Top Ten football songs

10. Everton FC – ‘Here We Go’ (1985) / Nottingham Forest and Paper Lace – ‘We Got The Whole World In Our Hands’ (1979)

This is proper old school. You wouldn’t catch a Premiership footballer doing anything like this: appearing on Wogan or at Abbey Road studios, dressed in 80s casual wear or club tracksuits, and standing around looking embarrassed, miming badly and clapping out of time to awful songs produced by rank amateurs. This is the classic angle on football songs. Quaint.


 

 

9. Chas and Dave – ‘Hot Shot Tottenham’ (1987)

After striking gold with ‘Ossie’s Dream’ (1981) and ‘Tottenham, Tottenham’ (1982), when Spurs reached successive FA Cup finals this rockney duo went for the hat-trick with this long-forgotten gem. We recently learned, courtesy of the excellent BBC4 documentary Last Orders, that Chas and Dave played on Eminem’s hit ‘My Name Is’. Chas and Dave, far from the stereotypical cheeky Cockney image they portrayed, were both serious session musicians, who played on Labi Siffre’s ‘I Got The’, which Marshall Mathers sampled.

The world exclusive of their third Tottenham song was broadcast on Blue Peter in May 1987 and includes the following poetry:

Ray Clemence, Mitchell Thomas, Gary Stevens, Steve Hodge,
They’re all gonna put on a show for you.
And don’t forget Ossie especially ‘cos he
Back in ’81 he had his dream come true.
Nico Claesen, Hughton and Galvin,
Don’t forget Clive and Paul Allen too.
Richard Gough, Chrissy Waddle, Gary Mabbutt and Glen Hoddle,
Danny all the goals are gonna be for you.

Spurs subsequently lost the cup final to Coventry City.

 

 

8. The Hitchers – ‘Strachan’ (1997)

These boys from Limerick play tribute to the Scottish midfield maestro with specific reference to his days ‘pulling the strings’ in the championship-winning Leeds United team of 1991/92. The man in the song is gripped by the football match on television featuring Strachan while simultaneously engaging in an argument with his partner. Also the only song I could find about Gordon Strachan.

 

 

7. England / New Order – ‘World in Motion’ (1990)

Familiar but essential. Released at the point when, post-Hillsborough, the gentrification of football was about to begin. I seem to recall at the time the jury was out as to whether this was actually any good, critics claiming that the much fêted John Barnes rap (reprising his role on Liverpool FC’s ‘Anfield Rap’ from 1988) ruins the song completely. Barnes claimed at the time he was given no choice but to appear as the other England players earmarked for the solo rap were a couple of Geordies, Paul Gascoigne and Peter Beardsley.

 

 

6. Billy Bragg – ‘God’s Footballer’ (1991)

His career will be over soon,
And the rituals of a Saturday afternoon
Bid him a reluctant farewell,
For he knows beyond the sport lies the spiritual.

An ode to former Wolverhampton Wanderers forward Peter Knowles, who abruptly retired from football eight games into the 1969/70 season to ‘learn about the Bible’, and become a Jehovah’s Witness. Subsequent Wolves managers clung to the hope Knowles would reverse his decision and return to Molineux, but his contract was finally cancelled in 1982 when Knowles was 36 years old.

 

 

5. Serious Drinking – ‘Love On The Terraces’ (1982)

Norwich’s premier indie band sing about Sharon:

Outside the stadium
By the river,
Buying a programme
And a silk scarf.

adding helpfully that

She liked football,
She liked scooters,
She liked A Certain Ratio,
She liked The Cockney Rejects.

Sounds like the perfect date. Also backed up by B-side ‘Bobby Moore Was Innocent’, referencing the accusation that the former England captain had stolen a bracelet from a jewellers in Bogata, Columbia on the eve of the defence of the World Cup in Mexico 1970.

 

 

4. Half Man Half Biscuit – ‘The Referee’s Alphabet’ (2002)

Birkenhead’s favourite sons are ardent Tranmere Rovers supporters and their music often features football. Their first live TV performance on the BBC’s revamped Whistle Test in 1986 features lead singer Nigel Blackwell in an Ajax shirt. They are also rumoured to have turned down a slot on Channel 4’s The Tube because Tranmere had a Friday evening fixture at Prenton Park, despite the offer of swift transportation to the Newcastle studios via helicopter. HMHB’s obvious football song is ‘All I Want for Christmas Is a Dukla Prague Away Kit’; others include ‘Mathematically Safe’, ‘Gubba Look-a-Likes’ and ‘Dead Men Don’t Need Season Tickets’. Many other of their songs contain footie references, for example:

Sealed Knot Society,
I’d like to see you try this one:
Luton Town, Millwall, 1985.

or simply seeking the advice of the 1980s national goalkeepers of Spain, Belgium, France and Cameroon,

Arconada
Pfaff and Bats
And Joseph Antione-Bell.

