What a way for Norwich City to end the season...

Chris Lakey looks at one of the trips most Norwich City fans have been looking forward to the most – Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal away. It's the game many Norwich City fans – particularly the groundhoppers – have been waiting for.

That the fixture compiler decided to make it the very last away trip of the Premier League season is a little cruel – the wait will be as agonising as this summer's has been as we count down to the opening game of the campaign on August 13.

The reason some can't wait for the trip to north London is not just because we want to see Arsene Wenger's team – it's because it's a first for City fans.

Norwich may well have won at Arsenal on the opening day of the very first Premier League season, but they have never trodden the glorious, lush turf of the Emirates Stadium.


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On May 5, 3,000 Norwich fans will squeeze into a corner of the Emirates on the final away day of the season, the penultimate game. But what can they expect to see?

Apart from the obvious – a huge swathe of grass on which 22 men will do battle – the Emirates as a footballing experience, is up there with Old Trafford and Wembley.

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For those who can't wait, there's a fella called Peter who does a pretty impressive stadium tour.

For �15 you can join a party of around 50 for an hour-long behind-the-scenes look at the place.

Not all of it – I was perhaps the only visitor this week who was actually more interested in the away team facilities than the home.

Our group all wanted to sit in Wenger's seat on the bench, to sit on the right side of the directors' box, and to see the home dressing room.

Unfortunately, the away team bench was covered in tarpaulin, the left side of the director's box was inhabited by those taking pictures of people in the right-hand seats and the away dressing room was strictly out of bounds.

Nevertheless, I think we will all be impressed. A short walk from Arsenal station on the Piccadilly Line, it's less than 20 minutes from central London.

The walk is a short one, the phalanx of staircases leading up to the stadium via the road a sign of things to come.

When you reach the stadium itself, ignore the first 20 feet or so as you walk around and, instead, look up – the dull, grey concrete is replaced by acres of tinted glass which better illustrates the feel of the place. Inside, it's a thing of beauty.

The players enter 'below stairs', walk past a time capsule that contains, among other things, Thierry Henry's socks and a list of the names of every player to have appeared in the Arsenal first team between their opening games 125 years ago and the day the stadium opened, 120 years later.

The walk to the dressing room takes players past scores of pictures of Arsenal players.

Paul Lambert will take his players to the right. What lies beyond the door marked 'away team change room' is anyone's guess.

Peter says it's similar – Sir Alex Ferguson reckons it's the best away team dressing room in the Premier League. It has corners and sharp lighting – this is important, because the home dressing room has neither.

Wenger is keen on feng shui, the Chinese belief that energy can be gained by the positioning of certain objects, which doesn't like corners, so the home dressing room is curved. Not sure if this has anything to do with feng shui, but there's a waist high table in the middle of the Arsenal dressing room – the away table is higher, so that players have to stand up if they want to address someone sitting down at their place on the other side of the room.

Interesting facts: the Arsenal skipper always sits in the middle of the far end, no matter who he is. And he always decides whether outfield players wear short sleeved shirts or long-sleeved shirts.

Wenger designed the dressing rooms (Norman Foster couldn't have done it better), so while there's a hydrotherapy pool in the home dressing room which could become an Olympic venue, the fact that the away room may just have a couple of foot spas is down to him.

Curiously, the directors' room didn't impress. It was exactly what it says: a room. With dining tables. That's it.

The press facilities impressed me more, with 100 cubicles for us chaps to sit and work in, after we'd been fed and watered, and a large theatre-like press conference room.

What did impress me was another of Peter's facts: it's a 75-year tradition that on match day, the directors' room is filled with flowers in the colours of the away team. Nice touch.

It brought a smile to the faces of the tour party, of which I believed I was the solitary English person until I saw a family of four who argued over their passes and then chatted away as our guide tried to tell us interesting things. Which he did.

The stadium holds 60,432 fans; it's ringed by 150 hospitality suites; it hosts 25 different non-footballing events every week; Emirates paid �105m UP FRONT for naming rights for 15 years; only two years and three months passed between the day planning permission for the Emirates was granted to the first match played there; the directors' box has 130 seats; the media eat us out of house and home then call us rubbish in the following day's paper (not a fact, but one of Peter's interesting observations which included his reference to Tottenham's golden jubilee year – 50 years since they won the league. Boom, boom).

But what of the old home, the fabulous Highbury ground which was just a decent goalkick away? Two sides were listed buildings, so the shell remains and is recognisable to those who went there to watch football.

The pitch area is now parkland which serves the residents of the 700-odd flats that were built into where fans used to sit. The development brought in �75m which helped pay for its �390m replacement.

Only those who went to Highbury and are fortunate enough to go to the Emirates next May will be able to compare the two.

Those who regard new stadia with the contempt reserved for certain teams from Suffolk may be pleasantly surprised.

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