the term "pikey," which is usually used to describe transients, but is considered an ethnic slur by the Irish and the Roma (the preferred term of the people usually known as Gypsies).

Most Americans think there are only 2 British accents: The posh, upper-crust version, and the Cockney. Even other Englishmen are guilty of this, considering anyone from the South, or at least anyone from inside the M25 (London's "beltway"), to be a "Cockney." In fact, a true Cockney is someone "born within the sound of Bow Bells." That's the bells of St-Mary-le-Bow Church in London's East End. Considering all the redevelopment in East London since the Luftwaffe pounded it in The War, a "true Cockney" may now have to be born across the street.

Anyway, English accents are very varied. As George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion and its musical variant, My Fair Lady, point out, accents can be varied within London itself. The West Country accent is believed to have inspired "pirate talk." There is a distinctive Midlands dialect, centered around Birmingham -- and that's pronounced "BURR-ming-um," not "BIRM-ing-ham" like our Alabama, though also originally a steel city.

There's the Scouse dialect of the Merseyside area, centered on Liverpool; the Manc (MANK, not MANSS) dialect, centered on Manchester; the Yorkshire dialect; and the dreaded Geordie, of the North-East, centered on Newcastle. Someone once said, "This is where England begins to think about turning into Scotland," and Geordie (also the nickname for the people) sometimes needs subtitles.

A word of warning: A few years ago, a New York Times Magazine article was written, by a woman whose name I've forgotten, titled "The Worst Word In the English Language." She managed to tell how horrible she thinks the word is, without actually printing it. Well, guess what: It's not the anti-black slur we now call "The N-word." It's a word the English have no problem at all with using. In polite company, it's "The C-word." In the pubs and on the stadium terraces, it's "cunt." Sometimes, rhyming slang turns it into "berk," short for "Berkeley hunt." A variant of that part of the female anatomy, "twat," is also popular. They use these words the way we would use words for the corresponding part of the male anatomy: "He's a putz!" and "What a schmuck!" and "Don't be a dick!"

The English use "shit" the way we use "horseshit," meaning "of very low quality." They use "bollocks" -- meaning testicles -- the way we use "bullshit," meaning a lie, a falsehood. But they also say something is good by saying, "It's the bollocks," like we would say, "It's the shit." Be aware, though: "Bollocks" = bad, "the bollocks" = good. Sometimes, something good is "the dog's bollocks," because it stands out.

The word "bastard" -- "BAH-stahd" -- is also common. Legend has it that, during World War I battles between the British and Ottoman Empires, the Muslims would shout, "Allah!" while the Brits, Canadians, Australians, et al. would shout, "Come on, you bastards!" and Ottoman prisoners would then ask if "Bastard" was their name for God, as Allah is in Arabic. Which leads me to another warning: If someone says, "Come on, then!" he is challenging you to a fight. Do not accept: He has what we would call the home-field advantage.

Language will be an issue. Words we would end with -or are ended with -our: Colour, honour, flavour. Words we would end with -er tend to end with -re: Centre, metre. Words we would end with -se are ended with -ce: Defence, licence. The last letter of the alphabet, Z, which we pronounce "Zee," they pronounce "Zed." Hence, the song for Bobby Zamora, a footballer with bad aim: "When the ball hits your head and you sit in Row Z (Zed), that's Zamora!"

Nobody calls each other "old chap" or "old bean" anymore, but "lad" and "the lads" are common. You're not on the street, you're in the street. And if you get hurt, you're not in the hospital, in the emergency room: You're in hospital, in casualty. In which case, you're in the shit. And if you're arrested, you're pinched or nicked, and a jail cell is the nick.

A short-distance bus is a bus, but a long-distance bus is a coach. A truck is a lorry. A highway is a motorway. An elevator is a lift. Garbage is rubbish, a trash can or wastebasket is a bin. And while we use "bum" to mean "a homeless person" or "a no-good person," they use it to mean "rear end." And while we're on the subject, they don't say, "ass," they say, "arse."

In the 1950s, TV producer Kermit Schaefer, who collected "bloopers" in books, was visiting London. Watching a World War II movie in his hotel room, he heard a woman send her man off to war by saying, "Keep your pecker up." He thought he'd found the blooper of all time. Boy, was he disappointed when he was told that, in England, "pecker" means "courage." Another word for courage is "bottle." If you're brave, "You've got bottle." If you're doing something brave, "That takes bottle." If you run, "You've bottled it" or "You've done a runner." But if you chase someone off, "They bottled it" or "They legged it" or "We ran them."

Don't even get me started on rhyming slang, which Cockneys invented to fool the cops. The classic examples are stairs becoming "apples and pears," and money becoming "bees and honey." Usually, rhyming slang gets even shorter: "Bees."

"Taking the piss out of (someone)," "taking the piss" or a "pisstake," what we would call "rubbing it in," became "taking the Mickey Bliss," "taking the Mickey," "taking the Mick" or "taking the Michael." (No one's ever used that one on me, though, despite my many visits to U.S. bars to watch English soccer games on TV.)

What we would call a private school, they call a public school. What we would call a public school, they call a comprehensive school. And if you flunk out of school, you could be a chav. We don't really have a single name for chavs here, but think early Eminem, or just go to any suburban mall on a Friday night, and you'll understand. A geezer isn't an old man, he's just a regular, but tough, bloke. And a boozer is where the bloke goes to drink, not the bloke himself.

A traditional English breakfast, a.k.a. "The Full English," is back bacon, fried eggs, fried tomatoes, fried mushrooms, toast with butter, sausages, and baked beans. This is not recommended for breakfast every day, or else you'll soon be taking advantage of the cardiology unit of the National Health Service (NHS).

They have accepted hamburgers and pizza, but their version of the burger joint and the pizzeria, long predating them, is the chip shop, which sells fish and chips. Not "French fries," chips, which are essentially fries, but cut thicker, and better. Like burgers and pizza, it is not healthy. In fact, along with candy bars, it was one of the foods that the health-conscious Arsène Wenger banned from the menu at all club facilities when he became Arsenal manager in 1996.
In the immortal words of Frankie Valli,
"Grease is the word."

What we would call chips (potato, corn, nacho, or whatever), they call crisps. What we call cookies, they call biscuits. What we call biscuits, they call scones -- and they don't necessarily have fruit in them, like what we call scones.
When they say, "pie," they're not talking about a holiday dessert or a pizza (which, thank God, they still call "pizza," which is Italian for "pie"), they mean a much smaller item, about the size of a cupcake, usually filled with meat. Sausages and mashed potatoes are bangers and mash. And a "pudding" is closer to a cupcake than our puddings, be they chocolate, rice, tapioca, etc. This includes the famous Christmas song item, figgy pudding.
Display at Dub Pies, which serves them
Australian & New Zealand style in Brooklyn

A stadium is a stadium, but it is also a ground. A field is a pitch. A locker room or clubhouse is a dressing room. A goaltender is a goalkeeper, and rarely called a "goalie." A game is a match. Practice is training. As Allen Iverson would have said if he were English, "Not a match, not a match, not a match. We speak of training." And, for reasons I have never understood, they really, really hate it when you call their football "soccer." Even though they invented the name, and it was frequently used in their newsreels up until that form of entertainment was phased out in the 1970s.

Along the same subject: A TV set is a telly, a television season is a series, and a series or program is a "programme." A game program -- as in, "Program! Scorecard! Yankee Yearbook!" -- would also be spelled this way.

Also, the Metric system is used. When they say "pounds," they mean money, not weight: That becomes grams or kilograms. All volume is in liters, all distance in meters, all temperatures in Celsius. So if someone says it's 16 degrees, that's about 60 Fahrenheit.

Geographically and culturally, England is the reverse of America: Their South is the more urban and cultured region, while their North is the more rural, parochial, weird-food and "football"-crazy region. Although the political/geographical divide is the same: With a few exceptions, their North is more liberal, their South more conservative. This is largely due to the fact that, unlike America, they still have strong labor unions, particularly in Northern cities like Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.

Which brings me to an important point. You know the old saying, "Leave politics out of it"? Right, no one ever says that when they agree with you. Well, don't discuss politics while you're over there, unless someone asks you for your opinion. Even then, unless you're sure that most of the people in the room will think the way you do, the best thing to do is to say, "It's your country. I'm just a visitor. I'm here for the game. I don't have enough of the facts." Which is the truth.

Theresa May, leader of the Conservative Party (or "Tories"), is the UK's 2nd female Prime Minister, after Margaret Thatcher (1979-90). She became Tory leader, with Jeremy Corbin as leader of the opposition Labour Party, after David Cameron (who'd been in office since 2010) had to resign in the fuss over the vote last year to leave the European Union -- "Britain's Exit" or "Brexit." He, Gordon Brown (Labour, 2007-10), Tony Blair (Labour, 1997-2007) and John Major (Conservative, 1990-97) are the living former Prime Ministers.

