The relationship between music and football has evolved over the years, but it’s fair to say the twin pursuits have always shared some common ground.
Recently, we have seen the slow demise of the traditional FA Cup final song, in a move which has paralleled the decline of outlets like Top of the Pops on which to perform the music in question.
However, ever since the England team recorded Back Home ahead of their World Cup defence in 1970, we’ve had a rich tradition of players getting behind the mic. Well, maybe not a rich tradition, but a tradition all the same.
We’ve picked out 77 football songs, all of which fit into one of three categories: (a) song recorded by players for a cup final or similar special occasion, (b) official or unofficial international tournament song or (c) attempt by players to do actual music.
Most of them are about as good as you’d expect.
78. Scotland National Team – Easy Easy
That opening riff is promising, but then they sing ‘Yabba Dabba Doo’. Then it happens again. And again. Starting to think that Zaire defending was deliberate trolling in response to this monstrosity.
77. Bell & Spurling – Sven Sven Sven
76. Yeovil Town – Yeovil True
Releasing an FA Cup third round song is bad. Releasing an FA Cup third round song to the tune of Rolf Harris’ ‘Two Little Boys’ is worse. Only kept off the bottom by the pity points awarded for someone writing original lyrics.
75. Brighton & Hove Albion – The Boys in the Old Brighton Blue
Right, I know there’s a tradition in cup final songs to do…whatever this is. But come on, lads.
74. Arsenal – Good Old Arsenal
Presumably this was the whole first team singing, but one voice stands out about all the others. It’s a pretty dry effort all round, and stinks of ‘uncle performing the same song on karaoke twice in a row because he’s too drunk to remember doing it the first time’.
73. Reading FC – They Call Us the Royals
This sounds like the theme song for a new flavour of crisps, or the montage music from a film starring one of the lesser-known Disney Channel stars. What it’s doing anywhere near a football club is anyone’s guess, but in a way I’m glad it exists. Keep watching for the rap.
72. Chelsea – No One Can Stop Us Now
Man Utd could stop them. To the tune of a 4-0 win which was one of the most comprehensive in recent cup final history. This sounds like rejected incidental music from a Gladiators live show.
71. Liverpool – Liverpool (We’re Never Gonna…)/Liverpool Anthem
Liverpool have a rich tradition of football songs. This is not included in that description. ‘We’re Never Gonna’ at least has the framework of a piece of music, but it’s instantly forgettable, somehow the kind of singalong that doesn’t have enough to entice anyone to actually sing along.
The less said about ‘Liverpool Anthem’ the better. Let’s just consider this 1983 effort a dry run for what was to come.
70. Liverpool – Sitting On Top of the World
This was the second dry run
69. Cockerel Chorus – Nice One Cyril
Sounds like it was written on a calculator.
68. Fat Les – Vindaloo
It’s been nearly 20 years, guys, you don’t have to pretend to like this any more.
67. Petr Čech and Roger Taylor – That’s Football
It’s been nearly 20 minutes, guys, you don’t have to pretend to like this any more.
66. Manchester United – We All Follow Man United
No pretensions here, just plain confidence and boring music. Would a bridge kill you, lads?
65. Ant & Dec – We’re on the Ball
Somehow worse than you remember. Yes, that’s possible. Considering Ant & Dec had some singles in the charts before this, you might expect more. Considering one of those singles was Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble, perhaps we set our expectations too high.
64. The Red Stripez – Southampton in Europa
Yes, it’s a charity song so it deserves some credit. It also conjures up memories of the Blackout Crew, which no one really needs. Fair play to them for making two versions, just one year apart, to demonstrate the squad upheaval between 2015 and 2016.
63. Millwall – Oh Millwall
There are lyrics, that much is true, and there’s also a verse-chorus structure. The nicest thing I can say is Millwall surely never anticipated having to write a song for a cup final, so if anything this is Sunderland’s fault for losing to them in the semi-finals.
