Tuesday, 20 October 2015

It was an eye-opening visiting to the Etihad

It's not very often that Bournemouth supporters have had the chance to travel to a top four club and to admire their stadium and I have to say I was excited as my two boys last Saturday at the prospect of stepping inside the Etihad that afternoon. We knew we would have to make an early start and by 8am we were on the road, heading round the M25 and up the M40 to Oxford and Warwick before driving round Birmingham and passing Fort Dunlop on the M6 before stopping for a break at the Hilton Park Services.
Robert reads the Etihad Stadium booklet while Stephen really
does not like getting up early even if it is a match day.
Oh, Stephen is happy now. 
No he didn't get both of them one was for me! (dodgy photo Stephen)
As we were not sure how much chance we would have of getting some refreshment during the day we decided to grab some marshmallow hot chocolate drinks and ensure we had plenty of snacks for the journey up to Manchester. Man City had a don't bring your food into the stadium policy and I was not sure how easy it would be to get food in the stadium with some 3000 AFCB fans queueing to get something to eat and drink at half time, but I needn't have worried. Having said our goodbye's to a group of Cardiff fans, they were going up to Preston and needed to hurry up, we hit the road again. We soon found ourselves on the A5000 and making our way right into Manchester where diversions had our satnav going spare, but we had our first site of the stadium by 12.30pm and went on the hunt for a parking space. 
See ya, Cardiff fans.
Keeping the right side of the parking restrictions.
Training pitches everywhere.
We have found one way in.
Expect delays, especially when trying to leave the area at 5pm.
I'd saved money by not using the M6 Toll road and it hadn't delayed us at all on the way up but I didn't really want to spend more than a fiver for parking and Man City like you to fork-out double that, so we drove to the edge of the residential permit area and double checked the signage to ensure we would not come back to a parking ticket.

As we walked down towards the ground we passed the Man City Academy building which has an indoor pitch and is used by the girls team I was told. There were plenty of other practise pitches as well of course just like giant practise tennis courts all next to each other. We were soon at the big bridge that led to the stadium entrance but we grabbed something to eat before making our way over. It was a great view and you felt like you were about to enter a football cathedral.
The stadium is in an attractive setting with plenty of trees around.
On to the walkway bridge.
Which Man City star do AFCB need to be wary of - too late Stirling! 
Never liked luminous shirts.
I just need my AFC Bournemouth shirt done with Pugh 7, any takers?
I got chatting to a Man City fan called Pete and before he knew it I had him on Cherry Chimes' FanCam. The walk around the stadium was taking ages and with programme sellers tucked away in their boxes it took me a while to actually go over to one to pick up a copy of the day's programme - it was a good read too for £3.

Our eyes were attracted to the stage they have all set up with two fans form each team taking part in a competition. I'm not sure who won but the presenter was enjoying taking the mick out of both of them for not knowing the answers - name three bald Man City players in 10 seconds? Yeah, I'll pass too Kompany perhaps, that's all I could think of. 
Looking down on the stage from the first floor of the club shop.
Statue in front of the athletics track. 
Man City flag at half mast.
No matter the club shop loomed up before us two floors of shirts stacked up high and fans taking pictures next to the shirt of their favourite player - Aguero's shirt was a bit popular. I probably did not look hard enough but I did not see any silver trophies but there was a line of shirt number pressing machines set up like a row of typewriters all working away and producing a new named and numbered shirt in a few minutes it seemed. It was no good though, I don't think they would have done my AFCB shirt so we sped out and around to the away section at L1.

We had time to take in the Man City flag fluttering at half mast to honour Howard Kendall and we saw the athletics track next to the stadium before going through the security and meeting up with All Departments's broadcaster Michael Dunne and our mate Damien Hill. They were sitting higher up though than us and we entered the bottom tier which was on ground level with the players. It was the best place for me as it was perfect for taking pictures of  the players as the former athletics stadium was graduated so that the middle and top tiers were a good distance from the pitch and very elevated. If you like heights I guess it is a different way for AFCB fans to watch a game as we have nothing like that yet.

I got the usual no photos when the game starts from a keen steward, even though it was 2.15 and nowhere near 3pm kick off. I was having enough trouble as it was as my lens kept jamming. Still I got a few good shots and went back to my seat to watch events unfold and was thinking there is not a lot between me and a few thousand Man City fans to my left. Like everyone I was apprehensive to hear no Artur Boruc running towards us and the first 11 minutes were a bit of a horror show.
L2 and L3 entrances.
Lot's of AFCB fans behind us.
Still we could celebrate when Murray scored and as soon as the third went in I said to the boys that it could be a big score today. In the end 5-1 was probably kind to AFCB, but I didn't feel that City were massively better just that the Cherries had made too many uncharacteristic errors and it had been all too easy for Man City to profit by them.

While the walk back to the car was up hill we were prepared for the long wait to get out of Manchester and seeing that it was going to be an hour I made my mind up very quickly that we would be heading for the M6 Toll road to get a swift journey back as soon as we did get on the motorway. At the end of the day though I think there are very few grounds that I would come out of and think it was still an enjoyable day having seen our side lose 5-1. If we get the opportunity to do the trip next season though perhaps I won't feel the same as I want to see AFCB improve. Hopefully they can start that against Spurs on Sunday.

In other news, The Bournemouth Echo broke the story that former West Ham Ricardo Vaz Te is training with AFCB ahead of a possible move on a free contract. He would be eligible to play in January.

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