Why are all football songs a load of balls?


Yesterday the Manic Street Preachers revealed Wales’ official anthem for Euro 2016, Together Stronger (C’mon Wales), a song intended to set Welsh hearts ablaze as Chris Coleman’s side prepare their bid for sporting immortality. ‘Now that France has arrived, it feels so good to be alive,” sings James Dean Bradfield, having presumably decided that a lyric such as ‘Wherever you go I will be carcass. Whatever you see will be rotting flesh’ might not convey quite the same inspirational feel-good factor. It’d be mean-spirited to stick the boot into what is obviously a proud moment for the Blackwood band – lyricist Nicky Wire wasn’t born when Wales last competed in the finals of a major international tournament (the 1958 World Cup in Sweden) and being a mere 47 years old he’s never witnessed his favourite club side, Tottenham Hotspur, win the league either – but this fist-gnawingly awful slice of stadium MOR was never, ever likely to eclipse The Holy Bible as the Manic’s finest hour.

But then, let’s be honest here, football songs are always balls. The much-heralded World in Motion? ‘Catch me if you can, ‘cause I’m the England man’? Sorry Barnesy, can’t hear you over the sound of Ian Curtis turning in his grave. Three Lions? Sentimental arse. Don’t Come Home Too Soon? Jesus Christ Del Amitri, grow some balls. Anfield Rap? Behave yourselves lads. Ossie’s Dream? Yeah, let’s all laugh at the funny little foreign fella who can’t pronounce his own club’s name. Vindaloo? Oh do fuck off.

The only band who ever came close to nailing the blend of pathetic optimism, vanishingly fleeting euphoria and inevitable soul-crushing disappointment that is the yoke of the average football fan was Merseyside indie surrealists and John Peel favourites Half Man Half Biscuit, but wry, wordy, deadpan tracks such as The Referee’s Alphabet or Friday Nights and The Gates Are Low were never going to be sung en masse at Prenton Park, home of frontman Nigel Blackwell’s beloved Tranmere Rovers, much less displace You’ll Never Walk Alone on the Kop.

This, perhaps, is the crux of the problem. There’s not a lot of space for subtlety, poetry or nuance in songs designed to be roared from the terraces, in pubs and on train station concourses. Olé, olé olé olé? Fine. Glory glory Man United? Not much translation needed. ‘In the marble halls of the charm school, how flair is punished. Under Marble Millichip, the F.A. broods’ [The Fall’s Kicker Conspiracy]? Hmmm, not quite as catchy as ‘You’re shit and you know you are’ is it?

Then again, who knows what unlikely source might yield the next terrace anthem? When he penned a descending seven note motif for Seven Nation Army, and recorded it on a semi-acoustic guitar through an octave pedal to resemble a bass riff, Jack White can’t possibly have envisaged that it would be blasted out of stadium PAs each time a goal was scored in the Euro 2012 finals. And if Leicester can win the Premier League, who’s to say that the Stade de France won’t be rocking to the lyric ‘Come on Ramsey, let’s set the world alight’ on July 10? Regardless, lame as it is, you can bet that the Manic’s new single will kick the crap out of whatever embarrassing shit the English FA chooses to endorse in the coming weeks…

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Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.