Friday Five #2: Football Songs

Euro 2016 kicks off tonight (with England's first game against Russia tomorrow), so it only felt fitting to make this Friday Five a football one. I have to admit it was quite hard going as unfortunately an awful lot of football songs are frankly woeful, but these are the ones I'd pick out, mainly because several of them are oddly meaningful to me or bring back particular memories. So without further ado, here's the list...

1. 'Three Lions' - Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds

It might be 20 years since this came out, but every word is still accurate. A bittersweet Britpop number, 'Three Lions' sums up what it is to watch England at a major tournament - the knowledge that we'll be lucky to get to a quarter-final, but yet the hope that maybe, just maybe, this is our year to win. For me, watching Euro 96 as an eight-year-old, it brings back memories of Gazza's wonder goal against Scotland (sorry Scottish readers) and a summer where it felt like anything could happen. It's held up really well too; provided you change the words to 'fifty years of hurt', it still rings true today.

2. 'World In Motion' - New Order

If 'Three Lions' could be described as occasionally going in dirge territory, then 'World In Motion' is its musical opposite. With its pulsing dance rhythms, jazzy keyboards and samples of the famous 'they think it's all over' commentary, it's easily the most uptempo track on the list. It's also quite unusual in that it works well as a song outside of a sporting context - yes there are some things that jar but if you take out John Barnes' legendary rap and the 'En-ger-land' chant at the end, it still holds up as a quality pop song.

3. 'Vindaloo' - Fat Les

Keith Allen gets everywhere. As well as 'World in Motion', he also co-wrote 'Vindaloo', which emerged as a rival to the 1998 version of 'Three Lions'. Initially intended to parody football chants with a video referencing the Verve's iconic 'Bittersweet Symphony', it's much more aggressive than 'Three Lions', laced with bravado and swagger and exulting the charms of British culture like tea solving everything and an excellent knitting pun. But what makes it work is the 'na-na-na' chorus, which is instantly catchy and demands to be sung along to. This is one for when we narrowly get through the round of 16 (and then dramatically crash out in the quarter-finals) when we're still full of 'we can do this!' bravado.

4. 'All Together Now' - The Farm

Why do all the good football songs originate in the 90s? Did we just hit on some formula then and decide to stick with it? Either way, 'All Together Now' brilliantly marries electronic beats with slightly melancholy lyrics; the song is apparently inspired by the 1914 Christmas truce, yet feels much more authentic than other attempts to bring it into popular culture. I also like that it has a slightly choral feel to it, which has weird parallels with the idea of football as a modern day religion but also works in terms of encouraging everyone to sing along. Plus its message of getting behind the team applies regardless of who you support, especially if it's an underdog.

5. 'You'll Never Walk Alone' - Gerry and the Pacemakers

Well I had to have this didn't I? As a Liverpool fan, 'You'll Never Walk Alone' will always be special to me (to the extent I wanted it at our wedding but Nick said no). Originally recorded for the musical 'Carousel', it's been covered by loads of different artists - I particularly love the Elvis version - but the Gerry and the Pacemakers rendition is the classic, so that's going on the list. The message of keeping going is one I think we can all relate to and, even if you're not a football fan it still carries huge emotional clout, as anyone who saw the Hillsborough families singing it after the inquest will know. (Is it bad that even typing that makes me well up?) It is the only football song that makes me cry, and for that reason it will always be my favourite.

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