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When you try and jam in about forty years worth of musical football combinations into a few hundred words, you’re always going to leave some out. Of course, Arsenal’s 1971 track came a year after the first England World Cup Song, Back Home (thanks to Riverboat Captain for that). It went to #1 in England and, weirdly, #2 in Ireland. And Three Lions ‘98 was a pale rehash, especially compared to Del Amtri’s Don’t Come Home Too Soon.

Enzo directed me towards Antonello Venditti’s 1983 hit Grazie Roma, and a performance by the man himself in 2001 (the last time Roma won the Scudetto). Cordwainer Bull, a regular contributor to the site, contributed Cheer Up, Peter Reid – created in better times by Sunderland supporters. But the greatest find is the supremely weird Julian Dicks Is The Terminator, a post-punk masterpiece that deserves all the credit Three Lions got and more. 

These are songs for football, but there’s also songs which include football but aren’t a tie-in or promotional stunt. Paul Maguire pointed me in the direction of Billy Bragg’s The Boy Done Good, a typical guitar strummer from the Lahndan accented folk singer where the beautiful game substitutes for his relationships. They’re rare, songs by those who love the game that show how much affection they hold for it.

The master of this genre is undoubtedly Nigel Blackwell of Half Man, Half Biscuit. The Wirral based post-punk group have continued to meld deceptively simple guitar and bass lines with scathing examinations of the world around them, returning again and again to football. Write what you know lads.

FourFourTwo’s editor Gary Parkinson covered HMHB’s devotion to footballers past and present in a 2009 article. He lists at least thirty songs which include footballers and the game, either in passing or as a direct address. My personal favourites are Subbuteo tantrum All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit, supporter gloom anthem Friday Nights And The Gates Are Low, Even Men With Steel Hearts (Love To See A Dog On The Pitch), statistical nerve shredder Mathematically Safe and the beautifully dry Referee’s Alphabet.

In the years since that article they’ve continued along their examination of the modern game. The closing track to 2011’s 90 Bisodol (Crimond), Rock & Roll Is Full Of Bad Wools, takes apart the banter prone industry of Saturday morning soccertainment television, aiming squarely at bands who don’t know a damn thing about the game and the ex-pros who willingly pratfall for the baying crew. Tim Lovejoy, this lot have got your number.

This blistering live version from 2012 starts with Blackwell namechecking 80’s Chelsea winger Peter Rhodes-Brown, admitting he’ll watch every game of the Euro’s,complaining that Joe Hart doesn’t wear long sleeves – cheering his loan at his beloved Tranmere Rovers – and revealing, apparently, that Hart has never yawned.

2014’s Urge For Offal also gave us This One’s For Now which combines a lack of goals from corners, Welsh side The New Saints (formerly Total Network Solutions), Josef Venglos, Standard Liege and former Bristol City 70’s midfield stalwart Gerry Gow.

I’m sure there’s more out there, but I doubt any have managed a thirty year career of socially observant, utterly absurd and incredibly witty music while ensuring they could get to Tranmere Rovers on a Friday night. Even if the gates are low and it’s raining.


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John Palethorpe

1 reply

  1. And there’s Graeme Downes (Verlaines) song about amateur football as a means of escaping things you’d rather not think about (in this case a terminally ill parent) called Sunday Kickaround

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