Parliament holds the power. Prime Minister May is head of government and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. As she has been since the death of her father, King George VI, in 1952, Queen Elizabeth II, now 91 but very much still physically active and mentally with it, is head of state, but has very little power.
Though when meeting the Queen,
the commander-in-chief must still bend the knee.

Once In the City. North American cities go back 100, 200, 300, maybe 400 years, although few of them have much of anything older than 200 years. London is old. Archaeologists have found evidence of settlements 6,500 years old (that's about 4500 BC, or roughly the dawn of recorded human history), and the Romans were there over 2,000 years ago: Julius Caesar invaded in 55 BC, about half a century before the birth of Christ (which probably happened between 7 and 2 BC, the discrepancy being that a medieval monk misinterpreted the chronology available to him).

There are surviving buildings many centuries old, although most buildings date from 1666 or later, after the Great Fire. Which is not to say that there aren't modern buildings: Like New York, London is perpetually under construction.
London's very modern skyline,
with The Shard, on the south bank of the Thames,
across from the financial district, The City, on the north bank

It isn't clear as to where the name "London" comes from. The Romans called it "Londinium." (So did the 1966-68 Batman series. They also renamed Scotland Yard "Ireland Yard.") Efforts to trace the city's name back to an early landowner's name have failed thus far, and another source saying that it comes from an ancient Celtic language meaning "river too wide to ford," while an accurate description at the time, has also been discounted.

Before you leave Heathrow, get an Oyster Card. This has nothing to do with seafood: Transport for London issues them for use on trains and buses. In effect, it's a Metrocard. You can load it with as much fare as you think you'll need. A single 1-zone ride is £1.50. (At the moment, about $1.95 -- much cheaper than ours!) And since London's famous "black cabs" are every bit as expensive as New York's yellow ones, and the ancient, twisty streets make riding the red buses, particularly the famous double-deckers, problematic, take the bloomin' Tube, mate.
Like New York City, London is divided into "Boroughs." But there are 32 of them, not 5. And "The City of London" is separate from them. This is the original part of the city, and is called simply "The City," much as Manhattan is by people in New York's Outer Boroughs. (It's also called "The Square Mile.") But the city of London includes The City and all 32 Boroughs, which, together, form the municipal entity named "Greater London."

The Boroughs are as follows:

* North London: Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey, Islington, Waltham Forest.

* East London: Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets.

* South London: Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Greenwich, Kingston upon Thames, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Richmond upon Thames, Southwark, Sutton, Wandsworth.

* West London: Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Kensington and Chelsea, and the capital of the United Kingdom and the entire British Commonwealth, Westminster (SW1).

The population of Greater London is about 8.5 million, roughly the same as New York, while the "Home Counties" -- including also Essex, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire (that's pronounced "BARK-sher"), Surrey, Kent and Sussex -- contain about 17 million, a little smaller than equivalent to New York's Tri-State Area.

Charing Cross is considered the "centerpoint" of the city, but there are no east-west and north-south addresses. The River Thames -- always "the River (Name)" in the British Isles, not "the (Name) River" (this also applies to lakes) -- divides the city into north and south, but this is not absolute when it comes to postcodes.

Central London postcodes are divided into EC (running from 1 to 4) and WC (1 and 2). East London runs from E1 to E20, North London from N1 to N22, Northwest London from NW1 to NW11, Southeast London from SE1 to SE28, Southwest London from SW1 to SW20, and West London from W1 to W14. There are parts of the city that don't conform to these. Twickenham Stadium is one of them: It's about 11 miles southwest of Charing Cross, at TW2.
Street names are also unusual by our standards. "Walk," "Close," "Park," and so on, and a lot more "Lanes" than we have.

While London has local newspapers, most of the papers are national in scope. There are broadsheets like that most British of newspapers, The Times, but the big sellers are the tabloids, running the political spectrum from left (The Guardian, the Daily Mirror, The Independent) to right (The Telegraph, a.k.a. the Torygraph, the Daily Express, the Daily Star, and that most dishonest of newspapers, The Sun). Instead of actually buying any of these, if you want to read any of them, do it online. Since most of the papers once had their offices on Fleet Street, that remains the nickname for the industry, just as "The City" and "Wall Street" are for our respective cities' financial districts.

The police used to be called Bobbies, after their founder, 1830s Prime Minister Robert Peel. But "Scotland Yard" refers only to their headquarters building (and they just built the 3rd one, not to be confused with "Old Scotland Yard" or the now-abandoned "New Scotland Yard"). Calling the entire department "Scotland Yard" would be like calling the entire New York Police Department "One Police Plaza" or "1PP."

Their name is the Metropolitan Police, or "The Met." (Not to be confused with our main art museum, the opera house at Lincoln Center, or the baseball team in Queens.) Another nickname for the London police is "The Old Bill," after a comic strip character during World War I, since many cops then had mustaches that resembled his. Sometimes, they're "The Bill" for short. Soccer fans love to verbally abuse The Old Bill at matches. Do not do this. You wouldn't do it in New York, so don't do it anywhere in Britain.

Do not drive in London. You don't know the streets, renting a car is expensive, and, besides, you don't know how to drive on the left side of the road.

As for lodging, your best bet is to get a hotel away from Central London, in a neighborhood. North and West are going to be more expensive than South and East. If you need to get a little something, a snack for your hotel, supermarket chains include Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda, Marks & Spencer (M&S), Waitrose, Iceland, Lidl, Morrisons, and a name you'll recognize from America, Germany-based Aldi.

However, do not presume that a "chemist" is a "drugstore" like CVS, Rite Aid, Duane Reade or Walgreen's, where you can pick up anything from CDs to cat food, from candy bars to plastic toys that will keep your kid occupied for 3 days before he gets bored with them and moves on. A chemist, like the Boots chain, is only a place to pick up a prescription -- but they also sell booze. For a convenience store like 7-Eleven or Wawa, try McColl's, Costcutter or Londis. A store like this may be called an off-licence or an offie, as they are licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption outside the store.

London is both the governmental capital, like Washington; and the financial and cultural capital, like New York. And, like New York and Washington, it is expensive. There is a Value Added Tax (VAT) of 20 percent. That's their sales tax. ouch.

If you need serious help (non-medical), don't fool around, contact the U.S. Embassy:

* Street address: 24 Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, London W1A 2LQ, UK.

* Phone number: +44 20 7499 9000.

* Web address: london.usembassy.gov.


Going In. When Arsenal realized that the Taylor Report, issuing safety recommendations after the Hillsborough Disaster of 1989, ordering the elimination of standing terraces and the conversion of English soccer stadiums to all-seater, was going to limit the capacity of Arsenal Stadium, a.k.a. Highbury for the neighborhood it was in, to 38,000, and that there was no way to increase this without demolishing any part of the historic, architecturally- magnificent stadium, and that they wouldn't be able to attract world-class talent without a considerably bigger stadium bringing in much more revenue, the decision was made to move.
Highbury in the foreground, the Emirates in the background,
on the day of Highbury's last game, May 7, 2006

Unlike the move of 1913, from Woolwich in Southeast London to Highbury in North London, this move was short, only about 500 yards from midfield circle to midfield circle. The site was a place called Ashburton Grove, but when naming rights were sold, it was to Emirates Airways, of the United Arab Emirates. And so, it became "The Emirates Stadium," or simply "The Emirates," or, even shorter, "The Ems."

It opened on July 22, 2006, with the testimonial of the recently retired Dutch forward Dennis Bergkamp, with a match between The Arsenal and his former team, AFC Ajax of Amsterdam. It has hosted Arsenal's matches ever since, and the occasional international match (the Brazil team have played there 7 times, winning all but 1) and rock concert (including Bruce Springsteen in 2008, Coldplay in 2012, and Green Day in 2013).

The official address is 75 Drayton Park, N5. They kept the N5 code from Highbury, even though most of the surrounding buildings are in N7, as the stadium is technically in Holloway, not Highbury (but still within the Borough of Islington). It's about 4 miles northeast of Central London.

By Tube, it's about 15 minutes from King's Cross/Euston Station, 25 minutes from Piccadilly Circus and the West End; 30 minutes from Charing Cross, The City, or London Bridge Station; 35 minutes from Westminster, and 40 minutes from Paddington. Take any line that gets you to the Piccadilly Line, and take that to either Holloway Road or Arsenal station.

