Taking the Flak

Last updated : 26 January 2003 By Mike Lammiman
Fully expecting the wrath of angry forum members following the debacle associated with the ticket office, Pearson arrived 30 minutes late for the meeting. This wasn't too painful as we were supping free cans of Tetleys Smooth in the new players' lounge at the Circle. When he did arrive, he was wearing a broad grin and a battered, red safety hat. He apologised for the blunders of the ticket office staff, who had allowed seats reserved for season ticket holders to be sold to queuing fans. This would have been easier to take for those affected, were it not for the three and a half hour queue to be told the news. We are promised that over a 48-hour period sometime in February, the number of ticket office serving windows will increase from 4 (designed, we are told, to deal with a ground capacity of around 8000) to 8 windows. The microphones at the serving windows will work this time, we will be assisted as to which window we are to move to by a flashing light and there will be someone on hand whose sole task will be to answer the telephone. A canopy will also erected to help protect those queuing from the elements.

It's hard to complain given the pleasant surroundings of the lounge and Pearson's obvious discomfort of the subject, so people don't. When asked if he could have foreseen the farce of the ticket arrangement for the opening game against Sunderland, he admits that he didn't expect the crowd to be so high. He also claimed not to know that season pass holders were advised via the official web-site that their tickets would be held for them until 24 hours before the kick off. There was no arrangement in place to cope with the queues caused by this. Telephones rang and rang because the system designed to pass the waiting caller to another phone in the chain failed. Pass holders were made to queue with everyone else - only to find that, for some, their tickets had been sold to another. It appears that the ticket office staff ignored that these tickets should only have been sold once the name and address of the pass-holder had been given. Pearson promises to get this right and suspects that he has lost thousands prospective fans upset by their experiences. He was spared the question on everyone's lips in December: why was the last meeting cancelled? I doubt it was because Mrs Pearson wanted to go Christmas shopping.

Other matters, then. Catering: the food is generally perceived to be of a poor quality, limited choice and overpriced. Pearson refuses to review price until he receives March's accounts. He aims to have Premiership quality and price. We are asked what flavour pies we would like and what else we'd like to see on sale. The food cannot be fried because of safety reasons. Incidentally, we are told that the fire alarm system isn't fully functional - hence the lack of wastebins. Throw your wrappers on the floor, everyone! That's what they want you to do. Some waste bins are now available, but they are limited in number for the time being. The stadium has them because the plan to sweep the concourses at half time has thwarted by the queues (that word again) of people wanting Bovril, sorry, beer etc. The East stand suffers worse here. People are blocking entrances to the loos by not forming an orderly queue. To combat this, barriers will be used to channel the thirsty and hungry to the kiosks.

Poor stewarding has been a particularly sharp thorn on the rose-tinted experience that watching City should be. One member recounted a tale of taking two non-City supporting friends who had been so badly and rudely treated by a steward, that even if they could, they wouldn't come again. Regular readers may recall that these employees will have the opportunity to study for NVQs. Telling people to "sit somewhere over there or I'll have you thrown out" will not, I suspect, be part of the syllabus. Some stewards are apparently screaming at fans to sit down whenever they stand up for a corner or when we are attacking. There will be a policy on standing as a result of such heavy-handedness. It's okay, good people, to stand at such moments of excitement. One problem is that the steward numbers have risen from 130 at the Ark to 360. Ten percent of these just don't turn up on a match day. The majority of them lack experience. They are instructed to be courteous and helpful: they should move people off your seat if you ask them to. Really?

Car parking: those hoping for a tarmac covering on the Walton Street car park will be disappointed. It will cost around £3m to do this. We can, however, expect it to be levelled and surfaced with loose stones at some point. No lighting is planned though.

Are these faults spoiling what is a truly magnificent stadium? Not from my seat on a Saturday afternoon, it isn't. All is forgotten once I sit down and take in the sights, sounds and hope for the serendipity that will take us to the play offs. Tales of players seen in the pubs and clubs of the city centre don't help this hope, and the players themselves are not happy about these rumours. They are defending themselves to the manager and chairman, the latter stating that, if these allegations prove founded, the culprits will be sacked. The news that one player was seen in a Beverley Road pub the evening before a game (last year) was met with silence. The presence of a drinking culture in the club is not news. If this bugbear can be tackled, that will be news. While I'm on the subject of players, we were also informed that the agent(s) for the Dude and Alexander have been told they can find new clubs for their undynamic duo.

The subject of team tactics ensured a lively discussion, especially where corners are concerned. The current ploy favoured by Taylor is to bring everyone back when defending a corner in order to pack the penalty area with players. This is intended to make it hard for the opposition to win the ball and, we are led to believe, is a common tactic used in the Italian game, and the man is not for turning. So, if you disagree with this or any other aspect of Taylor's philosophy, Pearson tells us that Taylor will respond to correspondence on the subject.

Finally, some other points to finish on. Two new signings - Forrester and Fettis, the former announced to the forum as an exclusive. The results of the anthem were announced, but fear not, a pathetic 274 top scoring "Wonder of You" will not be used as it is clear that we can't be orchestrated into accepting this as a pre-kick-off sing-a-long. There will one day be a newspaper out there to compete with the Dull Daily Fail (Pearson is amazed at the lies they print: the picture that was used to illustrate Fieldhouse being banned from the stadium was actually taken when they were having a laugh about nothing-in-particular). The low-life that paid for a brick on the walk of fame with the words "No Surrender" adulterating it can expect to be disappointed very soon. We were promised (again) that the Reverend Bagshawe won't be appearing at Christmas sing-a-long.

Oh, and Neil Mann Mann Mann's testimonial will be at the end of the season against Manchester United or Manchester City. Tick Tock.