Let us introduce Derek Daly and Kelly Bryson.
Derek is 38, born in Ireland and moved to London with his mum Mary and dad Joe when he was eight. His mum’s aunt Ellen lived on Pretoria Road, a goal-kick away from White Hart Lane. “I could hear the crowd when we visited my aunt on a Saturday,” he said. “That’s why from the first day here, I always felt drawn to the Club.”
Kelly is 37, born in South Africa and spent her childhood in Botswana after her parents Rob and Bev moved there for Rob’s work. Rob was born in Teeside and, naturally, a Middlesbrough fan. “I got into football watching all the games from England on satellite TV,” she recalled. “I can remember watching Spurs and saying ‘I like that team dad’ and he’d say ‘you don’t want to support them’ but I did, and I never looked back!”
Below: Derek and Kelly at the Lane
Derek first stepped into his field of dreams in the late 1980s. “I was 11 and I’ll never forget it, a 2-0 win against Newcastle, my first match at White Hart Lane,” he said.
“It’s unreal when you first go. As a young kid, it’s just the sheer size of the place and it was mainly standing then, so you are trying to look around people to see the game. That’s what I rememeber, and just the excitement of being there. I can still remember thinking ‘what do I do when we score?’ and I soon found out - everyone went crazy!”
From there, fast forward about 11 years and Kelly moved to the UK. Driven by her love of Spurs, particularly the Paul Gascoigne/Gary Lineker-inspired FA Cup team of 1991, she soon found herself at White Hart Lane. “I just said to myself ‘I have to get to White Hart Lane’, I’d never been because I’d lived in South Africa.
“I was in such a daze when I first walked into the stadium, I couldn’t believe I was there at last. I’d seen it on TV all those years and it was an unbelievable feeling to actually be there.”
Below: The pair meet legendary former skipper Gary Mabbutt
Now we fast-forward another 16 years. It’s Valentine’s Day, 2016. It’s Manchester City v Spurs in a huge game in the Premier League at the Etihad Stadium.
By now, Derek and Kelly had ‘met’ via online Spurs forums and social media.
Both were single, but neither knew it!
“I was at City was because I was meeting friends,” explained Derek. “They have two kids, one a Spurs fan, one a City fan. Both of them have Cerebral Palsy and are in wheelchairs. Kelly came over and thought the two boys were mine!”
“I saw him with two boys who I assumed were his children but I went over to finally say hello to this guy I’d had so much football banter with on forums and social media,” said Kelly. “It turned out they were his friend’s kids, two disabled boys who he took to football, one a Tottenham fan, one a City fan. This was the first time we’d met physically, so to speak.
“As soon as we both knew each other wasn’t married I can remember him saying to me ‘I’m going to marry you’ and I said ‘not before I marry you first’. It was that instant. It’s hard to put that feeling into words. We’d both been single for years and we’d both been through difficult times in our lives and now here we were…”
Difficult times, indeed. That’s what makes this story even more special. Kelly was in a 10-year relationship that didn’t work out. “My friends always said I wouldn’t let anyone in after that but I just felt at ease talking to Derek,” she said.
Below: A familiar sight for Derek and Kelly - together at a train station!
Meanwhile, Derek had moved back to Ireland and had to suffer the loss of a stillborn child with his then partner. “We didn’t cope well with that and went our separate ways,” he said. “I was going into a dark place after that and had to get away. I came back to England four years ago, but I still wasn’t right. Then I met Kelly and now everything has turned around. You know when you are with someone that it’s meant to be.”
Love was certainly in the air that Valentine’s Day in Manchester. Just under a month later, March 10, Derek and Kelly announced to friends that they were an item.
“After the City game Derek kept coming up to Manchester, I kept going down to London,” explained Kelly. “It depended on the fixtures because our lives evolve around the football, wherever Spurs were playing.
“We went to games together, he spent as much time as he could up in Manchester, I went to London and we found it harder and harder to leave each other. The conductors on the Virgin Train platforms must have been getting tired of us, there we’d be crying again!”
Derek soon moved up to Manchester, where he is a machine driver and Kelly an Air Freight Manager at Manchester Airport.
Fast forward to March 9, 2017, just last week, and a special arrival – the couple’s first baby Erinn, already bedecked in a Spurs babygrow!
Below: Baby Erinn
“If you told me years ago that this was going to happen I would have laughed at you,” said Derek. “It’s the best thing that has happened to both of us. “
“We both knew straight away at Manchester City that this was it,” added Kelly. “It was the craziest feeling ever.”
And that’s why it’s the beautiful game.