Outside, half-naked workmen sheeting with sweat screwed laminated day-glo maps of the area to spanking new hoardings, while several thousand half-naked queuing Gooners (plus goodie bags) turned to mulch, like strawberries cooking in the sun. Inside, behind many closed doors, the retiring hero of the hour made a penultimate appearance as a representative of Arsenal Football Club. In a black casual shirt, he was as cool as a cucumber.
This was Arsenal's £390m new home - the Emirates Stadium - yesterday turning itself out for inspection. It was Members' Day and it was also the day of Dennis Bergkamp's last pre-match press conference, ahead of his testimonial against Ajax tomorrow.
The Dutchman is bidding farewell to a club which he, as much as anyone, has brought to its current position of shining, 21st-century eminence. He came in 1995 because, "they were the first team that knocked on the door" when he found himself unwanted by Internazionale.
"The decision was firstly all about leaving Italy. I looked at Arsenal and saw a solid team. At that stage of your career, you don't plan to come and change everything by yourself. No, you want a team that is a solid base where you can fit in. I knew nothing of 'boring Arsenal' at that time and I thought straight away: this could work!"
What does his future hold? He is not sure. "I'm going to take a break, step away from playing football, get some new routines. After a year, after maybe three or four even, when I get bored, we'll see what happens..."
He does not want to be a coach. He does want to stay in England, for the foreseeable future. Will there be tears on Saturday (when Ian Wright, Patrick Vieira and even Johan Cruyff are rumoured to be attending)? "I don't know. But it will be special... and emotional."
Does he take any credit for changing Arsenal in the decade he wore the red and white (and yellow and blue and redcurrant)? He was not going to fall for that one.
And the trickiest manoeuvre of the entire press conference? Which had been his favourite strike partner? Wright? Hartson? Anelka? Henry? Wreh? Thoughtful smile. "I have been very lucky. It is difficult to compare them. They all helped me to be a better player. For me, it has always been about adjustment to that partner."Reuse content