Top Ten England Songs

With every major footballing Championship comes a major footballing song. We’ve had some cult hits, some shockers and some that will stay in the memory forever. So with Euro 2012 approaching next summer, roll back the glory years and remember some of England’s greatest songs. And some of the worst.

England fans belt out Three Lions.

  1. Baddiel/Skinner/Lightning Seeds – Three Lions. Chart Position: 1. ‘Everyone seems to know the score…’ Well they do with this song, any football fan who doesn’t know the lyrics for this timeless classic should hang up their microphones and take up hockey or some other meaningless sport people only hear about when the Olympics are on. So generic, it isn’t even worth describing, it’s become England’s official anthem and still makes the hair stand on the back of anyone’s necks whenever they hear it. If only football would bloody well come home. 
  1. England World Cup Squad – Back Home. Chart Position: 1. England jetted off to Mexico to defend their position as World Champions and produced a champion song to see them off. The squad showed that their vocal ability ranked alongside their footballing talent, though unfortunately it didn’t fire the side to back-to-back World Cup success. In fact, ‘Back Home’ was where England stayed for the next 12 years, failing to qualify for either the 1974 or 1978 World Cups, meaning the country missed out on more epic songs like these.                               
  1. Fat Les – Vindaloo. Chart Position: 2. Who would have thought a song with crap lyrics and a title featuring an incredibly hot Indian curry that let’s be honest, barely any of us have tried, would have become a cult classic. But yes, this composition from Alex James, the Blur bassist and Keith Allen is widely loved by all who follow the Three Lions. Good job they didn’t call it Chicken Tikka Masala, doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. 
  1. Ant and Dec – We’re on the Ball. Chart Position: 3. A personal favourite for so many reasons, but the lovable Geordie duo produced a World Cup jingle of real catchiness that the fans loved in 2002. The video featuring Ant and Dec dressed as Sven and assistant Tord Grip is amusing in itself and come on, none of us tire about hearing about that night in Munich beating the Krauts. Ever. “AND HESKEY MAKES IT 5!”                 
  1. New Order/England Squad Members – World in Motion. Chart Position: 1. Ok, so Eminem was never going to take tips from John Barnes about rapping after this track, but it still reached the number one spot as England’s choice for the 1990 World Cup. Catchy and tuneful with a real feel good factor, it became a big hit as the side made the semi-final. Apparently Barnes had a rap battle with Gazza to decide who would get the part in the main song. Now that’s one recording I would love to hear.                                                                                                       
  1. England 1982 World Cup Squad – This Time (We’ll get it Right). Chart Position: 2. England returned to the World Cup scene in 1982 with another squad-led World Cup song. Whilst it had a sing-along feel to it, coupled with a jolly beat, not many remember this hit. Maybe because the squad certainly didn’t get it right on the field, returning home from Spain after disappointing 0-0 draws with Germany and Spain in the second round.   
  1. England Fans – The Great Escape Theme. Strictly not a World Cup song, nor has it featured in the charts, but who cares. The boys on the terraces sing it loudly every England game so it’s good enough to qualify for me. As soon as you read this, I guarantee you’ll be humming the tune. Plus aside from God Save the Queen, can you think of anything more patriotic? Shame the man who brought it to life, the one and only Steve Mc Queen, was born in the USA. Oh and please don’t listen to the shameful remix that featured on the England’s Greatest Songs CD.    

(And the howlers)

  1. Embrace – World at your Feet. Chart Position: 3. How this made third position in the charts I will never know. It’s shite. Embrace only have one good song anyway so it’s anyone’s guess why they were asked to record this. As World Cup songs go, this was simply forgettable, given that it sounds like any other pop song on the market. Mind you, the only other competition to record the anthem that year was the Crazy Frog…     
  1. Rider ft. Terry Venables – England Crazy. Chart Position: 46. Clearly still bitter about losing the England job, El Tel still decided to help the England cause by recording a song for the 2002 World Cup. Recorded in the swing-style of Frank Sinatra, it’s safe to say the song was a flop. The one thing this song ensured was that fans were not going England crazy. Should have stuck to dodgy-business dealings Terry.     
  1. England United ft Spicegirls – On Top of the World. Chart Position: 9. It has been said that if it wasn’t for the re-release of Three Lions in 1998, this song could be an England classic. Bollocks. Hands up who had ever heard of it before this? So bad, you can barely find it on YouTube. Victoria Beckham made sure her husband wasn’t the only one suffering after that World Cup by releasing this horror show and I imagine Beckhamingham Palace was not the best place to be around in the aftermath of France 98.                                                                

A special mention goes to Bell and Spurling with their release of Sven Sven Sven in 2001. I couldn’t decide whether this song is genius or simply dreadful, so I left it at the bottom for you to make your own minds up. The plus side involve taking the piss out of Germany again but who on earth wrote those lyrics.                       

