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Etihad Stadium And Club Tour: Gallery

Confidential goes in search of a scoop... and finds a hairdryer

Written by . Published on March 3rd 2014.


Etihad Stadium And Club Tour: Gallery
 

WITH talk of Man City owner Sheikh Mansour re-mortgaging the entire United Arab Emirates in order to poach Messi from Spain, reports that Manuel Pellegrini’s dressing room contains flasks of Swedish referee blood and rumours that blue-eyed Spanish boy Jesus Navas had sacked it all off to become a hairy-arsed gardener – Confidential could smell a scoop.

Jesus Navas: gardenerJesus Navas: gardenerWe could also smell two hours out of the office mostly dicking about and taking more snaps than two schoolboys locked in a photocopy room with a Sunday Sport.

Now, you may claim this point to be well-established (and of course you’d be right) but football clubs can be right scallywags. And apparently they’re all at it.

Having recently scooped the Manchester Tourism Award for the city’s ‘Best Small Visitor Attraction 2013’ (United took ‘Best Large Attraction’, ouch), we went along to the ever-expanding Etihad campus to give the new 90-minute tour a whirl.

Colin Bell standColin Bell stand

The tour began as all good tours should, with a lady called Dianne – possibly the jollliest lady we have ever come across and more through-and-through blue than a cold Smurf.

Starting in the hospitality entrance of the Colin Bell stand (widely regarded as City’s best ever player, aside from that Brazlian named Jo), Dianne takes us up to the Chairman’s Club which has hosted both Tom Cruise (a Real Madrid fan, honest) and best-thing-ever One Direction (who've all played for Doncaster or something).

Chairman's ClubChairman's Club

Big wigs, small roomBig wigs, small roomIt’s a 220-capacity room touched by 47 depths of beige. Warm, hugely inoffensive and unflinchingly exclusive (£300 a match/£7,000 a season exclusive). Mind you, you do get a five course meal, and if your pockets are deep enough, a booth. Meaning you don't even have to leave the lounge and bar to watch the game. Apparently it's been done.

There’s a handful of private meeting rooms 'where all the big deals are done.' Big hitters, tiny room. This is where City bigwigs were told by Barca bigwigs the previous night that there was more chance of United lifting this year's title than Messi coming to City.

How they laughed into their sevruga.

Director's tableDirector's table

Then it's out to the Director’s box, the best (heated leather) seats in the house and in perfect heckling distance of the dugouts.

Built in 2000 for the 2002 Commonwealth Games for just under £100 million (some perspective, the 60,000 capacity Emirates Stadium finished in 2006 cost nearly £400 million) the 48,000 capacity Etihad is set to become the country's second largest club football stadium behind Old Trafford. The expansion to the North and South stands will take the capacity to 62,000 and bring the total cost of the stadium to £147 million (or 3.86 Sergio Agueros) - Now that’s bloody good business.

Dianne in the Director's seating areaDianne in the Director's seating area

Next up is the press room, which was essentially just a race, ploughing children to the ground, to jump up on stage and play at being football manager: 'I don't think it was a proper headbutt.' Like this...

'I didn't mean to butt him' (he did)

Breaking away from the group and disregarding the ‘No Media Beyond This Point’ sign, we managed to slope into the Manager’s Room, not officially part of the tour but we were after a scoop. And DID WE find a scoop:

Manuel's blowerManuel's blowerNot only does Manuel Pellegrini have a Babyliss hairdryer to preen before going on camera (the big sissy), but he also keeps a sneaky Italian beer in his changing room fridge and Pellegrino brand water. Bet he has a riot with that. Top reporting.

Dianne soon ushered us back in line and into the Player’s changing room.

Now, you may claim this point to be well-established (and of course you’d be right) but football clubs can be right scallywags. And apparently they’re all at it.

Alex Ferguson moaned about this aspect of club-level gamesmanship back in 2009. Away team facilities. Fergie claimed his office was bigger than the away team changing room at Fulham.

The away facilities at the Etihad are far from small, but equally as far from comfortable.

Whereas the home team's facilities are bright, polished, heated with state-of-the-art Formula 1 padded seating and top of the range Cryospa hot tubs and ice baths, the away team changing rooms look like a bunch of half-arsed budget IKEA wardrobes. Look.

Home team dressing roomHome team dressing room: lovely

Away-team dressing roomAway-team dressing room: barren

"All clubs do it," says Dianne, "We don't want them to feel comfortable, we want the upper hand, to intimidate them. The away team dressing room isn't even soundproofed, they can hear our fans chanting on the terraces."

It's all very Coliseum, very gladiatorial. Still, didn't do much to phase Barcelona the night before. Even City's plan to baffle the favourites with a military precision handshake procedure (in English) didn't work.

Got it? Errm, no un pocoGot it? Errm, no un poco

Out to pitch-side. We line up in the tunnel as Dianne pushes a button that emits the rumble of the crowd as we stroll out onto the pitch. A pitch greener than Alan Titchmarsh's fingers and receiving a sunbed treatment in one corner - to promote growth.

The city pitch, held together with 27,000 miles of fibre and '20 million artificial fibres injected into the pitch' through Desso GrassMaster requires five groundsman to keep it in top nick. And you can tell. I've never before had the urge to kiss grass (except when Grimsby beat Liverpool in 2011), but I'd give this a snogging.

Tanning the grassTanning the grass

Still, venture out on to the pitch and you may end up with the head groundskeeper's pitchfork up your jacksie.

"He's very protective of his grass," Dianne warns us, "I wouldn't touch a blade of it." The desire to make a break for it is painful. But I like my jacksie intact. We settled for more of this:

Accountant Dave playing PellegrinisAccountant Dave playing Pellegrinis

Finally, it's into the museum where you can trace club history, see plans for the Etihad's great leap forward and pick your all time greatest Man City team. Or as we did, pick the club's all-time ugliest team. Carlos Tevez got a run-out.

We'd have probably dicked about for longer if an irate call from the office and a well-aimed 'where the f**k are you two?' hadn't sent us packing.

The tour had been impressive, considering neither of us were even City fans, we'd taken a stack of pub-worthy photos. Dianne had been a delight.

Following his tour, Head Coach Manuel Pellegrini (his PR) said:

“Manchester City has a fantastic heritage and the Etihad Stadium Tour provided me with a great insight into the Club’s rich history. Hopefully at the end of the season, we’ll have given the fans even more reasons to be proud of the Club.”

He then went back to eating Jonas Eriksson's liver.

Dream-teamingDream-teaming

The tour runs every hour from 10.30–15.30, seven days a week.

Admission for adults is £14.00, £10.00 for concessions (u16s, over 65s) and family tickets (two adults, two children) are also available for £43.00. 

Fans can either buy tickets for the Stadium & Club Tour in person at the Etihad Stadium, book in advance at www.mcfc.co.uk/tours or by calling 0161 444 1894.

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Depends on the arse.

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