By far the most successful club in London, they are the only one with a Tube station named for them. In 1932, Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman persuaded the authorities to rename the Gillespie Road station "Arsenal." There is still a "GILLESPIE ROAD" mosaic-tile sign in the station, and it's a given that, if a motorman (or whatever they call a subway train driver) is a Tottenham fan, he will still announce the station as "Gillespie Road" rather than "Arsenal," 85 years after the change.

If you get off at Holloway, you'll walk a block up Hornsey Road to the stadium's southwest corner. If you get off at Arsenal, you'll make a right on Gillespie Road, turn left on Drayton Park, and then cross the Ken Friar Bridge to the stadium's north end.

If you ignored my advice and rented a car, don't drive in. Considering what everything else costs, I don't even want to think about what it costs to park a car. As an Arsenal fan blog put it, "Basically don't. It's an absolute clusterfuck trying to find a good parking space and usually a criminal rip-off. Plus you can't drink can you silly?" Also, the English don't do tailgate parties. They go to the pub before and after the games. I'll discuss that in "After the Game."
The field is natural grass, as are all fields in English soccer (they experimented with artificial turf in the 1980s, but tore up the "plastic pitches" in the early 1990s), and is aligned north-to-south.
View from the south end, the Clock End

Its swooping upper deck shows its influence: It was built to look like the Estadio da Luz (Stadium of Light) in Lisbon, Portugal, home of S.L. Benfica, the most storied sports team in that country. As with Highbury, the east stand is the East Stand, the west stand is the West Stand, the north end is the North Bank, and the south end is the Clock End, with a replica of the clock that used to stand over the corresponding stand at Highbury.
The Clock End

If you can make time, take the Stadium Tour. A regular tour is £22. A "Legends Tour" costs £40, but you get to be guided by a past Arsenal star. Currently, there are 3, on a rotating basis: 1971 "Double" hero Charlie George, and Perry Groves and Nigel Winterburn from the 1989 and '91 League titles.
Charlie George, in a display honoring his 1971 heroics,
in the Arsenal Museum, which is included in the Tour

The clock runs continuously during the game, with only halftime stopping it, and lasting about 16 or 17 minutes. So, barring an extraordinary circumstance, the game will last a little under 2 hours. Which brings me to the subject of... 

Food. The days when you scarfed down a pie and brought Bovril-infused broth in a thermos to a football ground are long past. But you're probably not going to join the "prawn sandwich crowd" in the suites (what we would call luxury boxes), either. So what to eat and drink, and where?

The answers to those 2 questions is, "Anything you want" and "not in the stadium." A hot dog, a burger, or a pizza slice will set you back £3.50 -- about $4.55. In other words, about the average for the corresponding item in an American stadium. The same price goes for a pint of beer, which you can't drink in your seat, limiting you to benches in the concourses -- except in UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League games, because the Union of European Football Associations prohibits the sale of beer at all during those matches.

So, again: Go to the pub before the game, and after it.

Team History Displays. Like many English clubs, Arsenal were founded as a "works side" -- what would have been called a "company team" in America. (The Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Pistons all started out as such.) They were workers at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, then in Kent, but now part of Southeast London.

Most of them were from the North of England or Scotland, not from London or environs, and this began the perception of Arsenal as a "foreign team" which continued. In the 1930s, their star team usually had 2 Scots (Alex James and Alex Wilson) and Welshmen (Bob John and Charlie Jones) in the starting lineup.

Their team would be peppered with players from outside England, but inside the British Isles, for decades thereafter. The 1971 "Double side" had Scots Frank McLintock, Bob Wilson and George Graham. The 1979 FA Cup winners were known as "the Irish Connection," with manager Terry Neill leading his fellow Belfast natives Pat Jennings, Pat Rice and Sammy Nelson, and Dubliners Liam Brady, Frank Stapleton and David O'Leary, to cup glory.

Neill also began to bring in black players, making Arsenal one of the earliest English teams to do so, including David Rocastle, Michael Thomas and Paul Davis, who would be a part of the next great Arsenal team, though Neill wouldn't be there to manage it. Arsenal, and the other clubs who gave black players a chance in the 1970s and '80s (most notably, Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion), would face some truly sickening racism. Today, though, no club can survive without players with talent regardless of race, religion or nationality.

When Graham became manager in 1986, he didn't care where a player started, only how he played, and signed Scandinavians like Anders Limpar of Sweden, John Jensen of Denmark and Pal Lydersen of Norway -- the latter 2 leading to his downfall. And then the Frenchman Arsène Wenger arrived in 1996, and he brought in players from all over the world, with varying degrees of success.

But all that was unimaginable when Dial Square Football Club -- named for the section of the Royal Arsenal where the men worked -- first took the field on the Isle of Dogs against Eastern Wanderers on December 11, 1886, and won 6-0. Before they played another game, they changed the name of the club to Royal Arsenal.

When they joined the Football League in 1893, thus becoming fully professional, they had to change their name again, because the law prohibited a professional sports team from having "Royal" in their name. (Reading FC, in Berkshire, is nicknamed "The Royals," but this is not part of their official name, so it's legal.) So they took on the name of their locality, and became Woolwich Arsenal.

But Woolwich was hard to reach with the transport links of the time. (This is no longer the case.) Some teams took longer to get across London than they did to get from their hometowns to London. This also prevented visiting fans from coming, driving down attendance.

So club chairman Henry Norris, noting that the club had long since outgrown its works side status (the players were all professional now), bought land in the Highbury area of the Borough of Islington in North London, built the Arsenal Stadium (a.k.a. Highbury), and moved the team there in 1913.

A year later, with the locality no longer correct, "Woolwich" was dropped, and the club became simply "Arsenal Football Club," or "Arsenal" -- frequently "The Arsenal," Capital T, Capital A, a way of saying it that many cherish to this day. (Today, Arsenal are 1 of only 2 clubs in the entire 92-team Football League not to have a locality as part of its team name. The other is Port Vale in Staffordshire.)

The move to North London infuriated Tottenham Hotspur fans, who claimed that "North London is ours." This was a lie: Indeed, until 1965, when the London Government Act of 1963 was fully implemented, they weren't in London at all, but in the historic County of Middlesex, which no longer exists, as it was split up between the expanded Greater London, Hertfordshire and Berkshire. Much of Hertfordshire, Kent (including Woolwich) and Surrey were also brought into London proper, although those historic Counties still exist.

"Spurs" fans still sing to Arsenal, "Fuck off to Woolwich, North London is ours!" and call the club "Woolwich" or "Woolwich Wanderers." Arsenal fans just call them "The Scum" -- and they call Arsenal "The Scum" as well.

Around the rim of the stadium are notations for Arsenal's various achievements, listed in chronological order from left to right. I'll list them by achievement instead:

* Football League (1893-1992) or Premier League (1992-present) titles, 13: 1931, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1938, 1948, 1953, 1971, 1989, 1991, 1998, 2002 and 2004. The only clubs with more are Manchester United (a.k.a. "Man United," "Man U," just "United," or "ManUre") with 20 and Liverpool with 18.

* FA Cup (Football Association Cup, 1886-present), also 13: 1930, 1936, 1950, 1971, 1979, 1993, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2014, 2015 and 2017. Winning the Cup last season makes them not merely the holders, but the all-time leaders in Cups won. In 1971, 1998 and 2002, Arsenal won both the League and the Cup. This is known as "doing the Double." Very few clubs have done it, and Manchester United is the only other club to do it twice, let alone 3 times.

* Football League Cup, 2: 1987 and 1993. In 1993, Arsenal took both "domestic cups," the 1st time the "Cup Double" had ever been done.

* European trophies, 2: The 1970 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (the tournament now known as the Europa League) and the 1994 European Cup Winners' Cup (a tournament competed for by the winners of the previous season's national cups, the variations of the FA Cup in the other countries, in 1999 its qualifiers were put into what's now the Europa League).

In 1971, Arsenal won the League title by beating arch-rival Tottenham at Tottenham's ground, White Hart Lane. In 2004, they did it again, meaning they have won the League at Tottenham as many times as Tottenham have won at home, or anywhere: 2.

In 1989, Arsenal won the League title by beating Liverpool at Anfield, which is an epic story. In 2002, Arsenal won the League title by beating Man United at Old Trafford. As far as I know, they are the only club ever to clinch the title away to their arch-rivals (Liverpool have never won it at Everton, nor have Man U won it at Manchester City), and the only one besides Liverpool to win it at Anfield, and the only one besides Man U to win it at Old Trafford. There are banners between the title notations reading "WHL '71," "ANFIELD '89," "OLD TRAFFORD '02" AND "WHL '04."

