Walking alone or with friends?
When you walk towards your hallowed ground there are certain sounds you hope to hear. It is part of the ritual that makes the game memorable. We know this sport is nothing without the fans, so when they make noise it can bring a game to life. It’s the banter and the camaraderie that are integral in creating the match day atmosphere. So, in a large crowd, it’s the sounds that draw us together. The chants and songs are a way of communicating with each other during a game.
Fans burst into song and that sound stirs up the team and drives them to victory. Or, it will echo a winning sentiment because that tune is forever associated with a club. When Bill Shankly said he really liked Gerry and the Pacemakers’ version of the Rogers and Hammerstein classic “You’ll never walk alone”, it was a pivotal moment. That song was number one in the hit parade for four weeks and when the nation heard Mr. Shankly name it as one of his desert island discs, the fans sang it during the 1965 FA Cup. This version of events has captured my imagination and I wonder why Brian Epstein didn’t give Bill a record or two. I guess Manchester City would not be singing “Hey Jude” if he had.
That was popular in 1968, so when Manchester City won the league that year, they sang the most popular song of the year. Yet, it is another Richard Rogers song that has captured the imagination of fans. The frequently-covered “Blue Moon” has been sung by City fans since around 1989 according to Gary James, and it started at the match against Liverpool that season. For two teams from towns with incredible musical associations, you wonder why some of the musicians who support the teams haven’t penned a song for their side.
A Song for All Teams
There are some songs that many teams can use to capture certain events. Doris Day’s classic “Que Será, Sera” has become the go-to song for those successful enough to reach a cup final. It seems at odds with the nature of being successful and winning. But sometimes fans just go with the flow of creating a moment and it’s the choral nature of communication that these anthems have. Meaning can change as songs are often associated with a time and place.
Sounds Of The Fans
The sounds of the terraces are filled with different types of chants and in this age of digital capture, we are privileged to hear what many teams are singing. The best ones are fan-led and if successful, they are propelled into the lexicon of cheers that give a team character. Each team has its heroes, and King Eric of Cantona was a force on the pitch. With the shouts of “Ooh Aah Cantona” on the terraces, the fans wanted more. It takes time to come up with a lyric and legendary red Peter Boyle takes his songs to the Bishops Blaize pub for a trial run. He came up with a reworking of Lilly the Pink because Eric the King was the saviour of Manchester United.
Mo Salah is the Egyptian King just as Eric was. “Harry Kane is one of our own” is a song that can be stolen and used for any local hero. If you are a player, I think it’s a privilege to have a song penned for you and the adoring fans sing it every week. I have sung the ode to Vincent Kompany many times. The ever catchy “Yaya and Kolo” song is viewed as a terrace classic long after their departure. The England Ladies squad even sang it to get them in the mood. Some songs seem supportive even if the lyrics are rather questionable.
When Manchester United goad Liverpool, it’s at the expense of political correctness. I am sure Park eats only what is on his diet sheet and many Liverpool fans live in huge houses on the Wirral. But it’s in the name of fun. However, It is true that Howard Webb is bald, but as to his sleeping arrangements, I am not sure the Sun covered that exclusive. We know what many players’ parents do for a living, but are Adebayor’s parents zookeepers and entertainers? The songs do endure.
Stevie Gerrard had many songs created for his adulation. Sadly for him, it was one slip and the good fortune of Demba Ba that has given countless fans singing opportunity. It is those shock moments that create memorable songs. The quick-witted fan can lead a chant and it is quickly picked up on. These are sung when you are winning, losing, or bored.
Wit and Wonder
Leicester fans reminded their opposition that they were not very good as they only scored four goals against them and Burnley fans were surprised at the poor performance of the home fans as they actually won away. I do like the gallows humour of fans, but when Spurs were four goals down they tried to cheer themselves up by pretending they scored a goal. That’s the spirit, lads. I wouldn’t want to be the spirit who tried to have a drink with George Best. No one could keep up with him in a bar or on the pitch and his spirit will always lift the Stretford End.
Those bored moments are the best. Sunderland fans do it in style. When an inflated member was confiscated by a steward the crowd begged for Dick’s return. All the Richards in the crowd were very confused as they hadn’t left the ground. I also liked the request for Aston Villa to sign up the pigeon who was warming up on the pitch.
I recall one frozen evening watching City play Red Bull Salzburg. They brought on a young Brazilian lad with a name too long to be printed on his shirt. He was known as Alan. That’s all the faithful heard and he came on to thunderous applause. He got more cheers than anyone else that night as he was compared to Superman. With the game in the bag for us, we encouraged him to score – but he didn’t. He did thank the home fans for the welcome he had. His career took off from then and he is still enjoying success.
This chant phenomenon is here to stay and we love the quick-witted ones. There is no room in this game for a chant laureate as the game moves quickly. If you are not there in the action you are the invisible fan. Chants are for the 12th man. Comedian Paul Kaye’s spoof chant writer, Labian Quest, sums this up perfectly as the person responsible for, “These charming Wagnerian battle cries”. He explains the musicality of “Who the **** are you”, and we see him asking what sentiment the lyrics should convey. “General poverty, bad housing and a focus on poor diet” seem to be the recipe for a great football chant.
Truth is, I wish I was the one who made up a song that was carried around a stadium. Question is, are you someone who has?