View from the Gantry

GC: Firstly Daniel, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview – in my opinion probably the first for any Supporters Club Blog with someone behind the scenes at any top football club.

DW: You´re welcome

GC: Let´s start at the very beginning. When did you first start supporting Tottenham?

DW: My dad was a supporter – Spurs through and through. He had a season ticket for many years and travelled all over the country, even around Europe, watching them. I had no choice. I was a season ticket holder at the impressionable age of 5 (that was in 1975) and have had one ever since. I have even kept my season tickets despite being an “employee”. Plus my kidshave tickets as well.

GC: How did you first get involved “behind the scenes”?

DW:  I started doing the Sky Fanzone commentary and did the first six or seven for Spurs and then the first couple for England.

At that time Sky ran the official Spurs website through itsPlanet Football vehicle and an audio commentator was needed for the web site. I got that job and after a few weeks they put me on to the TV side. That was thirteen years ago, and I have been doing it ever since.

GC: Before we get into the commentary side, you also had a role behind the scenes – as it were – working with the charitable trusts and the Supporters´ Trust?

DW: Yes, I was chairman of the Supporters´ Trust for 6 years and I am proud to have been invited from the outset, to be a Trustee of the Tottenham Tribute Trust whichI am still very much involved with.

The Tottenham Tribute Trust is a charity which was set up by the Club to assist former players who find themselves in various levels of need in later life. We work very closely with the PFA and often share costs for assistance. Tottenham are incredibly supportive and generous, both in terms of time and assistance of the Trust.

Much of our work has to remain confidential but those that have been helped include the likes of Les Allen, Bobby Smith and Alan Mullery. There are many, many more, but as I say it has to remain confidential for the most part.

GC: Do other clubs have similar schemes?

DW: As far as I am aware – and I may be wrong in this – Tottenham are one of only two or three clubs that have such an organisation and seeing the condition that some former players find themselves in is often heartbreaking.

GC: If any of our readers and supporters wants to help how can they get involved?

DW: For more info about the Tottenham Tribute Trust, just visit www.tottenhamtt.org or follows us on Twitter @Tribute Trust.

As an aside, I try and tweet a daily “On this day” look back at a game or event from our history on the Tribute Trust Twitter feed.

GC: That really must be very rewarding, but to more mundane daily matters. What exactly is your role at the club on matchdays?

DW: My role on a matchday is actually quite a simple one! I do all the live 90 minute commentaries for all our Premier League and Cup games both domestic and European.

GC: Come on – it really cannot be that simple? Turn up and just talk about 90 minutes of football in front of a live audience and have it all recorded?

DW: Okay maybe not – but after thirteen years and a few hundred matches it has become a bit easier to do. Every game brings a different challenge. In the early days it was certainly harder, but I would always watch the games back and try to learn from the professionals and I’d like to think that I have improved since that time.

Now, I have enough experience to know what to say and when. Even in the heat of battle I have a split second to react to something on the pitch and deliver the telling line – ten years or so ago it may have been different.

GC: Where is your voice heard?

DW: At White Hart Lane I can be heard in all the public concourses, toilets (yes even in there you cannot get away from me!), all the lounges, boxes – anywhere the public can get into I am there.

It is also recorded and my voice goes into the Club’s analyst’s systems, available for the Manager and training staff to use in debriefing.

GC: And after the match?

DW: Later on, maybe the next week, even months later, the footage can be used on the jumbotrons at each end of the pitch before kick-off as part of the match build up.

It is used on Spurs TV. There is maybe an eight to ten minute highlight package which goes on the official Tottenham web site and then it is used on the Spurs TV international TV programme. This is a three hour programme shown 52 weeks a year.

During the season it shows the main game that weekend plus an hour edit of any midweek game or if there is no midweek game a preview of the next game in the form of an old game against that opponent.

The programme goes to about 40 countries and the number is increasing all the time.

GC: Where do you actually commentate from?

DW: At White Hart Lane I am based on the upper gantry which hangs off the east stand roof! I used to hate heights but I suppose I am now used to it.

