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The good, the bad and the ugly of England football songs

Wednesday 13th June 2018

The World Cup is now upon us, which means international football takes over for the next five weeks. It will dominate TV, pub talk and office schedules. In essence, it is the best time to be a football fan, and the worst if you don't like the beautiful game.

It also means we get to hear lots of the old cheesy football songs on repeat. Despite many being awful, we take a look at the good, bad and simply the funny. You be the judge. Consider this a football version of The Voice. You better get used to them all as you will be hearing the lot repeatedly for the next month. 

This year, the FA have decided against having an official song, but fear not, the men behind the "classic" Sven, Sven, Sven, Bell and Spurling have revamped their top-10 hit of 2001 and given it a fresh lick of paint and lyrics, teaming up with The Sportsman to give us "Gareth, Gareth, Gareth", which you can purchase from the likes of iTunes or stream on Spotify.

Take a listen and watch the video that features Razor Ruddock.

Away from England, other nations have given it a go as well, especially the home nations. Scotland is one of the many culprits. In 1978 comedian Andy Cameron released Ally’s Tartan Army based on the team reaching the World Cup in Argentina. On the cheesy stakes, it is certainly up there, but it does have some fantastic lyrics. “England Cannae dae it cause they didne qualify” and we’ll really shake them up when we win the World Cup cause Scotland is the greatest football team.” Plenty of teams sing about winning the World Cup, the less the said about their tournament the better.

The original

In 1970 was the first real outing when ‘Back Home’ was England’s official song featuring the squad singing on the track. Many of the players had been part of the World Cup-winning team of four years ago. Compared to some of the disasters that came after it isn’t too bad an attempt and it got to number one in the charts.

A couple of songs that I will save to the end did very well in the 90’s and has led to a host of more commercial songs being produced as the official England team songs in the last 20 years. Ant and Dec’s ‘We’re on the Ball’ was interesting if worryingly catchy, unlike 2006’s entry from Embrace if you can remember the title you certainly get bonus points. An unofficial entry from James Corden along with Dizzee Rascal in 2010 ‘Shout for England” again was surprisingly catchy.

Away from the national teams, many club sides have given it a go producing FA Cup final songs. Efforts by Tottenham, Everton and Crystal Palace stand out as disasters, seeing the players squirm being about the only plus. A young Alan Pardew I’m looking at you. Many professionals also tried their hands at releasing songs themselves, Hoddle and Waddle, Ian Wright, Andy Cole and Paul Gascoigne’s ‘Fog on the Tyne’ just to name a few For the majority of them it’s fair to say the quicker we forget them the better.

However, amongst all the awkwardness and comedy acts such as, ‘Meat pie sausage roll’, some England song’s that have been produced are genuine classics. 

Vindaloo – Fat Les

While the official England World Cup song for 1998 was the Spice Girls along with the likes of Ocean Colour Scene and Echo and the Bunnymen under the moniker "England United"  it was Fat Les and Keith Allen who wrote the lyrics to the song of the tournament in France. The video that was a parody of The Verve’s classic video Bitter Sweet Symphony which saw an army of fans marching through the streets singing the simple but catchy lyrics.

World in Motion – New Order

A brilliant song in its own right. Many big bands have tried football songs and have failed, but New Order produced World in Motion for the 1990 World Cup with some of the England squad singing background vocals on the track, but it was John Barnes who stole the show with his rap that the majority of England fans are still able to remember word for word today.

Three Lions – Baddiel, Skinner and Lightning Seeds  

For this writer, this was clearly the best England song ever produced. Comedians and huge football fans David Baddiel and Frank Skinner (though not singers by any stretch of the imagination) wrote the unforgettable lyrics along with the Lightning Seeds, their passion for the sport coming through. The song has been back in the charts every year that the World Cup has taken place since 1998. During the Euro’s in 1996, it took off like no song had before for the nation with it being sung at Wembley during the latter stages of the tournament.

Personally, in 2010 I will never forget being in the biggest nightclub in Newcastle when the World Cup was on and the last song they played was Three Lions. Expect to hear it plenty of times over the next month.

Simon Hahn

Lifelong sufferer following Darlington FC from League Two to the Northern League. Freelance Sports and data journalist. Living for 3pm on Saturday.

Total articles: 125

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