Tribute Trust Trustee and Spurs TV Commentator Daniel Wynne reflects on what White Hart Lane means to him
Your football team is the one thing in your life that remains a constant. Parents grow older and sadly pass on, children grow up and move out, political allegiances can sway, one can change religions and partners but football fans don’t change their team.
The stadium is at the core of that identity.
I climbed the stairs of the old West Stand in August 1975 for the first time as a young and impressionable 4 year old, my Dad walking proudly by my side with the big letters across the façade above me. I remember staring wide eyed with a sense of awe at the green surface laid out before me with what will soon become the familiar sights, sounds and smells of a first team matchday entering my psyche. I knew from that day I belonged there. I felt safe and secure. I was at home.
The 20 or so years I spent going to White Hart Lane with my Dad are amongst my happiest memories. Cherished times with my now departed Dad.
The drive to the ground, spotting the floodlights from a distance, seeing the same programme sellers, the cry of “roasted peanuts”, the same touts on the same spot, the sounds of “wear your colours” are all part of the sense of belonging. We were all visiting our home.
As the years passed, I had the pleasure of taking my two sons. I will never forget the sense of pride I had in ensuring I passed down the history and traditions of the Spurs way to the next generation. I was fulfilling my obligations. Consequently my children, (now in their 20s) also share and love our second home.
And so to 2017. I’ve held my season ticket since 1975 and for the last 16 years I have been honoured to work as the Club Commentator on Spurs TV. My match day experience is no doubt different to most, but for me that makes White Hart Lane all the more special.
I typically arrive at the ground early (11am for a 3pm kick off) and I have time to wander round the famous old stadium. I am lucky to have been virtually everywhere including inside the South Stand Jumbotron looking out across the pitch through a missing pixel. I know every inch of the stadium, each nook and cranny has its own special place in my heart, and carries a memory of one description of another.
As the 2016-17 season progressed, game after game, win after win the memories of yesteryear seemed to become richer and more vivid. My childhood visions returned. I half expected my Dad to give me a cherry drop after we scored, just as he did in the 70s and 80s. There is no truth in the rumour he had the same packet of sweets for an entire season!
If only the half time scores were still displayed on the letters on the pitch side advertising boards!
The flashbacks were in sharp contrast to the emergence of the brand new stadium which was literally swallowing up the old version. There was no denying the impressive scale of it, nor of the impending destruction of The Lane.
Then the announcement was made at the end of April. This was really it. It was actually happening. Manchester United on May 14th was going to be the final curtain call.
On social media, I compared the feeling to that of sitting at the death bed of an ill relative, waiting for the inevitable to happen.
I was asked to work at the PL2 game as the stadium announcer on the Thursday of the week before The Finale. With less people in attendance I was able to enjoy the solitude of the empty stadium a couple of hours before kick off.
With the crowd gathered and the players huddled around the centre circle, I announced that there was to be a minutes applause for Ugo Ehiogu. It seemed appropriate that Tottenham Hotspur was remembering a member of the Spurs family when it had been announced that the proceeds from merchandise and memorabilia from the final game would be for the Tottenham Tribute Trust. I am proud to be a trustee of that charity which looks after former players and employees of our great Club. A most wonderful gesture from Daniel Levy and the Board.
The day arrived. Manchester United were standing in the way of a second placed finish in the Premier League and going the entire final season unbeaten at home.
I arrived at midday and everyone I saw was in a reflective mood. Each person was reminiscing and remembering their own White Hart Lane story. I bumped into Pete Abbott the stadium announcer. We chatted for about 15 minutes as we did at most home games. Both of us realising this was it. Paul Coyte was next, I wished him well for The Finale, knowing he would be impressive. He always is and just like The Lane, he didn’t disappoint.
Having received the team line ups, the time had come to head to the gantry from the edit suite in the East Stand for the last time. It was a journey I had made some 450 times before. Through the Legends Lounge, across the concourse and up the stairs to the East Upper past the regular friendly faces who wish me well each week. Different rituals from those early days in the 1970s but they are all part and parcel of the pre match routine now.
Up on the gantry, the wonderful Martin Tyler shook my hand and suggested this was to be an emotional day for me. He wasn’t wrong. Steve Wilson from the BBC, Arlo White and Lee Dixon from NBC were also in the packed commentary box. Arlo, a Leicester fan reminded me about the last game at Filbert Street…………it was against Spurs. Lee, made a typically cheeky, light hearted dig in jest. The scene was set. The Finale was here.
In now typical fashion, we dominated proceedings and brushed United aside with “one of our own” going down in history as the scorer of the last Spurs goal………just as I suggested he might in my opening words of the final commentary.
All season, I had given much thought to what I was going to say in the final sentence of the final game. I wanted to celebrate the history and embrace the move to our new home, but I wanted to do it in a Spurs way. A few days before the game, the words hit me. “White Hart Lane has been our home for 118 years, thank you for the memories. Glory Glory Hallelujah. And the Spurs go marching on”.
It seemed fitting and relevant. I had said those words about 50 times with a view to not choking with emotion when delivering them on air. The final whistle was blown by the Cultured Jon Moss (sorry…………young readers may need Google to help with that one) and I wrapped the game up and with more than a hint of emotion I uttered those last words.
That was it.
A few words of wisdom over The Finale for the IPB viewers overseas and that was it. It was time to leave. Tears were flowing freely. I didn’t want to leave the gantry. Martin Tyler saw me and again shook my hand and paid tribute to the “classy show that Spurs always put on”. High praise. Even Lee Dixon was complimentary.
I took one last glance behind me at a sight that was so familiar, the view from the gantry across White Hart Lane. My home that I shared with thousands of others.
We need to move on and we will return, (as the last ever half time guests once sang), “back home to White Hart Lane”
After all, home is where the “Hart” is.