I sit alongside theSky and BBC commentators (well known names and faces) and it has been known for them to check the odd Spurs related stat with me!

GC: For live televised games on Sky or BT the gantry must be full of cameras, crew and technical staff – but when they are not there, how many permanent cameras are there used by the club and others?

DW: Great question Graeme!

Every game is now shown live somewhere in the world, especially the Premier League games as you well know! Gone are the days when there were literally no cameras.

For a regular non Sky/BT game there are about 2-3 cameras on the gantry, one on each 18 yard line plus a couple of others pitch side so there will be something like 10 or 12, sometime less, sometimes more.

But for the big live Super Sunday style Sky game there can be over 24 cameras and crew (sometimes two per camera) plus all the 3D cameras that they now use.

The upper gantry for a quiet game will have the BBC for Match of the Day, Sky for their Saturday night show plus me whilst the lower gantry will have a number of foreign commentators.

When Motty is at WHL now for MotD he won´t use the upper gantry, only the lower.

GC: So it can get a bit crowded?

DW: On busy games, as well as Sky/BT, the BBC, there will be live foreign broadcasters who anchor from the gantry as well. Recently we even had NBC from America plus if the 3D cameras are in, BBC Radio 5 Live are up there too.

It can get really cosy up there at times and literally there is no space between me and the BBC position but the microphones we now use drown out sound from anyone else so we don’t get in each other´s stream – well not too much anyway.

GC: And it isn´t just home matches you now commentate on – away games as well recorded live in a studio. Is the technique required for commentary different?

DW: Don’t spoil the secretas I make out that I am at the away ground!

Working “off tube” is much harder as the vision is restricted to a TV screen plus I don’t have the benefit of the Outside Broadcast director in my headphones so I have no idea what shots are coming up next

 For example, when Roy Hodgson is at a game and say, Kyle Walker does a great tackle, the commentator says “That will impress the watching England manager” and, as if by magic, Roy pops up on screen, that is all planned and set up.

 At White Hart Lane I will know that as I get a feed off the OB director but, at away games, I don’t.

It does sometimes work out well by total coincidence! This season when we played away at Sheriff, they brought on a sub called Fernando. I gave a throw away comment when he was in vision along the lines of “Can you hear the drums Fernando” – as in the Abba lyric – and as I said it they cut to the drummer in the crowd! Perfect! Absolutely perfect.

GC: And finally, for this week at least, and before we get into the really interesting stuff about memorable games and players where do you stand – personally – on the use of the “Y” word when applied by other Spurs fans to each other? Especially as it is so much in the news this week.

DW:  My personal views on the “Y” word are fairly well known. And it does seem strange that we are not allowed to use it in its full context in case of prosecution.

I am Jewish and am very proud to be. I am a Governor of a United Synagogue primary school and therefore am extremely familiar with what it means to be Jewish.

Whilst it isn’t a word I use myself, I fully accept that Spurs fans, when using it in the context of supporting Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, are not using it in a derogatory way. Context and intent is central to the debate.

If it is used outside of our football environment it is easy to demonstrate it as being used negatively. However, inside a football ground when we are playing and when our fans use it in that context it doesn’t mean what it sometimes does outside the ground. It is just a word that is being used for the team as a collective.

For example what does the word “Gooner” mean? Nothing at all is the answer. But in the context of supporting Arsenal it means an awful lot.

In my previous role as chairman of the Tottenham Supporters´ Trust, I had to confront this issue more than once and have even gone head to head with comedian David Baddiel on TV and the radio.

Whilst I sympathise with some of the points Baddiel makes, I think he is somewhat misguided in trying to target Spurs’ fans.

I met the Baddiel brothers about a year before their film was released and whilst they listened to the points we made, as David left the room he shouted “Yiddo” which struck us as being more than a little hypocritical!

GC: Thank you Daniel, for your frank and interesting comments to date, I look forward to continuing these discussions in due course.

The comments and words are the personal opinions of the author and interviewee and should in no way be considered the official opinions of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club or any of its associate companies or organisations.

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