Mixed in with these are banners from Arsenal fan clubs from all over the world, and banners honoring manager Arsène Wenger and players, some long retired such as Dennis Bergkamp and the late David "Rocky" Rocastle.
Opposing fans carried out their hate for Arsenal in many ways, including noting that "Highbury" sort-of rhymes with "Library," and saying that the Emirates has "no atmosphere" (which is far from true), and, like Highbury, they call the new stadium "The Library." Begging the question, "How the hell would a Tottenham fan know what the inside of a library sounds like? They're all illiterate!"

As part of the attempt to aid in the matchday atmosphere, the stadium has undergone what's called "Arsenalisation," altering the stadium grounds to remind people of the club's legacy. The 2 bridges over the railroad (British Rail, their version of Amtrak) are named for legendary club executives.

The Ken Friar Bridge is at the northeast corner. Friar began working at Arsenal in 1946, rose to become Club Secretary in 1973, became Managing Director in 1983, retired from his major role in the club in 2000, and is still a member of the club's board of directors, and will celebrate his 83rd birthday on Sunday.

The Danny Fiszman Bridge is at the southeast corner. Fiszman was a diamond dealer who bought into Arsenal ownership in 1991, and was the major force in getting the stadium built, before dying of cancer in 2011.

There are 4 statues honoring figures from Arsenal's past. At the north end, adjacent to the Friar Bridge and the Arsenal Museum, is one of Tony Adams, the longtime Captain known as "Mr. Arsenal." If you don't want to take the entire Stadium Tour, the Museum can be seen for £10.
Tony Adams posing next to his statue.
The pose is from the 1998 title-clincher,
when he scored the last goal against Everton.

At the southeast corner, adjacent to the Fiszman Bridge, is one of Herbert Chapman, who built the 1st Arsenal dynasty in the late 1920s and early 1930s. At the main entrance to Highbury, in the marble-halled East Stand, was a bust of Chapman, which has been moved to the new stadium and can be seen on the Stadium Tour.
Chapman also had Arsenal tour Europe at a time when that wasn't usually done, and long before the European Cup, now the UEFA Champions League, was founded. He designed Arsenal's trademark red shirt with white sleeves in 1933. He died in office the following year, but Arsenal kept on winning until World War II interrupted. He planned the building of Highbury's Art Deco stands, the West Stand which opened in 1932, and the East Stand which opened in 1936, so he didn't get to see it.
Thierry Henry and his daughter at his statue.
The pose is from his kneeslide after a famous goal
against Tottenham in 2002.


And at the southeast corner are statues of the 2 men whose names come up most often when people ask, "Who was The Arsenal's greatest player ever?": Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry.
Dennis Bergkamp at his statue.
The pose is from a noted photograph
taken at a game against Newcastle in 2003.

Arsenal don't retire uniform numbers. This would be problematic anyway, since, until 1993, numbers were usually assigned not to a player, but to a position: 1 to goalkeepers, 2 to right backs, 3 to left backs, 5 and 6 to centrebacks; 4 and 8 to central midfielders, 7 and 11 to wingers, and 9 and 10 to forwards. So if a player could play more than one position, he wore more than one number. When substitutes were legalized in 1966, numbers 12, 14 and 15 were added. After 1993, numbers were standardized, and the starting lineup would not necessarily wear Numbers 1 through 11.

Arsenal do have an equivalent to the Yankees' Monument Park. Around the stadium are 8 murals, collectively known as "Heroes Together." Each shows the backs of 5 players with their names and most familiar numbers. In each, the one in the middle is covered by the Emirates Stadium logo -- but that also obscures his name and number, which means he could be anyone other than the ones specifically honored. It could be a player you admired that wasn't chosen. It could be the next great Arsenal player. It could be you.

The 32 figures are:

* From Arsenal's founding era, 1886-1925: David Danskin, a founder of the club, who played right back from 1886 to 1889, and thus is shown wearing 2. Not selected for the murals, but chosen in a 2008 fan poll for the "50 Greatest Gunners," was 1900s forward Andy Ducat, who was also a fine cricket player.

* From the dynasty era founded by Chapman, 1925 to 1934, and then managed by George Allison through 1939: 2, right back George Male; 3, left back Eddie Hapgood; 8, midfielder David Jack; 9, forward Ted Drake; 10, forward Alex James; 11, left wing Cliff Bastin. Bastin, James, Jack and Drake were selected for the 50 Greatest Gunners.

* From the postwar team, managed by Tom Whittaker, that won the 1948 and 1953 League titles and the 1950 FA Cup: 1, goalkeeper Jack Kelsey; 6, centreback Joe Mercer; 10, forward Reg Lewis. Not selected, but among the best players of that era, were 5, centreback Leslie Compton; and 11, forward Denis Compton. The brothers were also among the era's top English cricketers, although Les was better at soccer, Denis better at cricket.

* From the long period sometimes called "The Great Darkness" by Arsenal fans, when it began to be joked, since the 1953 League title was won a month before Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, that "Arsenal haven't won a trophy since the Coronation": No one on the murals, but, selected for the 50 Greatest Gunners, 7, right wing Danny Clapton; and 10, forward George Eastham. Eastham was the only player then under contract to Arsenal who was selected for the England team that won the 1966 World Cup, although Alan Ball would later be acquired.

* From the team that won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1970 and the League and Cup Double in 1971, managed by Bertie Mee: 1, goalkeeper Bob Wilson; 2, right back Pat Rice; 5, centreback Frank McLintock; 7, right wing George Armstrong; 9, forward John Radford; and 11, forward Charlie George. Selected for the 50 Greatest Gunners: George, Rice, Radford, McLintock, Wilson, Armstrong; 4, midfielder Peter Storey; and 8, midfielder George Graham. Alan Ball, 8, a midfielder, joined Arsenal the next season, helping them reach the FA Cup Final in 1972 and nearly helping them win the League in 1973, but won no trophies with them.

* From the 1979 FA Cup winners, managed by Terry Neill: The aforementioned Pat Rice; 5, centreback David O'Leary; 7, right wing Liam Brady. Selected for the 50 Greatest Gunners: Rice, O'Leary, Brady; 1, goalkeeper Pat Jennings; 3, left back Sammy Nelson; 4, midfielder Brian Talbot; and 9, forward Frank Stapleton. Stapleton had worn 10, before the previous 9, Malcolm Macdonald, also selected for the 50 Greatest Gunners, saw his career end prematurely due to injury, but he didn't win anything with Arsenal.

* From the 1987 League Cup winners, but not the subsequent honors, now managed by Graham: 3, left back Kenny Sansom. The 1980s were a very frustrating time for Arsenal fans. The closest they came to winning anything from 1979 to 1987 was in 1983, when they got to the Semifinals of both domestic cups, with a team that included Sansom; 4, midfielder Steve Williams; 9, forward Charlie Nicholas; and 10, forward Tony Woodcock. All of those would be selected for the 50 Greatest Gunners. Williams, Nicholas, Michael Thomas, Tony Adams and David Rocastle would also be on that 1987 League Cup team.

* From the 1989 League title winners: 2, right back Lee Dixon; 3, left back Nigel Winterburn; 5, centreback Steve Bould; 6, centreback Tony Adams; 7, right wing David Rocastle. Dixon, Winterburn, Adams and Rocastle (but not Bould) would be chosen for the 50 Greatest Gunners. So would 4, midfielder Michael Thomas, who would score the title-deciding goal, making him England's "Bobby Thomson"; 9, forward Alan Smith; and 10, forward Paul Merson. Goalkeeper David Seaman would join all of those for the 1991 League title, taking the place of the 1989 Number 1, John Lukic.

* From the 1993 FA Cup and League Cup Winners: On the mural, Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Bould, Adams; 8, forward Ian Wright; and 15, midfielder Ray Parlour; from the 50 Greatest Gunners, Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Adams, Wright, Smith, Merson and Parlour.

* From the 1994 team that won the European Cup Winners' Cup, the last of Graham's 6 trophies: All of the 1993 honorees, plus centreback Martin Keown, then wearing 14, but would switch to 5, the number he's shown wearing on the mural, after Bould left in 1999.

* From the 1998 Double team, the first honors achieved by current manager Arsène Wenger: On the murals, Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Bould, Adams, Wright, Keown, Parlour; 4, midfielder Patrick Vieira; and 10, forward Dennis Bergkamp. Selected for the 50 Greatest Gunners: Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Vieira, Adams, Wright, Bergkamp, Keown, Parlour; 9, forward Nicolas Anelka; 11, left wing Marc Overmars; and 17, midfielder Emmanuel Petit.

* From the 2002 Double: On the murals, Seaman, Dixon, Vieira, Keown, Adams, Bergkamp, Parlour; 7, right wing Robert Pirès; and 14, forward Thierry Henry. Selected for the 50 Greatest Gunners: All of the preceding, plus 3, left back Ashley Cole; 8, right wing Freddie Ljungberg; 11, left wing Sylvain Wiltord; 23, centreback Sol Campbell; and 25, forward Nwankwo Kanu.

