Don’t listen to the nay-sayers, football songs are brilliant. Admittedly, sometimes they can be cheesy, lyrically woeful and plenty do end up being an embarrassment to both the team and the entire nation. But not always. Occasionally, an absolute belter will slip through the cracks, and what we’re left with a tune that galvanises the nation.
With the World Cup starting today, we had a whip round the office to see what are the best football songs of all time.
Ant & Dec – ‘We’re On The Ball’ (2002)
It’s impossible to hate on anything Ant & Dec do and their virtually forgotten football song is no exception. Recorded to spur on the England team at the 2002 World Cup, it’s a ropey pop-rap track with lyrics that reference Robbie Williams’ ‘Rock DJ’ and rhyme “a country’s in need” with “super Swede” – i.e. Sven-Göran Eriksson. If they performed it again on ‘Saturday Night Takeaway’ for lolz, you’d probably enjoy it.
Chas & Dave – ‘Hot Shot Tottenham’ (1987)
Tottenham Hotspur called in their most famous fans to help drum up support for there 1987 FA Cup Final. Local lads Chas & Dave, an all important old Joanna and the entirely of the team – Glen Hoddle and Ossie Ardiles included – belted out the rousing cockney number, which basically sounded like every other Chas & Dave song ever written, which is why it was quite so fantastic. The team suffered a shock 3-2 loss to Coventry City – but hey, at least they had the better tune, right?
Baddiel & Skinner & Lightning Seeds – ‘Three Lions’ (1998)
Any song that mentions the Jules Rimet deserves a place here. 1998’s World Cup was soundtracked by an updated version of this supremely cheesy 1996 track from comedy partners David Baddiel and Frank Skinner, and The Lightning Seeds. It was all over the radio, blending the full force of British pessimism with the mad football optimism that breezes in every other summer. You all know the tune – sing along.
Fat Les – ‘Vindaloo’ (1998)
A tough sell, this, because ‘Vindaloo’, co-written by Blur bassist Alex James, actor Keith Allen and artist Damien Hirst, is an undeniably, deeply irritating song. But that’s kind of what makes it so amazing. This thing, this monstrosity of dumb chanting and inane lyrics – “We’re gonna score one more than you” – made it to UK number two and became one of the 10 bestselling songs of 1998. It’s such a mad achievement that it becomes a kind of post-modern celebration of life in all its ridiculousness. What a world we live in.
Liverpool FC – ‘The Anfield Rap’ (1988)
‘The Anfield Rap’ is dramatically underrated. However we must appraise it in relation to the greatness it spawned – ‘World In Motion’. See, if we didn’t have ‘The Anfield Rap’, John Barnes’ serious flow would have been left undiscovered and we’d be left cold by the gap New Order’s 1990 tune left in our lives. You have to look past the dodgy shell-suits and its shocking attempt to be a Beastie Boys video, but ultimately, it was definitely worth it. All hail, ‘The Anfield Rap’.
New Order – ‘World In Motion’ (1990)
The serendipity surrounding New Order’s final release on Factory Records (FAC 293) is nothing short of glorious. The soundtrack to both England’s greatest achievement in international football since 1966 and the year that ecstasy culture reached saturation point in the UK, ‘World In Motion’ was also the Manc heroes’ only Number 1 here – a kink in their long, winding path that absolutely nobody could have predicted when Bernard Sumner et al messing about with guitars in the monochrome mid-70s. Best of all? It’s in no way a novelty song. Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert wrote the bones of it, Stephen ‘True Faith’ Hague produced it, Hooky joked about how upbeat and poppy it sounded for such a miserable band and John Barnes provided the most credible musical contribution from a sportsman since Cassius Clay had a go at singing ‘Stand By Me’ three decades earlier.
Melodically up there with New Order’s finest singles, ‘World In Motion’ would still stand proud even if it had nothing to do with the beautiful game. As it happened, back in 1990 it meant that for the first time ever England fans actually had an anthem worth shouting about.