NFL – Not For Long?

For a nation in which market share often proves a more tightly contested battleground for the sports industry than the fields of play themselves; the NFL seems to have outgrown the market. Overtaking Baseball – frequently referred to as America’s pastime – the NFL has seen a meteoric rise in popularity over the past 20 years; firmly entrenching itself as the sporting image that best represents the United States and more importantly from their perspective, the most lucrative sporting industry with a number of franchises worth over a billion dollars. As should be expected from a country known for emblematic phrases such as “everything is bigger in Texas”; such national dominance is not nearly enough and so it is that recent years have seen a plan put in place to extent outside of the States and London appears the desired point of expansion. For the past 5 years the NFL have held a game each year at Wembley stadium as part of their ‘International Series’. The initiative appears to have proved a marked success with tickets selling out each year despite prices in line with the top tier Premier League clubs; indeed for its first showing in 2007, 40,000 tickets were sold in the first ninety minutes. Such figures are all well and good in suggesting the viability of London for the NFL’s newest franchise, however, the reality is far more complicated.

The 49ers celebrate a touchdown at Wembley

The success or failure of a London based NFL franchise very much wrests upon the ability of a team to develop an affinity within the area and a strong supportive fan base, willing to part with what is likely to be a large sum of money on a regular basis. An atmosphere must be generated which draws fans back. Having attended the two highest scoring Wembley games it is has largely been a damp squib with crowd reaction sparse to what in many cases was a high quality performance on the pitch. Spectators need to be there not just for the experience but to cheer along the team they support. In my opinion this seems to depend upon the way in which expansion is carried out. In the case of the NFL it can occur in one of two ways. The first is that there is an increase in the number of teams in the league. These new teams will be given their choice of a certain number of existing NFL players for a decided pool as well as advantageously high picks from the pool of players emerging from college. If this is the case I believe the experiment will fail. Such teams typically take a while to reach any sort parity with their counterparts let alone material success. For example the Houston Texans established in 2002 have been perennial disappointments and only 9 years on are they looking to book their first playoff place in a significantly weakened division. Such initial failure in a London franchise would lead to inevitable disillusionment and unless the NFL were prepared to continue to pump money into it until it saw success; render discontinuation an inevitability. The alternative, and more likely move is to relocate one of the existing franchises from an NFL city to London. It is this situation that has a higher likelihood of success depending on the team that move. The obvious choice would be the New England Patriots who hold the largest English fan-base if for no other reason than that inherent in their name. This is extremely unlikely however due to their huge success and strong association with the sports-mad Boston area. More likely is the relocation of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a result of owner Malcolm Glazer’s holding of Manchester United and therefore appreciation of the English sporting market. Furthermore, the ‘Bucs’ have played twice at Wembley already demonstrating a willingness to relocate. Should this prove the case, their NFL record young team and early success could prove the catalyst for a London fan-base to grow up with them.

Clearly however, regardless of the success the team there are only so many sports fans who are willing to go and pay to watch games week in week out and the majority of these are already tied up in other sports; for the most part football. The NFL will have to draw market share from the existing sports teams. In consideration of this, London appears the wrong place to attempt this. For the past two years, it has played host to five Premier League teams, a quarter of the top flight. In addition, it holds four Premier rugby teams, a third of the total. Quite simply, London is already packed with sports teams and while the NFL can currently attract 80,000 interested spectators to Wembley each year, the jury is still out as to whether they will be able to fill 640,000 seats with sports fans. A task, which becomes even more questionable if they continue to charge £70 a ticket. While the product may be just as polished as the English Premier League charging the same ticket prices as it’s top teams will do nothing to draw its historically loyal supporters to a new and foreign sport.

