So the FA have decreed that there will be no England World Cup song this year. This is because management want to be “fully focused on the football” – which strikes me as an odd thing to say.
Last I checked, ‘management”s role in the World Cup anthem was a fairly hands-off one. It’s not like anyone’s expecting Fabio Capello and the Board Of Directors to be in the studio recording backing vocals, hands clasped over headphones, Band Aid-style.
“Mr Capello, kick-off’s in an hour – what’s the team-sheet for the opening game against USA?”
“Sorry, I haven’t had time, I’ve been working on this key change.”
Still, it’s probably for the best. People have unduly fond memories of England footie anthems because we had two pretty decent ones in the ’90s – New Order’s ‘World In Motion’ (Italia ’90) and The Lightning Seeds’ ‘Three Lions’ (Euro ’96) – and reached the semi-finals both times.
In fact, even the unofficial ’96 song, Black Grape’s ‘England’s Irie’, was sort of OK, provided you could get past the absurdity of a Olympian caner like Shaun Ryder being associated with anything resembling physical activity.
Contrast with France ’98, when the best tune we could muster was Fat Les’ proto-chav bellow-along, ‘Vindaloo’. That year, England crashed out dismally in the second round.
Hence, the fuzzy logic of nostalgia dictates that the better the song, the more likely England are to progress in the competition (although, er, this formula breaks down when you get to 1966, when we won the World Cup despite not having an anthem at all).
The point is: those ’90s songs were miraculous flukes. Their relative OK-ness blinds football fans to the reality, which is that football songs are almost always wretched, embarrassing novelty records.
Indeed, looking back, there’s something desperate and plaintive about old World Cup anthems. All that high hope and excitement, destined to be crushed by the muddy studded boot of experience.
Before Spain ’82 the England squad recorded ‘This Time We’ll Get It Right’. Needless to say they didn’t ‘get it right’ at all, flying home after a grim goalless draw with the hosts.
Four years later, for Mexico ’86, Peter Shilton’s England squad sang the optimistic ‘We’ve Got The Whole World At Our Feet’, not realising their ultimate fate in the competition would be decided not by their feet, but by a squat Argentinian’s fist.
And yet, for all the obvious naffness of World Cup anthems, part of me feels that we shouldn’t let the tradition die so easily. Like the race for Christmas Number One, it’s one of those pointless bits of ephemera that define Englishness, in all its underwhelming and disappointing ‘glory’.
Sign up for the newsletter
So, harnessing the social media spirit of 2010, let’s start a campaign. Maybe we can persuade a band to do their bit for national sporting pride.
But who? Kasabian are the obvious choice, but they’ve been trying to distance themselves from lad-rock of late. Klaxons? We’d still be waiting for it in 2014. Personally I’d like to see Fuck Buttons give it a go – no doubt they’d craft a 10-minute ambient electro epic entitled ‘Ascend On The Wings Of Victory’.
Then again, would any of them come up with anything as good as Adam And Joe’s ‘The Footie Song’..?