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      John Henty: The man who made Crystal Palace 'Glad All Over'


      Just the first page of the autobiography Whatever Happened to John Henty? gives you an idea of the subject’s witty and warm personality; the second demonstrates the impact he made in media roles across the globe.

      But what you’re likely to know John Henty best for? The man who introduced Glad All Over to Crystal Palace Football Club.

      Henty is now retired and living in Lewes following a long, quite remarkable career, but speaks with obvious delight of that continued association to his local club, for whom he spent over 30 years manning the Selhurst Park tannoy.

      He’s also pleased to recall that the original UK release of Glad All Over falls 60 years to this day – 15th November, 1963. Fittingly, the original Gold Disc was purchased by Crystal Palace almost exactly 10 years ago, and currently sits in the Selhurst Park trophy cabinet.

      The song – as the former radio producer, journalist and public speaker points out early on in our interview – has since become attached to a number of football clubs, the likes of Rotherham, Port Vale, Swindon and Yeovil among them. But none more fervently, more famously, than Crystal Palace – “it’s a joy for me,” Henty admits.

      Born on Brigstock Road in Thornton Heath, Henty - whose father had even played on one occasion for Crystal Palace as an amateur - would later move to south Croydon. He attended Whitgift School, from where Henty graduated – in his own words – with “five O-Levels, which didn’t take me very far!

      “But they took me far enough to join the Croydon Advertiser, the local newspaper, in 1960. I came into contact with the sports editing team, and we carried a story in early 1961 about the start of broadcasts to all the hospitals in Croydon, like Croydon General and the Mayday.

      “I thought, through that, I'd like to get into broadcasting. I applied to join hospital radio and, within literally hours, I found myself at the back of the Main Stand at Selhurst Park with just a microphone, straight into broadcasting a game!” Henty’s book suggests it was a 4-1 defeat to Northampton Town on 6th September 1961; quite the introduction to life on the airwaves.

      He continues: “There was a good response from the hospitals and Palace became aware of what we were doing… to the point we created a studio on the terraces at Selhurst! It was on a very muddy bank at the Arthur Wait end.

      “Then, when the Stand was planned, we had to move, so we went onto the terracing at the Holmesdale Road end. At that point, the club had an announcer who used to give out the team news and very little else, and they asked our team – the hospital broadcasting team – whether anyone would like to take over the job.

      “The two others were fairly reluctant for one reason or another, so I volunteered, and that’s how it all started.”

      The first printed reference to Glad All Over; from the match programme against Peterborough on 25th January 1964 (contributed by Ian King)
      The first printed reference to Glad All Over; from the match programme against Peterborough on 25th January 1964 (contributed by Ian King)

      What many Palace fans would consider the job offer of a lifetime arrived on a permanent basis not long after – 1964, Henty suggests, the same year he sealed his greatest legacy at the club.

      “It seemed right at the time,” Henty surmises, when asked: why Glad All Over? “It was in the charts. I didn’t play it immediately [in November 1963], but it went to No. 1 in January 1964, and that was probably the time I thought of trying it out.

      “I liked playing the records – that was part of the job I really enjoyed, welcoming people and playing the music – and I tried one or two other things, like Herb Alpert. But Glad All Over went down particularly well, particularly with the kids.

      “In those days, they were all around on the Selhurst terraces. They used to thump those advertising hoardings very loudly with Glad All Over – and that’s how it all started!”

      Indeed, sifting through the archives, Herb Alpert’s A Banda is one of very few songs cited – in an early 1970s programme – as a former Palace ‘walk-out’ song. Fellow Dave Clark Five track Bits and Pieces, which Henty played from the same record as our current anthem, is also mentioned in print.

      But when did Glad All Over emerge triumphant to become a permanent fixture in south London?

      Henty cannot say for sure – and feels the record has cemented that place, in Palace’s hearts and history, over time.

      “I've got a picture which shows Sam Allardyce, a pretty cheerful looking Sam Allardyce – and the headline in the Evening Standard read: ‘No wonder miracle worker Allardyce feels Glad All Over.

      “In the article, he said: ‘I think it's the best song I have heard a group of fans sing after a game. Whoever decided to make that the song for Crystal Palace… I love that song.’ Not a bad bit of praise, I think!

      “I think Sylvia” – Henty’s wife and fellow Palace supporter – “was delighted too, because on more than one occasion, she actually did the PA work when I was unable to do it.

      “Then there’s the brilliant game at Villa Park, when we were in the semi-final of the [1990 FA] Cup. Sylvia and I and my son were there... and there’s one thing I will take credit for in the victory.