If nothing else, then the logical considerations must be taken into account by the NFL, namely the time difference. People point to the three hour time difference that exists between the East and West coasts and the considerable distance of a flight from New York to San Francisco, however, this itself is a problem inherent in the current NFL with East coast teams consistently beating their West coast counterparts as they travel to play. Such a problem would surely only magnify significantly with a five to eight hour time difference. Furthermore whilst the NFL has compensated for the travel difficulties of teams in the International Series by providing a week off, this is simply not a viable solution for a 16 game season.

Therefore, in what is probably a wonderful parody of the difference between the two nations; my British cynicism has me suggesting the NFL slow their optimistic plans for expansion across the Atlantic saving current expansion for areas such Toronto and the huge Los Angeles market where success is far more likely. While I would love the opportunity to see NFL played when I wished, it just seems a potentially ruinous move to make. At three hours long, NFL matches are less sporting events then social events; something that Britons have not grown up with, and as such are not used to. Rather than pushing the novelty factor of the sport with Jake Humphreys providing a typically idiot-targeted explanation – see also, Formula 1 and any other sporting event where the BBC has spent all their budget on the rights, so cannot afford a presenter – the NFL would be better served investing at the grass-roots level. The NFL has only to look at what the presence of Great Britain playing Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls has done for the image of Basketball in England, providing children with a target to aim and aspire for. Build a genuine interest in and understanding of the game rather than a casual amusement and then perhaps a London franchise can begin to realistically consider drawing crowds for 8 games every year, and the NFL can begin their search for dominance of the world sporting market, and finally give credence to their terming of the NFL winners as ‘World Champions’.

The Satirical Sporting Weekend

Football

Sir Alex Ferguson was left fuming after his side were held to a draw following a ridiculous penalty decision from referee Mike Jones.Ferguson raged after the game: “What’s the point in criticising the officials every week if they still don’t give us the decisions I want. I finally give Rio Ferdinand a game and this is how the FA repays me. Ridiculous. And they only gave me 4 minutes of injury time to try and win the match.”

Meanwhile Mario Balotelli was sent off for the third time in his City career, following 2 yellow cards in 18 minutes after coming on as a substitute. Sources close to the Italian say he was eager to go and get an early bath to try and wash the new blonde highlights out of his hair before the rest of the team got in. He was fortunate the dye he used was only semi-permanent, hence the need to get rid of it as quickly as possible.

Steve Bruce was left upset following abuse from supporters after their home defeat against Wigan. “It’s not easy when your family are here and you’re abused like that. My face doesn’t actually look like someone’s smashed it in with a shovel and I didn’t actually buy my suit from Jacamo. I’m shocked and hurt.”

Formula One

The world of racing is in uproar after Mark Webber beat teammate Sebastian Vettel at the final Grand Prix of the season in Brazil. Bookmakers claim the result must have fixed, given the fact that Vettel failed to come first. A certain energy drinks manufacturer are said to have placed a bet reaching into the millions on Webber to win, earning them an absolute fortune. Organisers are considering repeating the race to ensure a Vettel victory.

Tennis

The World Tennis Association are considering handing Roger Federer another trophy to go with his victory in the ATP World Tour Final. They are delighted with the way Roger cried for under 10 seconds after winning a major title, showing a significant improvement on previous events. They believe his efforts in trying to man up a bit deserve significant recognition.

Rugby Union

The RFU are taking legal action against Sam Tomkins and Wigan Warriors after he produced a performance of mediocre quality in his one-off appearance for the Barbarians against Australia. They say that they only selected him to play to show how shit Rugby League actually is and that in this respect he is a considerable let down. A spokesman for the RFU said: “We are disappointed with Sam’s actions on Saturday. He made all his tackles, actually managed to catch and pass unlike the real Union players and even had the cheek to score a try. Now people might think Rugby League is a real sport.”

Sam's Barbarian Adventure

“Where I am from people don’t know what Rugby Union is and I am glad I have had the chance to play but I am still a Rugby League player.” These were Sam Tomkins’s thoughts on appearing in the Barbarians-Australia game at Twickenham. And let’s be honest, the people of Wigan still won’t know what Rugby Union is. So the Tomkins experiment is over, Wigan Warriors will breathe a sigh of relief he didn’t break a leg, whilst the RFU might be exploring the possibilities of finding a loophole in the new 5 year contract Tomkins signed with Wigan this month. Although he wasn’t the standout player on the day, Tomkins certainly let no-one down, producing a few flashes with ball in hand, finishing off a consolation try, whilst he could have had a hat-trick if some his teammates knew how to throw a scoring pass. It was however, rather amusing to watch Sam flap around at the bottom of the rucks, wondering why they wouldn’t let him get up to play the ball.