* From the 2003 FA Cup Winners: All of these but Dixon and Adams.

All but Seaman, by then replaced in goal by German madman Jens Lehmann, would be a part of the 2003-04 Arsenal team that went through the entire League season unbeaten, something that hadn't happened since 1889, the League's 1st season. They were "The Invincibles."As Sky Sports announcer Alan Parry said, "They were, quite literally, unbeatable: Played 38, won 26, drawn 12, lost exactly none!" Arsenal would eventually stretch their streak to 49 League games unbeaten, from May 7, 2003 (late in the previous season) to October 24, 2004 (early the next one, and be very careful how you broach the subject of that game to Arsenal fans)!

Cole, Vieira, Pirès, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, Henry and Campbell would still be there for the 2005 FA Cup. Cole, Pirès, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, Henry and Campbell would still be there for the 2006 team that reached the Final of the UEFA Champions League, the closest that Arsenal has ever gotten. Only Ljungberg and Henry would be there to open the Emirates for the 2006-07 season, and that would be it, except for a brief return by Henry in 2012.

* Since then, Arsenal have been frustrated by players who had not yet reached their full potential wanting out, and getting it, sometimes in a very unseemly fashion, and even winning elsewhere: Cole, Aleksander Hleb, Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri, and, most notoriously, Cesc Fabregas in 2011 and Robin van Persie in 2012.

* It is players who came in because of Wenger, and have stayed loyal to him, that have won the 2014, '15 and '17 FA Cups: 3, left back Kieran Gibbs; 4, centreback Per Mertesacker; 6, centreback Laurent Koscielny; 8, midfielder Aaron Ramsey; 10, midfielder Jack Wilshere; 11, midfielder Mesut Özil; 12, forward Olivier Giroud; 13, goalkeeper David Ospina; 14, forward Theo Walcott; 15, midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; 16, centreback Rob Holding; 17, forward Alex Iwobi 18, left back Nacho Monreal; 19, midfielder Santi Cazorla; 20, centreback Shkodran Mustafi; 24, right back Hector Bellerin; 29, midfielder Granit Xhaka; and 34, midfielder Francis Coquelin.

For the moment, Number 7, winger Alexis Sanchez, is wavering between staying at Arsenal and fulfilling his apparent greatness, and forcing his way out for more money. The team just added 9, forward Alexandre Lacazette; and 31, left back Sead Kolašinac.

Stuff. The Armoury is Arsenal's main gift shop, on the west side of the stadium along Hornsey Road. There's also an Arsenal store at Highbury House, at Highbury Square, the housing development that the old stadium was converted into; and at Finsbury Park Station, at Blackstock Road and Seven Sisters Road.

Books about Arsenal are plentiful, since Arsenal fans tend to be very literate, although their voracious appetite for information about their team is not limited to the flattering. Bernard Joy, an Arsenal defender who played for their 1938 League Champions, moved into journalism, and in 1952 published Forward, Arsenal! A History of Arsenal Football Club, the 1st comprehensive history of the team. It's full of mistakes, though, mainly due to presumptions of things that were long thought to be true. Groups like Untold Arsenal and The Arsenal History Society have done some research cleared some of those misconceptions up.


Dean Hayes, who's written several books about English sports (mostly soccer, some cricket), published Arsenal: The Football Facts in 2008. Journalist Chas Newkey-Burden, an Arsenal fan who mainly writes about pop culture (he is known for a controversial biography of singer Amy Winehouse), wrote The Official Arsenal Supporter's Book in 2014.

Herbert Chapman On Football, a collection of newspaper columns written by the manager who set Arsenal on the path to glory, was published in 2010, 76 years after his death. Two of his players wrote memoirs acclaimed in their time: Football Ambassador by Eddie Hapgood, and Cliff Bastin Remembers.

David Tossell, author of books on soccer, cricket and rugby, has written Seventy-One Guns: The Year of the First Arsenal Double. Delving into the more controversial stories of the club, but no less appreciative of what it's done, Jon Spurling has written Rebels for the Cause: The Alternative History of Arsenal Football Club, All Guns Blazing: Arsenal in the 1980s, and Highbury: The Story of Arsenal in N.5.

Covering the more recent period, Amy Lawrence, a writer for The Guardian and one of the few British journalists who tends to be friendly toward the Islington outfit, wrote Invincible: Inside Arsenal's Unbeaten 2003-2004 Season. And journalist Alex Fynn has studied the most recent era, including the struggles to build the Emirates and keep the club successful while paying off the stadium debut, in Arsènal: The Making of a Modern Superclub and Arsène & Arsenal: The Quest to Rediscover Past Glories. 

Not the definitive book about Arsenal -- certainly not now, because it's so far out of date, having been published during the George Graham era -- but perhaps the definitive book about what it's like to be a fan of any particular team, and the book that launched Nick Hornby as an important writer of our time, is Fever Pitch, which covers the years from his 1st visit to Highbury in 1968 through the 1991 title season, including such memories as the 1971 Double, the 1979 FA Cup, the 1989 title, and the low moments in between, including the threat of hooliganism that took over the sport in the 1970s and ravaged it in the 1980.

In 1997, Hornby wrote a screenplay for a film version, focusing on the 1988-89 title season, with Colin Firth playing the adult version of the stand-in character for himself, the scenes going back and forth from his youth in Berkshire to the "present" where he's a teacher in what we would call a public junior high school in North London, where he now literally lives down the block from Highbury. Ruth Gemmell plays the uptight teacher who gets pulled into all this, forcing him to choose between one woman and eleven men.

It was Americanized by the Farrelly Brothers -- sadly, for the Boston Red Sox -- in 2005, with Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore (whose character is a bit more sympathetic than Gemmell's). In 2015, on that film's 10th Anniversary, I wrote a spoiler-riddled post comparing the versions of Fever Pitch: The film.

Official team videos such as Arsenal: The Official History (covering 1886 to 2009), Arsenal FC History: The Highbury Years 1913-2006, Arsenal: 501 Goals, Arsenal: 49: The Complete Unbeaten Record, single-season highlight videos, and tributes to individual players are also available.

During the Game. George Orwell said, "Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting." Another  common saying, for which proper attribution has never been made, is, "Football is a gentleman's game played by hooligans, and Rugby is a hooligan's game played by gentlemen."

This is not 1985. Any surviving members of The Herd, Arsenal's hooligan firm, will now be in their late 40s at the youngest, and wouldn't go after you even if they were still young and, as we would say in our country, full of piss and vinegar. And the days when Tube stations -- and major intercity rail stations such as Euston and Paddington, where fans would pile onto and pour off trains on their way to away matches, were no-go zones on matchdays, opposing teams' firms would go after anybody wearing red on the streets, regardless whether they're going to the game, are long gone.

Three of the police countermeasures from that era remain in place: Specific sections for away supporters, police clearing a path for them to keep them and home supporters apart on the way in and out, and keeping away supporters in the stadium for over 15 minutes afterward to let the crowd thin out.

In other words, let the police do their jobs, and don't interfere with either them or the bad lads, and your safety won't be an issue.

Arsenal put the away fans in the lower level of the southeast corner, which is unfortunate, since the press box is on the West Stand, meaning it is very easy for the TV cameras to focus on them and any celebrations they may have after a goal or in the final minutes of a game in which they've taken points off The Arsenal, making them look more numerous and more passionate than the home fans.

The National Anthem, "God Save the Queen," will be played before the game. Many are the songs, many of them tailored for individual players. There's "Good Old Arsenal," the 1971 Cup Final song that remains the team's unofficial theme song, written not by anyone connected to the club, but by Jimmy Hill, the former star player and manager who was then hosting ITV's The Big Match (and would later do so on the BBC's Match of the Day).

To the tune of "Guantanamera," they will sing, "One Arsène Wenger, there's only one Arsène Wenger!" To the tune of the Village People's "Go West," they will sing, should the score become this, "One-nil to The Arsenal"; and, tweaking their arch-rivals, "Stand up, if you hate Tottenham."

There are also other, more vulgar, offerings, including one to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," which tells of what happened when Tottenham went to Rome to see the Pope, and follows it up with a song about the Tottenham manager's mother being a whore, what they think of Tottenham.