Both songs come from from the excellent ‘Trouble Over Bridgwater’ album from 2000. The song I’ve chosen, ‘The Referee’s Alphabet’, is essentially a list song, but contain some fantastic truisms, such as:

U is for the umpire which I sometimes wish I’d been instead,
You never hear a cricket crowd chanting ‘Who’s the bastard in the hat’!

or

Y is for Yate,
The kind of town that referees come from.

 

 

3. Andy Cameron – ‘Ally’s Tartan Army’ (1978)

Remembered with genuine affection. From an era when it wasn’t outlandish to suggest that Scotland – a team which boasted world class players during the 1960s and 70s – could win the World Cup. England fans may have mocked when Scotland had a dismal campaign, knocked out in the first round despite a wonder-goal from Archie Gemmill against finalists Holland, but the English didn’t even manage to qualify for the competition in ’74 or ’78. Curiously, trying to learn lessons from Cameron’s hubris, Del Amitri’s 1998 Scotland World Cup anthem, ‘Don’t Come Home Too Soon’ is the polar opposite of this song – pragmatic, downbeat and, in parts, fatalistic.

 

 

2. The Kop Choir album (1973)

Released by the respected indie label Cherry Red, this is a wonderful recording of the Kop at Anfield in full voice recorded against Chelsea and Bayern Munich during the 1972/73 season. The clatter of the turnstiles and the cry of the programme seller are interspersed with Kop classics such as ‘The Reds Are Coming Up The Hill’, ‘Men of Anfield’, ‘O Come Ye To Anfield’ and a rousing rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. The 1997 CD reissue donated all artist royalties to the Hillsborough Family Support Group.

 

 

1. The Fall – ‘Kicker Conspiracy’ (1983)

Mark E. Smith, backed by the twin drumming of Paul Hanley and Karl Burns, presages the corporate dominance of football by some ten years. He also points the finger at the innate conservatism which still lingers at the heart of the Football Association:

In the marble halls of the charm school,
How flair is punished.
Under Marble Millichip, the F.A. broods
On how flair can be punished.
Their guest is a Euro-State magnate,
Corporate-ulent.

Excellent social commentary too:

Fans!
Remember, you are abroad!
Remember the police are rough.
Remember the unemployed.
Remember my expense account.
Hot dogs and seat for Mr Hogg!
And his grotty spawn.
Lurid brochures for ground unit.

The accompanying video was shot at Burnley’s Turf Moor. It wasn’t the last foray into football that The Fall took: in 2003 they released ‘Theme From Sparta FC’, which was later used as the introduction music for the BBC’s Final Score programme.

8 comments on “Top Ten football songs

  1. My first thought whenever I hear the words “football song” is that they are all truly awful. This is usually followed by more thoughts on footballers and their shocking taste of music (Alan Shearer, no surprise, is a big Phil Collins fan); as well as the appalling memories of watching the “Anfield Rap” video. Footballers should surely never be involved in anything except playing football (Gazza’s attempts at hosting for ITV a few years back would also back this).
    However, looking down Owen’s list proves that you can find the odd standout track. It’s interesting that he chose “Kicker Conspiracy” by The Fall as I prefer Theme From Sparta FC (he does mention that song though).

    I’m just pleased there’s no “Diamond Lights”…

  2. As a foreigner, and familiar only with the likes of “You Will Never Walk Alone” (which, for some reason, Galatasaray fans love to sing although it is usually Besiktas that is seen as a counterpart of Liverpool in Turkey, due to its similar fan-base), and some of the inspirational musical genres, especially of the 80′s mentioned in the blog, I can only say I enjoyed and learned a lot from this list. Thank you Owen — and I bet UK would have produced a lot better Eurovision results if its footballers sang at the contests!

  3. “Football songs”; file under ‘actor musician’ and ‘musical actors’. Owen has found pearls amongst swine with Half Man Half Biscuit and The (mighty) Fall. Much as I love New Order the song suffers from the rap.
    So my choices would be:
    Colourbox “The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme” released in 1986. The next year they reached No.1 as half of M/A/R/R/S with “Pump Up The Volume”.
    Barmy Army “The English Disease” – album on Adrian Sherwood’s On-U Sound label released in the late 80s. Side project of Tackhead with a rhythm sectionWimbuh and Skip McDonald (ex Sugarhill records house band). Every track a winner but the best is “Sharp As A Needle”.
    Chelsea FC “Blue Is The Colour” released in 1972. The perfect football song!
    Cheers Owen :)

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