62. Gazza – Geordie Boys (Gazza Rap)
Throughout his career, people often got accused of refusing to say ‘no’ to Gazza enough. Just leaving that here.
61. England National Team – This Time (We’ll Get It Right)/ England We’ll Fly The Flag
One football song is enough, so whoever decided on a double A side needs shooting. The 80s sometimes gets unfairly slammed as a musical wasteland, but if this was your only exposure to the decade I’d sympathise with the view.
Somehow both songs are worse than each other.
60. Manchester United – Glory Glory Man United
If anyone’s allowed an upbeat, full-of-confidence song, it’s probably a team about to face relegated opponents in a cup final. Unfortunately, once the strong opening subsides, it’s just a glorified terrace chant with that wall-of-drab so common in this kind of music. A solid 4/10.
59. West Ham United – I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles
Yes, they had five years after the first football song to figure out what they’d release if they ever made a cup final, and ended up making the decision in five seconds. The dry delivery fits pretty horribly with the backing track, to the point that it feels as though they were recorded in separate galaxies, let alone separate rooms.
58. Andy Cole – Outstanding
You know those songs that get better with every listen as you spot little intricacies you didn’t notice the first time? This is not one of those songs.
57. Chelsea – Blue Tomorrow
The concept of big chorus and sort-of key change amid club-specific lyrics is good, but the song? The song is very bad.
56. Arsenal – Arsenal Number One/Our Goal
Oh god, it’s Mambo No. 5, but Arsenal. How did this ever get signed off?
55. Castro feat Baby Jet (Asamoah Gyan) – African Girls
Speaking of Mambo No. 5, Gyan’s venture into music appears to mostly comprise him running through girls’ names, as well as his own name.
54. Youri Djorkaeff – Vivre Dans Ta Lumière
Just wanted to make you aware this exists, really. I have a lot of questions, probably too many for this article, but the main one concerns whether Tommy Wiseau consciously stole Djorkaeff’s look for The Room.
53. Glenn & Chris – Diamond Lights
Look, 1987 was a confusing time for all of us, okay.
52. Rangers – Glasgow Rangers (Nine in a Row)
Imagine the end-credits music from a PS1 platform game where you have to beat Celtic to the Scottish league title. Then try to figure out why such a thing would ever exist. Congratulations, you have the mindset required to comprehend the existence of this song. No, the platform game doesn’t exist, but nor should this nothing song.
51. Tottenham Hotspur – When the Year Ends in One
We wanted a song, not a history lesson.
50. Manchester United and The Champions – United (We Love You)
This feels like a duet between Slade and the guy who sang the Pokémon theme. If that doesn’t sound like something you want to hear, congratulations – your brain is still functioning.
49. Lindisfarne & Gazza – Fog on the Tyne
The strong chorus is let down by the verse, which is kind of what happens when you try to eke a full song out of a popular refrain. Could have been so much more.
48. Tottenham Hotspur with Chas & Dave – Tottenham Tottenham
Imagine being a Spurs fan and thinking success could be repeated and wasn’t purely fleeting. That’s not the main issue here, though. The main issue is that the song feels phoned in. It’s no wonder this has fallen by the wayside while other Spurs songs remain part of the canon.
47. Bristol City and the Wurzels – One For the Bristol City
Unapologetically Bristolian, to the point of even using the actual Wurzels. It has its charm, but probably not enough to make up for its lack of anything else.
46. The Seagulls – Goldstone Rap
You know when you see a proper car-crash interview on TV but can’t look away? That, but for your ears.
45. Everton – Here We Go
Everton ‘is the best’, not ‘are the best’ – feels like a bit of an Americanism, don’t you think? There is at least the hint of the occasional player hitting a note, which elevates it above the flat embarrassment of other songs of the genre.
44. Spice Girls feat England United – (How Does It Feel To Be) On Top of the World
Falls into the obvious trap of having far too much going on. Sometimes less is more, and less in this case means one of The Spice Girls, Ocean Colour Scene and Echo and the Bunnymen has to go. Yeah, in retrospect that seems obvious.
