“I love it when everyone sings it. I love it when there’s a competition”: Lightning Seeds’ Ian Broudie on writing the enduring England anthem Three Lions

Baddiel, Skinner and Ian Broudie
(Image credit: Patrick Ford/Redferns)

Footy footy footy! That’s right, the Euros kick into gear with such scintillating ties as Hungary vs Switzerland and Slovenia vs Denmark. The summer of big football anthems is now upon us and with England playing Serbia on Sunday evening, you can bet that the usual suspects will be wheeled out: Baddiel and Skinner and the Lightning Seeds’ classic Three Lions, Fat Les’ Vindaloo and Chris Waddle and Glenn Hoddle’s synth-pop banger Diamond Lights amongst them. OK, maybe not that last one.

It’s been almost three decades since Lightning Seeds frontman and songwriter Ian Broudie  teamed up with Fantasy Football League hosts Baddiel and Skinner to write and record the iconic Three Lions, and a few years ago he told this writer about his feelings around the song’s enduring appeal. It was just ahead of the World Cup in 2022 and, as such, Broudie was mentally preparing for his track to become unavoidable again.

“I’ve had a mixed relationship over the years with the song,” he explained. “I’ve been uncomfortable and comfortable and I’m totally comfortable with it now. I love it when everyone sings it. I love it when there’s a competition. I think it’s been a real gift for me. I can’t get away from the fact it’s a big headline. I used to think, ‘Well, I’ve written better songs,’ but now I wonder if I have because it does seem to have something in it.”

Of course, Broudie has written better songs – another of his, The Life Of Riley, is just as synonymous with football for soundtracking Goal Of The Month on Match Of The Day for a number of years – but none have caught the mood of the nation quite as potently as Three Lions did in 1996. One person who can empathise is Blur’s Alex James, who had a big hand in writing the Fat Les England anthem Vindalooyou can read how that song came about here.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.