Southern rail staff welcomed a special visitor to Thornton Heath station ahead of the nail-biting Champions League final in Madrid this weekend.
The composer of the league’s spine-tingling anthem, Croydon’s Tony Britten, was a guest of honour at the station and the perfect person to play a tune on the piano situated next to the footbridge.
While at the station, Tony was interviewed by Crystal Palace Football Club producer Chris Grierson ahead of Saturday’s Tottenham Hotspur vs Liverpool match at 8pm tomorrow, June 1.
Palace fan Tony talked about his school years, attending Trinity School, and how he used to go to football matches every few weeks or so as a youngster. At a young age he realised he enjoyed music, and his first instrument was a recorder. He also “started messing around on the piano” and his Estonian aunt, who was a former concert pianist, told his parents she believed he had a talent. This led to his parents buying him a £10 piano. Tony said: “I think from about 13, I probably knew what I was going to do.”
Tony went on to do some professional singing and “quite a lot of conducting.” He said he very quickly got into theatre and worked for British theatrical producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh before Mackintosh’s rise to fame and fortune, including serving as a musical director for the original Guys and Dolls at the National Theatre. His music career evolved and he then started to move into film and TV. He said: "Before I got the gig for the Champions League, I was off doing a lot of commercials and jingles."
When asked to come up with music for the Champions League in 1992, Tony said UEFA “didn’t really know what they wanted”. He added: “They knew they wanted something classical. I just pulled together a whole lot of music on a tape and said ‘what do you like?’. They said they liked Zadok the Priest by Handel so I nicked it. Then they said it needed words. They wanted something that expressed the grandeur and that it was the best football you would see.”
Tony continued: “The whole notion of branding with music just didn’t happen back then. I think we were really the first to brand a sporting championship. People hadn’t really thought about it.” When asked by Palace TV producer Chris how he feels when he hears his piece before Champions League matches, he said: “It makes me feel proud.”
During his visit to Thornton Heath, Tony admired the station’s new mural of Palace’s mascot Kayla the Eagle. He also turned the heads of rail users as he played several tunes on the piano. Speaking of the new mural, Chris said: “It’s great for the local station to have something like this. We want the kids to start supporting Palace so anyway we can have a presence in the local community is great. Everyone knows the eagle!”
Station ticket gate assistant George Khoury was interested to see the filming taking place. The Chelsea fan said: “I hope Spurs win on Saturday because they’re a London team. We’re Londoners – we want the London team to win of course!”
Crystal Palace Football Club will be sharing the video on their social media channels in the lead up to the games, keep your eyes peeled!
Govia Thameslink Railway
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) operates Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express services as follows:
- Thameslink – cross-London services between Bedford/Peterborough/Cambridge and Brighton/Horsham/Littlehampton/East Grinstead, and between Luton/St Albans and Sutton/Wimbledon/Rainham; plus services between London and Sevenoaks
- Great Northern – services between London and Welwyn, Hertford, Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn
- Southern – services between London and the Sussex coast (Brighton, Worthing, Eastbourne, Bognor Regis, Hastings) and parts of Surrey, Kent and Hampshire (Ashford International, Southampton, Portsmouth)
- Gatwick Express – fast, non-stop direct services between Gatwick Airport and London Victoria