As England sealed their qualification for World Cup 2018 last night, planning for the summer was already underway. As pretend lists of 23 were drafted across the country, with formation and line-ups scribbled on cigarette packets and beer mats, I turned my attention to something else. England have been missing something for a while now, that little bit extra that puts us back among the elite.
We need an official tournament song.
The FA haven’t sanctioned an official song since the worrying World at Your Feet from Embrace in 2006. We had James Corden & Dizzee Rascal in 2010 remixing Shout but this wasn’t officially endorsed by the FA. In 2014, the FA distanced themselves from a re-make of Greatest Day even though it includes Martin Keown on tambourine and Glenn Hoddle proving he was the voice in Hoddle & Waddle. I mean, in all honesty, this song ticked every box and the FA still didn’t go for it, so we’re going to have to come up with something special.
I think we can all agree that Three Lions (and latterly Three Lions ’98) is the best anthem of modern times, narrowly beating World in Motion from 1990, and I have lots of time for We’re on the Ball by Ant & Dec. But I want to focus on some of the lesser known efforts in my search to bring us World Cup glory.
What we don’t want is a repeat of the 1970 England squad, who got a bit carried away and released a whole album of songs to follow up the admittedly uplifting Back Home. Here’s Cinnamon Stick to give you an idea of what we definitely don’t want.
The England squad haven’t actually sung the song themselves since 1990, when New Order did most of the work and John Barnes provided a rap. This is presumably in response to the atrocity that was the 1986 song We’ve got the Whole World at our Feet, so 1990 represented the baton being passed from footballers to actual musical talent. Keith Allen co-wrote the 1990 effort and went on to pen the very popular Vindaloo in 1998, so why did he bring us this awful record?
So if Keith Allen was the secret to success, I’m afraid that’s now out. We need to look further afield, we can’t risk that again. 1998 was a hotbed for World Cup songs, the aforementioned Vindaloo being narrowly beaten to number one by Three Lions ’98. We still believe, we still believe, WE STILL BELIEVE. However neither was the official England anthem of 1998, instead we opted for the “picked out of a hat” combination of Spice Girls, Echo and the Bunnymen, Space and Ocean Colour Scene. It’s fair to say (How does it Feel to be) On Top of the World made Embrace look like the Beatles, and proving that any song that begins with parentheses is doomed to failure. However, an underrated song from this era is Meat Pie, Sausage Roll where the chorus lyrics are “Meat Pie, Sausage Roll, come on England give us a goal.” What’s not to love?
The song is pretty accurate in that all England ever get is a corner. Repeated corners. So we’re moving in the right direction but we need more success. By 2002, England actually had something to sing about, after a 5-1 demolition of arch-rivals Germany on the way to World Cup qualification, manager Sven Goran Eriksson provided a whole new set of material for lyricists to get stuck into. And so, Sven Sven Sven was born, thanks to crooning duo Bell and Spurling. The premise of the song is lauding the achievements of Sven as England manager, or more accurately the 5-1 win in Germany with some other bits and pieces thrown in, such as a reference to the number of players Sven tried in a friendly against Holland. The song mentions several England players from the era whilst inserting several snippets of commentary from Jonathan Pearce from the game in Munich. We are however warned that “he’s a lovely geezer, don’t forget that he’s from Sweden” – what does that even mean? To be honest, I prefer their ode to David Beckham, the aptly titled Goldenballs which is below for your enjoyment
The good thing about this era is that we had players in the England team worth singing about. England’s official anthem proved this theory as Ant & Dec’s We’re on the Ball was annoyingly catchy for the chorus which named most of the England starting 11 at the time. The great irony is that it peaked at number three in the chart, being beaten by Will Young – a product from Pop Idol, a show the Geordie duo presented. Still, the recipe is becoming clearer: sing about players we like.
Which brings me to my personal favourite. If the FA read this (and really, you’d have to ask what has gone wrong that they resort to that) you need to get this song either re-recorded or updated or heck, just use the original. It’s glorious. BEHOLD:
Talk about uniting a nation. This song names so many of England’s great players – and Ray Parlour – and then provides that siege mentality that you need to be a successful tournament team. No, it’s not Suggs before you ask. This is Chas Smash, who was a prominent member of the band Madness during the 1970s and beyond. The England Supporters Band are also featured, but in the right way. It’s not like they’re trying to get the crowd going in a 0-0 draw. This is the template for our next official anthem. Make it happen.
We’ve been on a musical journey. Some of it I never want to hear again. But I do want us to have an official anthem in Russia next summer – #bringbacktheofficialsong anybody?