Tomkins scores his try.

It seemed a strange decision to begin with, letting him line up in the enemy code when his brother has just switched to the other side, and Sam himself has explored the possibilities of a move in 3 years time. Some saw it as great publicity for Rugby League, a chance to showcase the talents of one of their finest at Union’s HQ against the World Cup semi-finalists. RFL chairman Nigel Wood labelled it “the sincerest form of flattery,” whilst veteran League star Sean Long, who has recently switched to Union himself, believed it was good for Sam “to play on the big stage whatever the code. It is good exposure and I think he will enjoy it.” All the media attention certainly switched towards the League star, whilst Sky on the day ensured he couldn’t drift into obscurity, featuring him in all their match analysis, with the cameras even picking him out during the national anthems. His profile will now certainly be raised and therefore Rugby League could potentially have a superstar amongst their ranks to rival the ones Union always possesses, the Jonny Wilkinsons or Martin Johnsons. But surely this will lead to renewed interest from England and the RFU, making it a matter of time before Sam joins older brother Joel in pursuing the money and joining the 15 man code.

This was certainly a fear for most League fans if not the officials within the game. Such heightened coverage of one of their stars could only have the Union big bucks come calling quicker, despite the clause in Tomkins’ contract that says he can’t talk to Union clubs for the next 3 years. League voices like Keith Senior were more critical with their opinions: “Why don’t the RFL just help promote union even more? It’s ridiculous, and delaying the inevitable of him going to union too.” It’s a fair point, does Rugby League really need Union receiving more headlines in the papers, reducing their own game to little more than a sidenote alongside Basketball or Tiddlywinks. The sport already suffers so much from the lack of press coverage it receives in comparison to Union; even the recent Four Nations tournament couldn’t awaken the vast majority of the general public, with most people still focused on England’s disastrous Union World Cup campaign. It also had the added factor of proving League players could still cut it in Union. Sam’s performance was not of the dazzling variety we see him produce week in, week out in a Wigan shirt but he gave a good account of himself all the same. Less League players have been targeted recently, following the dismal failures of some individuals that crossed the divide. Players like Lee Smith, Chev Walker and Karl Pryce barely pulled on a Union shirt during their stay and this put off many suitors who decided to keep their money in their pocket. Shontayne Hape disappointed in an England shirt as well, and so did Lesley Vainikolo and Andy Farrell before him, even though all three of them were genuine League superstars. But Chris Ashton has kept the League flag flying in Union, following in Jason Robinson’s footsteps in catching the eye in an England jersey, for both his try scoring exploits and flamboyant celebrations. With Joel completing his £250,000 move to Saracens, it will be interesting to see how this affects levels of Union interest in League players once more, indeed has Sam’s appearance sent the scouts rushing back to the Super League to discover the next gem that Rugby League has to offer?

The question is genuinely a tricky one; on one hand it offers League more publicity, on the other, Union becomes more interested in the League players. The issue has been very divisive in the League community and everyone will be glad now the storm has passed without much further incident. But what about Sam himself? By his own admission he hadn’t a clue about Union. “I was so raw I didn’t even know what the numbers for each position were. The boys were saying ‘we’ll play this off the 12 or the 10’ and I didn’t even know where those blokes were so that was a bit of a challenge.” With this in mind, Tomkins’s performance was even more admirable. But it’s got to be said, he looked so bored! There was no passion or hunger on his face like when he brings the ball up from full-back for Wigan or England. He did go looking for work, but there wasn’t an over eagerness to get his hands on the ball at all times. We all felt for Sam, given that the handling and skills shown inside him were atrocious for supposedly professional Rugby players, indeed the two tries butchered with Tomkins in support have already been mentioned. The game itself was a joke; the Barbarians showed none of their usual flair and ambition and shipping 60 points brings their own existence into question, Sunday League sides often turn out performances of a higher standard than that. So why would Sam still want to play Union after all that? Well, obviously for the money but let’s hope his one experience has put him off for life. League needs to keep its best players in the 13 man code to stand any chance of developing as a sport.