Since 1994, The Arsenal have had a mascot, Gunnersaurus Rex, wearing a Number 99 Arsenal shirt. Why is their mascot a green dinosaur? An 11-year-old kid, Peter Lovell, designed him for a Junior Gunners contest, saying he embodied "the ferocity and power of Arsenal Football Club." The Club agreed, accepted his design, and even sent Gunnersaurus to Peter's wedding in 2013. The fans love Gunnersaurus, and he even accompanied the team on its visit to New York and its friendly at Red Bull Arena in July 2014.
Gunnersaurus Rex and Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger


There are men behind each goal, each holding a flag bearing a copy of Arsenal's Cannon logo. When Arsenal score at that end, the flag will be raised. And you will know that the Emirates Stadium is no "library." Because of their connection to the old Woolwich Arsenal, the team is known as the Gunners, and the fans are called Gooners. Another chant is, "Ooh to, ooh to be, ooh to be a... Gooner!"

The opposing benches are next to each other, on either side of midfield on the west side. Both managers will frequently stand up and watch. Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger will wear a suit -- usually dark blue, occasionally gray -- with a red tie, but you won't always be able to see it: If the weather is cold enough, he will wear a big dark blue parka that is sometimes an object of ridicule.
This being a League game -- what we would call a regular-season game -- there will be 2 halves of 45 minutes each, with the clock running the whole time. No time-outs. At the end of each half, the referee will consider how much time was lost for various things -- goals scored, injuries, discipline issues, out-of-bounds plays -- and add "stoppage time," a.k.a. "injury time."


This is not exact. If, at the 90-minute mark, 3 minutes are added, that means at least 3 minutes. There could be more, especially if there's a bad injury. (On 2 such occasions, I've seen 8 minutes given.) And, since English referees have long viewed Arsenal as a "foreign team," due to their willingness to sign players first from the British Isles outside England, then from the European continent, and finally from anywhere in the world, it can be longer.

I once saw Arsenal play away to Sunderland, in England's North-East, and, at the 90-minute mark, with Arsenal leading 1-0, the 4th official (the one in charge of deciding how much stoppage time to add) hold up a sign with the number 4 on it, meaning there would be at least 4 minutes. But the referee did not blow his whistle at 94:00, and Sunderland scored an equalizer at 94:15, and Arsenal were screwed again.

After the Game. Again, your safety won't be an issue if you follow the instructions of the ushers (stewards) and cops. However, if you don't, they may well conclude that you are the one there to cause trouble. So don't.

Your postgame meal should be at a pub, and there are many to choose from. Finding one that isn't packed -- or, as they would say there, rammed with geezers -- may be difficult. Most of the renowned pubs that cater to Arsenal fans are on Holloway Road to the west (The Bailey, Festac Bar, Chip Inn fish Bar, Phibbers, the pie-themed Piebury Corner, the Herbert Chapman, the Coronet, or, on adjacent Hornsey Road, the legendary Tollington Arms or "The Tolly"), on Blackstock Road to the east (Blighty Cafe, the Gunners Pub, the Gunners Fish Bar, the Woodbine, the Cannons and the Bank of Friendship), or on Seven Sisters Road to the north (The Blackstock and the Twelve Pins).

Do not, under any circumstances, go into the Drayton Park Tavern on Drayton Park, or the Edward Lear on Holloway Road. These pubs are reserved for away fans. On days other than matchdays, they should be all right.

If you're really desperate for "home cooking," there are plenty of familiar American names, particularly in the touristy areas like The City, the South Bank and the West End: McDonald's, KFC, Subway, Starbucks. There is, however, only 1 Dunkin Donuts in the entire city: At Golden Cross House, 456-459 Strand Road, London WC2R 0RG. There are plenty of pizzerias, Chinese takeaways (what they call take-out joints), and, of course, chip shops.

I can find no reference to a place in London that caters specifically to New Yorkers. However, there are many that cater to American tourists an expatriates, including The American Food Store at 2 Ladbroke Grove, W11 (Central Line to Holland Park); and Bodeans BBQ, at 10 Poland Street, W1, which not only serves barbecue, but has been known to put baseball on its TVs. (Just remember the 5-hour time difference: A Yankee game starting at 7:00 PM here will start at midnight there. Bakerloo, Central or Victoria Line to Oxford Circus.)


Sidelights. London has a very rich sports history, with football (soccer) coming first, and everything else second.

* Woolwich. The actual Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, making armaments for the British Empire and later the British Commonwealth, operated from 1717 to 1994, although it was already being shut down as part of the "demobilisation" after World War II. Beresford Street and Woolwich New Road, SE18. 
An inside joke was used in the 1st Robert Downey Sherlock Holmes film: The villain is said to have "the Woolwich Arsenal" among his holdings, and he is played by Mark Strong, who played the lead character's best friend in the Arsenal version of Fever Pitch.

Arsenal's 1st match, on December 11, 1886, was played on the Isle of Dogs, then home to Millwall, and it was little more than a mudpatch with an open sewer at one end. It is properly developed now. Northeast corner of Westferry Road and Tiller Road, E14. DLR to Canary Wharf. (Canary Wharf is also home to the Marriott that led to "Lasagne-gate," a story Arsenal fans like to tell.)

Arsenal's 1st regular home (1887-90) was Plumstead Common, 9 Warwick Terrace, SE18. They moved to the Invicta Ground (1890-93), 19 Hector Street. Then to the 20,000-seat Manor Ground (1893-1913), 1 Griffin Manor Way. At the time, it was difficult to reach these locations from central London. But now, along with the Arsenal site itself, they can all be reach via the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) to Woolwich Arsenal, although you might want to connect to a local bus such as the 472 to cut down on the walking.

* Arsenal Stadium. From 1913 until 2006, Arsenal played at this stadium, a.k.a. Highbury, in N5, bounded by Gillespie Road on the north, Avenell Road on the east, Aubert Park on the south and Highbury Hill on the west.
The East Stand

The original stands were built in 1913. The West Stand opened in 1932, the East Stand in 1936, and these Art Deco stands, with their interior marble halls, made it the greatest football ground in the land. A redesigned Clock End at the south, removing the old standing terrace, opened in 1989. When the Taylor Report demanded all-seater stadiums, the standing terraces known as the North Bank, with its iconic roof, was replaced and reopened in 1993.
The old North Bank, with its roof,
its stepped terraces and its railings,
but no seats, 1913 to 1992

Although it once peaked at 73,000 fans, about the same as the pre-renvoation Yankee Stadium with standing room, from 1993 until its closing it had just 38,419 seats, about the same size as Fenway Park.
The double-decked, all-seater North Bank, 1993 to 2006

Before 1950, England's FA, in a dispute with FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, did not send teams to the World Cup. So in 1934, a match was set up between England and the World Cup winners, Italy, to decide a true "world champion." It was played at Highbury, and of the 11 England players, 7 of them were players from titleholders Arsenal, on their own field.

It poured throughout the game, and it was quite violent, and while England took a 3-0 lead in the 1st half, they had to hold on to win what became known as "The Battle of Highbury" 3-2. England called themselves "champions of the world" after the game, but when the Italy players got home, fascist dictator Benito Mussolini told them he couldn't be any prouder of them than if they had won, and kept a promise he made to them in case they did win: He gave each of them new cars.

Highbury hosted some of the soccer games of the 1948 Olympics. Muhammad Ali fought and beat British heavyweight Henry Cooper twice, both in London: In 1963, before he became champion (and while he was still Cassius Clay), at Wembley; and in 1966, as champion, at Highbury. The aforementioned Charlie George, then a player in Arsenal's academy but also a 14-year-old apprentice electrician living nearby, helped to set up the ring.
The Clock End

The Taylor Report's reduction of Highbury's capacity meant that they needed a new stadium, one with more seats, and with more conveniences than one whose majority was built in the 1930s. The Highbury site was redeveloped into the Highbury Square residential complex, with the East and West Stands now holding apartments. Piccadilly Line to Arsenal.
Highbury Square today.
The Emirates can be partially seen at the top.

* Wembley Stadium. Originally named the Empire Stadium, because it was built to host the 1924 Empire Games, the 100,000-seat original opened on April 28, 1923, just 10 days after the original Yankee Stadium. Each was the most historic sports venue its country has ever built. Its Twin Towers were more famous around the world than those of New York's World Trade Center. Also iconic were the royal box, where a member of the royal family would hand out trophies and winner's medals, and the 39 steps needed to reach it from the pitch.
The old Wembley, with its iconic Twin Towers

Old Wembley hosted the FA Cup Final every year from 1923 to 2000, matches of the England football team, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and the track & field events of the 1948 Olympics, games of the 1966 World Cup and Euro 96 (including, in each case, the Final); the European Cup/UEFA Champions League Finals of 1963 (AC Milan over Benfica), 1968 (Manchester United over Benfica), 1971 (Ajax over Panathinaikos), 1978 (Liverpool over Brugge) and 1992 (Barcelona over Sampdoria); the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final from 1929 to 2000, the 1992 and 1995 Rugby League World Cup Finals; and 9 preseason NFL games, from 1983 to 1993.
Wembley was also a legendary concert venue, including the British end of Live Aid in 1985, 3 shows by Bruce Springsteen on his tour the same year, a 70th Birthday concert for the still-imprisoned Nelson Mandela in 1988, the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness in 1992, Izzy Stradlin's last concert as a member of Guns N' Roses in 1991, Elton John & Eric Clapton in 1992, 9 shows by U2, 12 shows by the Rolling Stones, and a house record 15 shows by Michael Jackson.
But the stadium was antiquated as the 20th Century drew to a close, with particular complaints about the vast distance between the ends of the pitch and the stands (necessary to host track events) and the quality (or lack thereof) in the rest rooms.