43. Manchester United with Status Quo – Come on You Reds
Status Quo were technically uncredited on this. Listening back, that might have been their request. It has the cadence and wall-of-sound of a Christmas single, so what was it doing coming out in May? If you look up ‘overdoing it’ in a dictionary, you’ll find this song.
42. Middlesbrough with Bob Mortimer & Chris Rea – Let’s Dance
The likes of Mikkel Beck and Phil Stamp had been used to surrounding themselves with people more talented than them throughout the season, so this could have worked. Obviously it didn’t come close. This song isn’t ‘bad’, per se, but it’s about as entertaining as the 1997 FA Cup final.
41. Manchester United – Lift it High (All About Belief)
Sitting at the epicentre of that period between early Britpop and landfill indie, this is a song, that much is accurate. Could easily be a forgettable B-side from a band who appeared on two Shine compilations, and I haven’t worked out yet whether that’s a compliment.
40. 442 – Come on England
Whisper it, but this is one of the better footbalisations of a popular song. Good? No, I wouldn’t go that far.
39. Terry Venables – If I Can Dream
Fantastic orchestra work, and it’s another charity single, but El Tel’s no Xander Armstrong or Nick Knowles, is he? As with a good 60% of this list, I’m not entirely sure why this recording of this song exists.
38. Kevin Keegan – Head Over Heels in Love
If you came into this blind, you could be forgiven for thinking Keegan was a professional singer and not a footballer. You could also be forgiven for understanding why this was as good as it got for his singing career.
37. Manchester United – Move Move Move (The Red Tribe)
Absolutely a product of its time, and if you strip out the vocals it’s entirely passable as a mid-90s hit. But the lyrics and vocals are there, and are worse than silence. Shame.
36. England National Team and the “sound” of Stock Aitken & Waterman – All the Way
Right, imagine if someone wrote a song for Rick Astley and he wasn’t available, so they gave it to a bunch of footballers instead. Surprise!
35. Nottingham Forest and Paper Lace – We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands
Brian Clough looks like a man who resents the entire concept of music. Trusts it about as much as he trusts food that isn’t beige. As much as he trusts someone with a third shirt button undone. He looks like a man who vetoed this release, only for the club to go over his head. And all too right, this is garbage.
34. Coventry City – Go For It
Look, it was Coventry’s first FA Cup final, so this was mostly guesswork. It feels like they started recording nice and early, before realising a week before deadline that they needed to add in some lyrics and vocals too. Could be worse, but could be better too.
33. Liverpool and the Boot Room Boyz – Pass & Move (It’s the Liverpool Groove)
Part of the ‘move’-themed battle for the 1996 FA Cup, but peaks too early with the ‘Straight out the boot room’ refrain. Probably just edges United’s ‘Move Move Move’, but it’s close.
32. Manchester United and Stryker – We’re Gonna Do It Again
The wordplay on this is nowhere near as clever as they think. Fair play for keeping the player involvement to an absolute minimum and drowning it out with overproduction, at least.
31. Cardiff City and James Fox – Bluebirds Flying High
Remember James Fox? Yeah, the Eurovision guy. Yeah, not great. 16th, actually. Out of 24. This? Yeah I guess it’s not outwardly bad.
30. Arsenal with Tippa Irie and Peter Hunningale – Shouting For the Gunners
Yes, Tippa Irie of Hey Mama fame. No idea what’s going on here, save for ‘A lot’. This sounds like three songs played over each other at once, which only has so much charm.
29. Andy Cameron – Ally’s Tartan Army
Just listen to the positivity. Not having this – football songs, especially from World Cup teams who failed to escape their group four years earlier should carry an air of resignation before a ball is kicked. I guess comparing Ally McLeod to Muhammad Ali gains points for sheer hubris.
