Fans David Faber and Chris Towers address either side of this month's debate: home v away. This article first featured in the November issue of Arsenal Magazine.
David Faber has been blogging as Goonerholic for over nine years now, and has been following Arsenal in the flesh for over fifty years. You can find him on Twitter as @TheGoonerholic.
It’s home matches for me, and for a variety of reasons. Firstly it’s a geographical one. Living in Swindon most away matches, other London clubs and Swansea aside, are difficult to get to and back in a day on public transport. Add to that the fact that the television companies invariably switch our matches to awkward hours.
I am full of admiration for those who find ways of getting to and from fixtures, particularly in the north, on Saturday lunchtimes, Sunday evenings, and even Monday nights. There is also a cost consideration.
Wherever we play we attract premium prices. I understand how market forces work but it seems inherently unfair that, for example, Norwich will charge us around 30 per cent more to watch our match there than their supporters will pay in the reverse fixture.
Then there is the question of the view of the match itself. My seat at the Arsenal has a great view of the pitch, as indeed all do. I’ve been tucked at the back of the upper tier at another London ground where only one goal was visible. This was far from a unique experience.
In most of the older stadia the facilities available to visiting supporters are limited. Granted, the atmosphere is often much better on the road, but on the big matchdays the Emirates can rock too. A bigger pull for home games though is the atmosphere around the ground.
The social side is so important to me nowadays, and I’ve experienced the warmth and friendship of others in the various bars and restaurants around the Arsenal. Depending on kick-off time a few friends may opt for lunch or dinner pre-match.
I’ve enjoyed a fry-up, Spanish, Italian, Argentinian, Indian, and Thai food, not forgetting the excellent pies and scotch eggs at Piebury Corner. Often though it is the pre and post-match beverages of choice that enable kindred spirits to get together every other week and chew the fat over the upcoming, or just completed performance.
It’s not just about long established friendships either. At home matches there will always be visitors from around the globe who find away tickets very difficult to source. They come and say hello to people they have ‘met’ online, and new friendships are forged over a pint or two of stout. Yes, the home match experience is hard to beat for this old chap.
Chris Towers is a regular attendee of home and away games, and a writer for the Match of the Day magazine.
As a spectator, it’s difficult to beat the Emirates Stadium for grandeur, grace and comfort. Following Arsenal beyond the boundaries of Islington, however, has its own invigorating and infectious appeal.
Arsenal have one of the finest away followings in the country. By nature, away games take a little more organisation on the part of the fans – unless it is a ground you have visited several times over, there are no regular routines to stick to here.
There are early rises and late finishes, trains to research and unfamiliar meeting points to explore. Yet it is so worth it, as any of the 9,000 dedicated souls who scrambled up to Manchester on a Monday night, then back in the early hours for work the next day, all to witness last season’s euphoric FA Cup win at Old Trafford would attest.
"Each trip is a little adventure which, win, lose or draw, provides a story to share with fellow fans in the future. That is the reward - you are far richer for making the trip"
The gratification you feel from travelling away doesn't only extend to trips rewarded with rousing Arsenal victories, though, and that is a key point. It is at away games that football truly is about much more than the match alone. They are gateways to towns you wouldn’t otherwise visit, to stadiums of all ages, shapes and sizes to have the privilege of discovering first-hand.
Indeed, the greatest asset of attending away games is the sheer variety involved. Many grounds present a welcome serving of gritty nostalgia - wooden seats, obscured views and concourses lacking the required room to swing a selfie stick. Sampling the sights and sounds of a matchday different to your own broadens your cultural understanding of the game in Britain or, tantalisingly, Europe, as the case may be.
When the game begins, you stand, sing and have an absolute blast. In its rawest essence, the relentless electric atmosphere generated by travelling fans may be borne out of the siege mentality of stepping into another club’s stadium, vastly outnumbered, the desire to make your presence known to both your hosts and the Arsenal players on the pitch, and the buzz of the prospect of smuggling three points to bring back home.
You are aware that majority of Arsenal supporters there are likely to have travelled as far as you have, creating a unique sense of camaraderie. Attend 10 away games in a season, and when you come to reflect at the end of the campaign, your memories will be starker than if you had attended 20 home games. Each trip is a little adventure which, win, lose or draw, provides a story to share with fellow fans in the future. That is the reward - you are far richer for making the trip.
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