Football Commentator & Columnist
Windsor Park: Martin Tyler shares memories of commentating at home of Northern Ireland
Happy memories of the Home International Championships and a soaking in the rain
Last Updated: 19/05/20 7:48am
At a time when football grounds have closed their doors, we've asked Martin Tyler to share some of his favourite facts and memories of the homes of clubs around the world.
This week, Sky Sports' Voice of Football is looking at some grounds across Europe. Today, he takes us on a trip to Windsor Park in Northern Ireland...
Keep an eye on The Football Show on Sky Sports News and @SkySportsPL for some special Tyler's Teasers from Martin.
What it's like to commentate there
The ground has been splendidly upgraded in recent times, including the television facilities. I have not commentated at Windsor Park since a European tie between Linfield and Dinamo Zagreb in 2008. Even though it was July it rained incessantly and at that time there was no roof to the gantry.
Bryan Hamilton, my co-commentator, and I got a drenching. The Croatians won 2-0 and Mario Mandzukic, who was to break England hearts in Moscow 10 years later almost to the day, scored one of the Dinamo goals.
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Did you know?
Windsor Park has been given an impressive facelift, through reconstruction and refurbishment, and is now a modern all-seater stadium with a capacity of 18,500.
My memories of the ground
My sharpest recollection is from a match in 1987 when I was commentating on England's visit to Windsor Park for a European Championship qualifier. The political unrest in Ireland was still an issue and the security around the match was enormous. The staging of the fixture there had been in some doubt, though England had been regular visitors to Belfast through the Home International Championship which had been scrapped only three years earlier.
England were managed and captained by the Robsons, Bobby and Bryan. The latter brought a smile to the former when he headed England into a 19th-minute lead after Terry Butcher, winning his 50th cap, had flicked on a long throw. Chris Waddle scored a stylish second after the break and it was job done and a place in the finals of Euro 88 was a step nearer.
The real drama though was after the game. I had barely started my post-match interview with a happy England manager when the television floor manager was making circles with his index finger, the recognised sign to wind up the chat. Stopping Bobby Robson in after-match victory mode was never an easy thing and I wanted the viewers to hear more so I carried on. Eventually the signaller took matters into his own hands and simply stepped between us, bringing the interview to an abrupt halt.
"I'm sorry, Mr Robson, but for security reasons we have to evacuate the ground immediately. The players are on the coach and you must join them. Now!"
He ushered Bobby away but there seemed to be no plans for the only other group still in the stadium, the media. The England team bus departed for the airport and the short hop back to Manchester, a flight on which the English television crew were to travel as well. Though we did get there in time, we were left in Windsor Park for an uncomfortably long period before our evacuation took place, wondering whether we would leave in one piece.
In checking back to share the story with you I noticed that the date of the game was April 1. It certainly did not feel like a joke at the time.
What I like about this ground
I really enjoyed the Home International Championships between Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England, particularly when it was switched to an end-of-season competition spread over consecutive weekends in May with midweek fixtures in the middle. Unusually for the time, some of the games were broadcast live. It was the first football action I saw on my first colour TV.
When I joined ITV in 1973 I became part of the team covering the games, often the Windsor Park fixtures. Good memories.