Back in the early 80s when I first started attending pre-season friendlies outside of England, there was very little information provided as to who or where we were playing, with getting there even more problematic. Sometimes the Arsenal programme provided vague info, but usually it meant a closed season trip to the old Travel Club office at Highbury to find out.
Today it’s a completely different story, as always, Arsenal travel around the globe, information is obtainable and nowadays it’s easier to book a pre-season tour to Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan than it was to Scotland back in 1980!
Gone are the days when we booked 2 or 3 weeks in a beautiful, but sleepy village like Bad Waltersdorf high up in the Austrian mountains, working out who we are playing, how we are getting there and where some of the locations are, there were times where we made it up as we went along!
In December 2015, the Club announced a pre-season Tour to Australia taking place in July 2017, some 19 months beforehand. For this to happen, it meant that Arsenal would have been planning this at least 6 months previous with contracts signed before making it official, the China leg wasn’t announced until February 2017 making it impossible to book the whole tour until after this date. When this happened, the Sydney hotel was booked early, but travel was impossible when we could be playing in say Asia, before or after these dates.
The good thing about the long-haul destinations, as well as most European ones, is that prices don’t go up as they do for Europa or Champions League matches.
Usually, you can work out dates and preliminary schedules before all matches are announced; normally, once you know when the Premier League officially starts, the weekend before is held back for a possible Community Shield appearance and before that it’s Emirates Cup weekend. This time round, I knew there was no Emirates Cup due to building works at the Stadium and following a 3rd round FA Cup defeat, there was going to be no trip to Wembley.
As I’m sure you all know, this season we travel to Singapore, Dublin and Stockholm. I was made aware of these matches in December with confirmation of Singapore in February 2018 and the two matches in Europe later.
Soon after I booked my trip to Dublin and Stockholm, the Singapore trip was officially announced; my expectation was that Arsene Wenger would be touring once again as manager and my hope was that this was to be his last time.
On Friday 20th April 2018, Arsenal announced that Arsene would be leaving the Club at the end of the season after 22 years, whilst I was surprised, with the announcement, the news wouldn’t affect Arsenals or my pre-season plans.
Before the end of the season, the Club also announced our annual pre-season friendly against Boreham Wood, they stated that this was to be an Arsenal XI which would normally mean either the reserves, the youth team or a mixture of both. It now looks like Saturday’s ‘opener’ will be made up of first team players who did not make it to the World Cup.
Soon after the equally surprising news of the new Head Coach, my Singapore trip was booked up, therefore my First Team pre-season preparations were complete.
Academy, Youth, Reserve and Women pre-season fixtures start to arrive and where possible, these are fitted in around my first team activities!
With the new season ahead of us, my aim is to write updates of the matches I attend following The Arsenal around the world; I won’t be writing match reports – there are plenty who do this, regardless of if they are in attendance or not – I will try to give you an insight into my world.
I will also be writing a diary for my trip to Singapore, which I hope will be published daily, bearing in mind the time differences.
Whatever happens this season, there are exciting times ahead and it’s a privilege to be able to support and follow the greatest Football Club on the planet.