Heated seats and 'concept' cuisine: City take prawn sandwiches to another level

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The Independent Online

Those "noisy neighbours" are getting the builders in, though this time Sir Alex Ferguson will perhaps be less provoked than a man who left Old Trafford long ago. For the transformation of Manchester City's corporate facilities means that the club can soon hope to share Roy Keane's contempt as purveyors of the better class of prawn sandwich.

An immediate £1.5m overhaul at the City of Manchester Stadium was announced yesterday with the sort of fanfare normally reserved for the signature of, at the very least, an U-18 starlet from Bosnia. A press release from the club gushingly promised "the ultimate matchday experience" at this "iconic venue" (sic).

City might have just missed out on the Champions' League, this time, but the infrastructure will clearly soon be in place for such fixtures as the one that so goaded Keane in 2000, when United might as well have hosted Dynamo Kiev in the Bodleian Library. "They have a few drinks, and probably the prawn sandwiches," he complained. "I don't think some of the people who come to Old Trafford can spell 'football', never mind understand it."

Keane, of course, is nowadays manager of Ipswich Town – where his boss, Marcus Evans, made his fortune in, ahem, corporate hospitality. The owners of Manchester City are richer still, however, accustomed to nothing but the best in Abu Dhabi. Soon, perhaps, they will be gratified to hear the home fans greeting Andy Reid, the portly Sunderland midfielder, with the chant: "Who ate all the Al Kabsah classic spice mix?"

All 66 of the club's remaining boxes are to be upgraded to "Platinum standard", after a dozen were dignified last season with "chic styling, walnut furniture and leather-upholstered bar stools". The Legends bar and restaurant will get new panoramic seating and "an exciting new food concept will serve fresh seafood, traditional carved joints and an array of mouth watering dishes."

At least the prawns will be fresh, and it is surely unprecedented for a concept to wear an apron.

Little wonder if 40 per cent of City's annual roster of 75,000 corporate guests reckon they get "quality business deals" done on match day. (Though maybe that sample was distorted by the inclusion of the perennial substitute, Roque Santa Cruz.)

Best of all, perhaps, is the extension of "deluxe leather heated seats" – hitherto confined to guests in the Directors' Box – to 240 places outside The Boardroom (not a boardroom at all, apparently, but a "premium dining facility"). It will be nice for the club's elaborately cool manager, Roberto Mancini, to know that he will not be the only one in the hot seat next season.

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