      “Alan Pardew's goal, for example, was a splendid contribution – but also, I'd got in touch with the PA man at Villa Park well before and sent him a cassette with Glad All Over on it! It’s very unusual for away clubs to something like that, but this guy obviously chose to play it.

      “So when the players came out, you could imagine my joy with all our supporters belting out Glad All Over. It's no wonder we won – I mean it was guaranteed, wasn't it?!”

      Reports abound of Palace fans distributing lyrics sheets at Villa Park to ensure they drowned out Liverpool's You'll Never Walk Alone – but whatever actually happened, it did the trick.

      But this affiliation very nearly did not last that long; even with The Dave Clark Five performing it live at Selhurst Park in 1968, Palace’s love affair with the record almost did not persist beyond the Malcolm Allison revolution of the early 1970s.

      At the same time that Allison transformed the club’s colours, badge and nickname, he also had designs on changing the club’s song.

      Henty revealed: “He suggested Hey Jude which, at the time, was another Beatles hit – but in my view was a bit unoriginal and a bit dirgy.

      “Fortunately, nobody bought that idea. Glad All Over simply had to come through.”

      Come through it did, and as Henty’s experience of broadcasting grew, so too did his assignments diversify.

      He joined BBC Radio Brighton in 1968, with whom he spent much of his subsequent career and, among other feats, gave Des Lynam a number of his early assignments in broadcasting (he hesitates to call it “his break”).

      Henty’s book reveals quite the plethora of adventures thenceforth – including a hilarious ‘Name-dropping Index’ at the back – but also led to further opportunities in the public address world, particularly during Palace’s ground-sharing days at Selhurst Park.

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      I simply love football. It's as simple as that

      John Henty

      Charlton Athletic shared the ground for six years from 1985 and Wimbledon for a spell from 1991, both clubs utilising Henty’s services – and he even recalls, with a moment’s initial hesitation: “I have to say that I was approached by Brighton & Hove Albion – sorry to mention that!

      “I was trying to earn money at the time as a freelancer, so I accepted the role as Public Announcer at the Goldstone Ground. There was a classic occasion, which is remembered even today by the Seagulls’ fans…

      “On a hot summer’s day, there were only a few fans inside, but I accidentally said: ‘Good afternoon, and welcome to Selhurst Park!’ I had to suddenly correct myself!

      “They’ve never forgotten that though – it’s been mentioned at one or two dinners, I believe!” Those Croydon roots coming to the fore, he adds: “I need to point out that I understand the rivalry between Brighton and Crystal Palace.

      “But we don’t call it ‘hate’ here - that’s nonsense. At the end of the day, it’s all about football. I simply love football. It's as simple as that.”

      Henty’s time on the Selhurst Park microphone came to a close around 1996 as he pursued other business interests in Cornwall, but he takes a moment in our interview to thank a number of legendary Palace characters – including former kitman Spike Hill; his successor on the Selhurst PA, Rob Fox; and the club’s long-serving production manager, Terry Byfield – for their help across three decades’ worth of memories.

      “There seem to be so many changes at Selhurst, you will understand,” Henty explains. “So we're always delighted when we receive messages. Sylvia and I had our 50th wedding anniversary in one of your rather posh Hospitality boxes, and next year we’re coming up to our 60th.

      “It needs to be said: the reason why we’ve stayed together for all the years – and Sylvia will probably have a different view on this – is basically because of the Palace.

      “I’ve got a lot of interest, she’s got a lot of interest, and Sylvia is the only woman I know in the world who will quite happily watch football instead of Strictly Come Dancing or The Antiques Roadshow! She’ll watch Rochdale play Salford City if it’s on the television!

      “She went to school right by the training ground – Lady Edridge School – which was demolished, of course. As a result of that, was able to watch the Palace players training from the domestic science laboratory! A lot of experiments went very wrong, and Sylvia started going on her own to Selhurst Park. As they say, the rest is history.”

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      The song is absolutely right for the Palace

      John Henty

      The couple continued to attend Selhurst Park for a number of years following John’s departure from the club, but nowadays tend to cheer Palace on from their home in Lewes.

      Even 50 miles away from SE25, and 60 years on, they can hear the chimes of John Henty’s legacy: 'You say that you love me…’ sees decades of memories, characters and love for Crystal Palace Football Club pour forth.

      “What is so delightful and brilliant,” Henty exclaims, “is that whenever I hear, and whenever we hear, and whenever my son hears, Palace fans and Glad All Over, it makes us feel very, very good indeed.

      "It's a joy for me to know that when I'm not around – and that'll happen one day – there's a fair old chance that people will remember me, Sylvia and our family through Glad All Over.

      “The song is absolutely right for the Palace, and I hope it will always be right for the Palace."