In a league of their own: the best football songs

They're often shit, to be honest, but these are so good we'd love 'em even if they weren't about the beautiful game. Trigger warning: includes Ant & Dec

Don’t listen to the nay-sayers: football songs are brilliant. Admittedly, sometimes they can be cheesy and lyrically woeful, and plenty end up being an embarrassment to an entire nation. But not always. Occasionally, an absolute belter will slip through the cracks, and we’re left with a tune that truly galvanises. Readers, with the Euros starting this week, here 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. Nick Levine

Chas & Dave, ‘Hot Shot Tottenham’ (1987)

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Tottenham Hotspur called in their most famous fans to help drum up support for their 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 three-two loss to Coventry City – but hey, at least they had the better tune, right? Leonie Cooper

Baddiel & Skinner & Lightning Seeds, ‘Three Lions’ (1996)

 

Any song that mentions the Jules Rimet deserves a place here. Comedy partners David Baddiel and Frank Skinner, along with indie heroes The Lightning Seeds, gifted the world with the most enduring football song ever. Any time anyone goes anywhere near a football, it’s all over the radio, blending the full force of British pessimism with the mad footie optimism that breezes in every other summer. No wonder there’s a new vinyl reissue to celebrate its 25th anniversary. You all know the tune – sing along. Larry Bartleet

Fat Les, ‘Vindaloo’ (1998)

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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 youuuu” – 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. Jordan Bassett

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. Thomas Smith

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 One 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. Matt Wilkinson

Grandad Roberts and His Son Elvis, ‘Meat Pie Sausage Roll (Come on England, Gi’s a Goal)’ (1998)

Like ‘Vindaloo’, this is an inherently ridiculous song whose very existence is testament to the wonder, magic and absurdity of life. Grandad Roberts – aka Manchester comedian Andy Roberton – has booted together two cornerstones of British culture, football and baked goods, and scored a delicious, naughty treat. Cheesy synths, a hoarse northern delivery, Eurodance beats and at least two laugh-out-loud lines (the random interjection of “Ooh! We’ve got a corner!” and, erm, the bit at the end that goes, “No wonder my wee smells like Sugar Puffs, the stress I’m under…”) make ‘Meat Pie A Sausage Roll’ possibly the weirdest entry into the canon.

Unlike ‘Vindaloo’, it didn’t rocket to Number Two, instead dribbling in at 67, because – as the England team discovers all too often – life also ain’t always fair. Jordan Bassett

Gazza & Lindisfarne, ‘Fog On The Tyne’ (1990)

Not technically a song about football, but Gazza’s half-rapped, half-dribbled take on the Geordie classic is a jukebox open goal at any Wetherspoons. So peel your Reebok Classics off the carpet and line up some shots – Harry Kane’s just boshed one past the keeper and this night’s going into extra time. Alex Flood

Lana Del Rey, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ (2020)

Yes, yes – the Gerry & The Pacemakers version from 1963 is the quintessential rendition of this tune from the 1945 Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Carousel. You already know what a great song that is, so we’ve subbed in Lana Del Rey to shake things up in the second half. Recorded for the Liverpool FC documentary The End of the Storm, our Lana’s interpretation sees her strip away Gerry’s doo-woop-inspired stylings in favour of spooky vocal trilling and a keening choral section at the end. Which just goes to show: the beautiful game is full of surprises. Jordan Bassett

Dario G, ‘Carnaval de Paris’ (1998)

Novelty football songs are more likely to start in a money-grabbing major-label meeting room than they are with the fans themselves, but ‘Carnaval de Paris’ is an exception – this one comes from the terraces. It’s inspired by a chant that Sheffield Wednesday fans pinched from Dutch side FC Utrecht on a pre-season tour in 1996; once British electronic trio Dario G got their mitts on the copyright-free melody for the 1998 World Cup, it was  transformed into a hot mess of a club banger, one that sounds like all 32 participating team’s national anthems playing at once…. and that’s no bad thing. Thomas Smith

Manic Street Preachers, ‘Together Stronger (C’Mon Wales)’ (2016)

Co-opting the melody of Wales’ unofficial football anthem, Frankie Valli’s ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’, Manics did their country proud with this typically bittersweet ‘Everything Must Go’-sized pledge for victory, complete with a touching tribute to late, great player and manager Gary Speed. Whether you’re Welsh or not, it’s great fun. Who else could make a stadium anthem chant out of: ”Davis, Ledley, Taylor, Richards, Hal Robson Kan-uuuuuuuuuuuuu”? Andrew Trendell

– A shorter version of article was originally published in July 2018

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