28. England National Team – Back Home
The only song on this list which is closer to the end of the war than to Euro 96, and it shows. As the first of its ilk, this laid down the template by which all future football songs would be judged. Imagine how different it could have been. Points for not expecting too much of the performers, mind you.
27. England National Team – We’ve Got The Whole World At Our Feet
Some pretence of originality, which stands out amid the repurposed terrace chants of the mid-80s. I guess they had to put that extra bit of effort in for a World Cup campaign.
26. Scotland National Team – We Have a Dream
Now that’s more like it, an ostensibly positive and original ditty, which is lent a miserable, depressive air by the dour delivery. That’s what Scottish football should be all about.
25. Leeds United – Leeds United
This breezy 1972 effort wouldn’t look out of place as the theme tune for an odd couple style sitcom of the same era. Eventually people would realise football songs don’t have to explicitly be about the players on the team, but it was early days so they’re forgiven.
24. Ian Wright – Do the Right Thing
Obviously this should have been styled as ‘Do The Wright Thing’, but – as songs by footballers go – it’s not awful. If this came on at a bar, you wouldn’t get up and leave, but you wouldn’t go up to the DJ to ask what they were playing. Not sure what prompted him to record a song in the first place, but at the same time it’s hard to see why it began and ended with this.
23. Crystal Palace and The Fab Four – Glad All Over/Where Eagles Fly
I’m not sure why Palace covered the Dave Clark Five in 1990, and whether this version predates the terrace version, but I’m into it. More clubs should just cover bona fide hits – who wouldn’t want to see Arsenal’s Invincibles doing a rendition of an early Rolling Stones hit, or Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League winners putting their own stamp on something by The Beatles?
22. Manic Street Preachers – Together Stronger (C’mon Wales)
This has all the cadence of a legitimate song, and would probably appear as such if you didn’t speak English. Unfortunately the lyrics and scansion are an absolute mess, even more than usual for late-era Manics. Considering their ability to blend strong choruses with spoken-word samples, this is a missed opportunity.
21. Scotland National Team and Rod Stewart – Ole Ola (Mulher Brasileira)
It’s Scots performing Ole Ola, what do you think it sounds like? That’s right, bizarrely competent.
20. Embrace – World at Your Feet
Few could have predicted the commissioning of a song called World at Your Feet would precede a tournament which England exited after the country’s best player found Ricardo Carvalho’s balls connecting with that particular part of his anatomy? Obviously better than most of the songs with vocals from players, but these guys are professional musicians so what did you expect. It’s fine, if forgettable, but not actively bad.
19. Tottenham Hotspur with Chas & Dave – Ossie’s Dream (Spurs Are On Their Way to Wembley)
You imagine this would really grate if you heard it after your team had lost to Spurs, which has to count for something. You forget how thickly they laid on the war metaphors (is it a metaphor if it’s that explicit?), and you imagine a song starring an Argentine would have taken a different tack if it was recorded four years later during the Falklands War.
18. U-Niq feat Royston Drenthe – Tak Taki
Tak Taki sounds good on the surface level, and Drenthe has a pretty good flow for someone whose main job isn’t ‘rapper’, but you wonder if he’d be able to sustain the highlight over a full album. Sorry, that was too easy.
17. Del Amitri – Don’t Come Home Too Soon
Imagine commissioning an official song which has its foundations in the worst possible scenario. I mean, Scotland were right to be pessimistic, with the 1998 World Cup producing one point and a run of 20 years and counting without a major tournament appearance. If they’d known what would follow, would they have returned to the optimism of earlier years? If so, we’d have missed out on this emotive and refreshingly realistic slice of Del Amitri.
16. Liverpool – We Can Do It
Well it’s upbeat, at least, and giving footballers a repetitive chorus – ergo fewer words to remember – makes sense. I’ll go as far as saying this could have been a good song if performed by actual singers.