And so, it was replaced. The original plan to keep the Twin Towers as part of the new structure was rejected, and they came down in 2002. Like the new Yankee Stadium, the new Wembley was ridiculously expensive to build. The difference was, while Yankee Stadium II required only 2 1/2 years to build, the new Wembley kept getting delayed, until it finally opened on March 9, 2007.
The new stadium, with its pitch slightly to the north of the site of the old one, has 90,000 seats (making it the 2nd-largest in Europe behind Barcelona's 99,000-seat Camp Nou), a retractable roof, and an arch, obviously meant to be the new symbol the way the Twin Towers were the old one. 
It's hosted the Champions League Finals of 2011 (Barcleona over Manchester United) and 2013 (Bayern Munich over Borussia Dortmund), and the Gold Medal match of the soccer tournament at the 2012 Olympics.

The original Wembley Stadium hosted 9 NFL preseason games between 1983 and 1993, and the London Monarchs of the World League of American Football in 1991 and 1992. The new Wembley Stadium has hosted 16 regular-season NFL games since it opened in 2007, including the Giants beating the Miami Dolphins that year, and the Jets beating the Dolphins in 2015. It is scheduled to host 2 games this season: Baltimore vs. Jacksonville on September 24, and New Orleans vs. Miami a week later on October 1.

While Tottenham's White Hart Lane site is redeveloped, they will play their home games at Wembley for the 2017-18 season. And, yes, it hosts concerts. Tours are available.

* The SSE Arena, Wembley. Originally the Empire Pool and later the Wembley Arena, this 12,500-seat contemporary of the old Madison Square Garden, the Boston Garden and the Montreal Forum went up in 1934. It's the city's premier indoor sports venue, hosting events of the 1948 and 2012 Olympics, and has hosted rock concerts since 1959.

Arena Square, Engineers Way, HA9. That's West London. Both the Stadium and the Arena can be reached by Tube, Metropolitan Line to Wembley Park.

* Twickenham Stadium. Also known as Twickenham or Twickers, this is the 82,000-seat home of English rugby, the game from which, American football developed. (Both are offshoots of association football, or soccer.)

The Rugby Football Union, the governing body of English rugby, built the stadium in 1909, on a site that had been a cabbage farm, so the stadium is also nicknamed The Cabbage Patch, kids. The stadium has been rebuilt in pieces between 1990 and 2006. So despite the site having been used even before Fenway Park opened, it's a modern stadium.
Twickenham has hosted Rugby World Cup matches in 1991, 1999 and 2015, and Six Nations matches every year. It also hosts The Varsity Match between Oxford and Cambridge universities (Britain's Harvard and Yale), and the Army Navy Match (their Army-Navy Game). It's also hosted rock concerts, which can increase seating capacity to 110,000.
It hosted its 1st NFL game last year, with the Giants beating the Los Angeles Rams. It will host 2 games this season: The Rams again, vs. Arizona, on October 22; and Minnesota vs. Cleveland the next week, on October 29.

The official address is Twickenham Stadium, Whitton Road, Twickenham TW2 7BA, Unlike Wembley, which has Tube service close by, getting to Twickers by public transit is a bit complicated. You'll need to take the Tube to Waterloo Station, on the South Bank of the Thames, then take South-West Trains' Reading line to Twickenham Station. Head for Bus Stop B, then take Bus 281, with Hounslow as the destination sign. After about 4 minutes, it will reach Tayben Avenue, just outside the stadium. From Central London, the process should take a little under an hour.

* Wimbledon. Aside from Wembley and Twickenham, Britain's holiest sports site isn't Anfield in Liverpool, nor Old Trafford in Manchester, nor Hampden Park, Celtic Park or Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow. It's Centre Court, home of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club -- in other words, the tennis tournament officially named "The Championships, Wimbledon," which everyone calls just "Wimbledon" -- except for the tabloids who often call it "Wimby" for short.
The tournament has been held in the area since 1877, women joined the men (pardon me, the "ladies" joined the "gentlemen") in 1884, the current stadium went up in 1922, and it was given a renovation, including wider seats cutting capacity to 15,916 and a retractable roof to keep out the infamous English rain, in 2009. 
Three gentlemen have won it 7 times. William Renshaw did it in the amateur era, between 1881 and 1889. In the Open Era, which began in 1968, Pete Sampras did it from 1993 to 2000 (the last of these making him the last American man to win it), and Roger Federer between 2003 and 2012. The ladies' leader is Martina Navratilova, 9 times between 1978 and 1990. The Williams Sisters have won it 12 times: Serena 7 (including the last 2), Venus 5.

The Broadway/Wimbledon Bridge, SW19 7NH. South West Trains from Waterloo Station to Wimbledon.

* Cricket. There are 2 legendary cricket grounds in London. Lord's Cricket Ground (or just "Lord's"), has hosted the sport since 1814. That's right, 1814: During the Napoleonic Wars, the War of 1812 between America and Britain, and during the last, mad years of King George III, when his son, the future King George IV, was Prince Regent.
The oldest part of the current stadium went up in 1987, while the rest of the stands were built in the 1990s. (Unlike America, most stadiums in Britain have had separate stands, and can be rebuilt piece-by-piece and remain open.)

It wasn't named for a nobleman, named "Lord (Anything)." It was built by Thomas Lord, a cricket star of the period. It is owned by Marylebone Cricket Club (and that's pronounced "MAIR-ee-leh-BOHN"), and is the home of Middlesex County Cricket (MCC), the England and Wales Cricket Board, and the European Cricket Council. 
It is called "The Home of Cricket," and is home to the world's oldest sports museum, the MCC Museum. It hosted a U.S. vs. Canada baseball game during World War I, to raise money for the Canadian Widows and Orphans Fund; and the archery competition of the 2012 Olympics. St. John's Wood Road and Wellington Road, NW8. Jubilee Line to St. John's Wood.

The Oval is the home of Surrey County Cricket Club, and was also the site of the 1st international football match, a 1-1 draw between England and Scotland on March 5, 1870; and the 1st FA Cup Final on March 16, 1872, in which Wanderers beat fellow London-based club Royal Engineers 1-0.
The sport was first played on the site in 1845, and the current stand dates to 2005. The stadium seats 26,000. Both The Oval and Lord's host games of The Ashes, the periodic series between England and Australia; and both have hosted Cricket World Cup matches. Harleyford Street, SE11 5SS. Northern Line to Oval.

* Other football clubs. London is home to 13 teams in the Football League. In addition to The Arsenal, going around in a circle, from north, to east, to south, to west, they are, as follows:

** Tottenham Hotspur, a.k.a. Spurs. White Hart Lane, 748 High Street, N17. Piccadilly Line to Turnpike Lane, then Bus W3. First playing on the site in 1899, most of the familiar stadium dated to the 1990s. It is now being demolished, and their new stadium, next-door, is now under construction, scheduled to open for the 2018-19 season.

** Barnet. The Hive, 260 Kingsland Road, E8 4DG. Overground Line to Haggerston.

** Leyton Orient. The Matchroom Stadium, Brisbane Road and Buckingham Road, E10. Central Line to Leyton. This is a small, neighborhood club, and the area has a bit of a Wrigley Field feel.

** West Ham United, a.k.a. the Hammers or the Irons. The London Stadium, formerly the Olympic Stadium, Loop Road and Stratford Walk, E20 2ST. The main stadium of the 2012 Olympics, it gives the Hammers a more modern stadium with a larger capacity, but taking them out of the old East End and moving them to Stratford is like moving the Red Sox out of Fenway Park and making them share a stadium in Foxboro with the Patriots. Docklands Light Railway to Pudding Mill Lane. Their former stadium, the Boleyn Ground, a.k.a. Upton Park, is currently being demolished. Barking Road and Green Street, E13. District Line to Upton Park.

** Charlton Athletic, a.k.a. the Addicks. The Valley, Floyd Road and Valley Gardens, SE7 8BL. Bus 53 to Charlton Village.

** Millwall, a.k.a. the Lions. The New Den, Verney Road and Bolina Road, SE16 3LN. Bus 53 to Old Kent Road and Ilderton Road. The site of their old stadium, The Den, perhaps the scariest ground in England due to the Millwall fans' nasty reputation (they made Oakland Raider fans look like pacifists, but they're not as bad now), was at 30 John Williams Close, with the cross road having the figuratively and perhaps even literally chilling name of Cold Blow Lane. Same bus to same stop, although the Old Den was in SE14, while the new one is in SE16. 

** Crystal Palace, a.k.a. the Eagles. Selhurst Park, Whitehorse Lane and Park Road, SE25 6PU. Bus 3 to Brockwell Park, then Bus 468 to Selhurst Park.

** AFC Wimbeldon, a.k.a. The Womble. Kingsmeadow Stadium, 422A Kingston Road and King Henry's Road, KT1 3PB. South West Trains from Waterloo Station to Norbiton.

** Chelsea, once a.k.a. the Pensioners, still a.k.a. the Blues, but known to their detractors as the Chavs. Stamford Bridge, 500 Fulham Road and Wandon Road, SW6 1HS. District Line to Fulham Broadway.

** Fulham, a.k.a. the Cottagers. Craven Cottage (it's a lot nicer than it sounds), Stevenage Road and Greswell Street, SW6 6HH. District Line to Putney Bridge.

** Queens Park Rangers, a.k.a. QPR or the Hoops (due to their vertically-striped uniforms; Glasgow's Celtic and a few other British teams have this nickname). Loftus Road Stadium, South Africa Road and Bloemfontein Road, W12. Central Line to White City. 

** Brentford, a.k.a. the Bees. Griffin Park, Braemar Road and Ealing Road, TW8 0NT.

Many of these teams are playing at locations where they've played for over 100 years. However, the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster in Sheffield in 1989, where 96 people were killed and over 600 were injured, caused a radical makeover of British stadium design, including conversion to modern, all-seater stands.

As I said, most stadiums in Britain have had separate stands, and, in the 1990s, were either rebuilt piece-by-piece, or were replaced by entirely new stadiums. So most of the preceding will be up to modern standards -- especially the 2006-built Emirates, the 2007 new Wembley, and the 2012 Olympic Stadium.

One more note before I move on: While the threat of "football hooliganism" is, like New York street crime, way down from the phenomenons' shared peak of the 1980s, it is still possible, particularly on matchdays. And, since Sundays are now also usually matchdays (it's no longer all at 3:00 PM on Saturdays as in days of yore), you should be aware of the possibility.

* Royal Albert Hall. Opened in 1871, named by Queen Victoria for husband, Prince Albert, and seating 5,272 people, this is Britain's most famous concert venue. Alfred Hitchcock filmed The Man Who Knew Too Much twice, in 1934 in black and white with an all-British cast, and in 1956 in color with Jimmy Stewart as the lead, and both had their climatic scene at the Royal Albert.

Since the 1968 "Goodbye Cream" concert, it's became known for Eric Clapton's shows, so many that it's been dubbed "The House of God." (I don't know who first said, "Clapton is God," but, while he's great, he is not God.)

Kensington Road and Exhibition Road, SW7 2 AP. Circle Line to South Kensington.

* Piccadilly Circus. Perhaps the original version of New York's Times Square, with billboards and neon and a traffic message, this is Britain's answer to "the Crossroads of the World." And, just as Times Square is the gateway to New York's Theater District, a.k.a. "Broadway," Piccadilly Circus is the gateway to London's theater district, a.k.a. "The West End." Bakerloo Line to, well, Piccadilly Circus.

* Museums. Unlike New York's museums, which require "donations," London's museums are free. Five notables:

** The British Museum. London's answer, or rather precursor, to both our Museum of National History and our Metropolitan Museum of Art. Great Russell Street and Bloomsbury Street, WC1B. Northern Line to Tottenham Court Road.

** The Victoria & Albert Museum. Dedicated to art and design. Cromwell Road and Exhibition Road, SW7. District Line to South Kensington.

** The Imperial War Museum. Dedicated to Britain's armed forces, it includes a museum ship, the light cruiser HMS Belfast. It was built on the site of London's infamous insane asylum, which gave its name to insanity in general: Bedlam. Lambeth Road and St. George's Road, SE1, on the South Bank. Northern Line to Elephant & Castle.

** The National Maritime Museum. Park Row and King William Walk (that's named for William III, who crafted the Union in the 1690s, not Prince William, who stands to become William V), SE10. Docklands Light Railway to Cutty Sark.

** The Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Home of the Prime Meridian. Blackheath Avenue, SE10 8XJ. Also Docklands Light Railway to Cutty Sark.

* Royal Palaces. Buckingham Palace (most of it is actually newer than the White House) is open to tours, but check for times. The Mall & Constitution Hill, SW1A 1AA. Circle or District Line to St. James's Park. Kensington Palace is also open to tours, and is the official London residence of William and Kate, Prince Harry, and some others, and was Princess Diana's residence after she split from Prince Charles. Kensington Gardens. Central Line to Queensway.

Hampton Court Palace, best known as the home of King Henry VIII, is 14 miles southwest of Central London. East Molesey, KT8 9AU. South West Trains to Hampton Court. And Windsor Castle, built by William the Conqueror in 1070 and the Queen's favorite residence, is 22 miles west in Windsor, Berkshire. SL4 1NJ. South West Trains to Windsor & Eton Central. The famous Eton School is within walking distance.

Britain has Prime Ministers, so it doesn't have Presidential Libraries. With one exception. Winston Churchill's estate, Blenheim Palace, is open to the public, but it's in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, 62 miles northwest of Central London. But the Churchill War Rooms, open to tours, are at Clive Steps and Horse Guards Road, SW1A 2AQ. It's adjacent to the Prime Minister's residence, 10 Downing Street, but that street is not open to the public. SW1A 2AA.

They are directly opposite the Palace of Westminster, the nation's capital building, and perhaps the most famous single building in the world. This is a huge difference: London is Britain's capital for government, its "Washington, D.C."; but, at the same time, its capital for finance and popular culture, its "New York." Remember, "Big Ben" is the bell inside the big clock, not the clock itself, or the tower it's in (that's the Victoria Tower). SW1A 0AA.

Westminster Abbey is across Abingdon Street from Parliament. SW1P 3PA. And just to the north of each of these is Britain's main war memorial, the Cenotaph, where, each Remembrance Day (Veterans Day to us), at the moment of the end of World War I, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the entire nation stops for 2 minutes' silence, as the monarch lays a wreath. SW1A 2ET. For each of these, take the Circle, District or Jubliee Line to Westminster. 

The tallest building in the British Isles, and the 4th-tallest in Europe, is The Shard, named for its appearance, like that of a long piece of broken glass. It is 1,004 feet tall (taller than all but 15 buildings in America, 8 of them in New York), and has an observation deck. London Bridge Street, on top of London Bridge Station, SE1 9SG. And remember: London Bridge and Tower Bridge are 2 separate structures, and the more familiar bridge is Tower Bridge.

Countless movies and TV shows have been shot in London, although it's not often that the most familiar British film icon, James Bond, shoots in London. The most notable such scenes are the helicopter scene with Roger Moore in For Your Eyes Only (1981) and the boat chase with Pierce Brosnan, ending at the Millennium Dome (now "The O2"), in The World Is Not Enough (1999).

There are lots of Beatles-related sites in London. Abbey Road Studio is at 3 Abbey Road and Garden Road, NW8 9AY, just 3 blocks north of Lord's Cricket Ground. Jubilee Line to St. John's Wood. The crosswalk from the Abbey Road cover is a little further north, across from 9 Abbey Road, at Hill Road. Marylebone Station was the filming location for the train station scene in A Hard Day's Night. Melcombe Place and Harewood Avenue, NW1 6JJ. Reachable by multiple Tube lines to Baker Street.

Contrary to myth, that opening scene was not filmed at Paddington Station, although that station is known from the stories of Paddington Bear and Harry Potter. Praed Street and Eastbourne Terrace, W2 1RH.

There are companies offering "literary tours" of London, if you are so interested. The most famous street address in the world, 221B Baker Street, was chosen by Dr. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for his Sherlock Holmes stories specifically because, while the street actually existed during the time in which the Holmes stories were set (1881 to 1914), the address did not. It does now, as the street was eventually extended. The Sherlock Holmes Museum is now at the site. Circle, Hammersmith & City, or Metropolitan Line to Baker Street.

*

Great Britain is a foreign country, whose customs and lifestyle are similar to our own, but with very distinct differences. The people of London can be famously friendly, but do not abuse their hospitality. Show respect, and you will get it in return. If you do, you should be able to enjoy yourself in their city.

Whether you will enjoy yourself at the game, that's up to The Arsenal and their opponents.

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