15. The Players – This is For Real
I heard your favourite boyband isn’t fronted by former Blackburn Rovers shoot-from-anywhere-merchant Morten Gamst Pedersen. I heard it doesn’t also have four other Norwegian footballers on vocals. I heard it isn’t strangely competent and yet soulless, like an X Factor act that makes it to the judges’ houses and no further. Gutted for you.
14. Scotland National Team – Say it With Pride
Not sure how I’ve never heard this before, but it almost bangs. Fair fucks Scotland, this is how you make a football song, and a 1990 song.
13. Chelsea with Suggs & co – Blue Day
Believe it or not, this was around the peak of Suggs’ solo music career. Bizarrely, the nature of his regular material means this isn’t actually that much of a departure. Probably the last ‘good’ FA Cup final song, and the last ‘good’ Suggs song.
12. Scotland National Team and Rod Stewart – Purple Heather
Not many countries have a legitimately good singer to take the pressure off when it comes to tournament songs. This is essentially a Rod Stewart song, co-opted by a team with Ally McCoist leading the line, so it’s better than it would be if the roles were reversed.
11. Mo-Torres, Cat Ballou & Lukas Podolski – Liebe Deine Stadt
Lukas Podolski has a number one single to his name, and it’s a perfectly pleasant euro-hit. Would I feel differently about it if I spoke fluent German? Perhaps, but you can absolutely see this in the middle of the Eurovision pack, gaining 12 points from Austria and no one else. Obviously, within the context of everything else on this list, that puts it towards the top.
10. Alexi Lalas – Crash
Lalas has several albums, with dozens of songs spread across them, but he’s been kind enough to ensure every single one of them sounds the same. This Primitives cover is what I believe The Simpsons referred to as ‘wuss-rock’, but it’s a solid example of the genre.
9. Arsenal – Hot Stuff
Ah, the old ‘change some lyrics from a popular song to make them about your team’ method. Turns out it works sometimes, and this strikes more or less the right balance between pop song and cup final song. Probably helps that there was still excitement about newish manager Arsène Wenger and the presence of French players retained some novelty, but other clubs have done less with more.
8. Tottenham Hotspur and Chas & Dave – Hot Shot Tottenham
Now this is a proper cup final song, blending Chas & Dave’s trademark style with references to Spurs players which – whisper it – actually works. The less said about the Ledley & the Kings cover, the better.
7. Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds – Three Lions 98
Not as good as the original, but comfortably stronger than most of the other football songs in existence. The addition of pessimism amid the positivity almost makes up for the inability to crowbar in ’32 years of hurt’.
6. Everton – All Together Now
It’s testament to the versatility of The Farm’s original that Toffees-specific lyrics could be easily ported into both verse and chorus. It retains some of the charm of the original, and actually makes me happy they won the 1995 FA Cup final.
5. Vinnie Jones – Big Bad Leroy Brown
Vinnie has some pipes on him, fair play to the lad. If he’s a better footballer than he is an actor, he’s a better singer than he is both. On the strength of this, I’m genuinely interested in listening to his album Respect. Yes, that’s a real thing.
4. Clint Dempsey – Don’t Tread
I’m going to shock you here. Don’t Tread works in both concept and delivery, and shows players taking themselves super-seriously is sometimes better than them not taking themselves seriously at all, though it obviously depends on the player in question. It might not quite be the best song performed by a footballer, but it’s the best performance from a footballer on a song.
3. Liverpool – Anfield Rap (Red Machine in Full Effect)
The gold standard of cup final songs, to the point we can even forgive rhyming ‘hell’ with ‘Arsenell’. This shows football songs don’t have to be great, or even good, they just have to be.
2. Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds – Three Lions
It’s been more than 20 years, and I’m still not entirely sure how this can sound like a product of a very specific time and yet still hold up. Was Britpop actually good after all, or were The Lightning Seeds just miracle workers? You decide.
1. England New Order – World In Motion
What else could it be? It’s almost too good to be a football song, but the overlaid commentary brings it down to an acceptable level. This will never be topped, because no one will be allowed to top it.
By Tom Victor