History has proven that there is an intrinsic link between two of the world’s greatest art forms: Football and Music. The terrace chants are long-standing proof that the tribalism of football lends itself to something much more creative than degenerative loyalties, even if it is simply telling the opposition’s manager that their mother is, in fact, a whore. For example, Liverpool’s connection to You’ll Never Walk Alone is both emotional and atmospheric while other clubs boast of similar (or even the exact same) boxer-esque “walk-on” music. With this in mind, I waded back through the past to find some the great occasions when music and football collided.
The England National Team
There is no better place to start than to explore the continuing relationship between our own national football team and the music charts. From Kasabian’s unveiling of the second shirt “away” in Paris in 2010 (see what they did there?) to the latest Deliveroo advert featuring the ever-recognisable Carnival De Paris track, The Three Lions have long-sought this connection with music. The two best examples of this long live in the memory. Firstly, who doesn’t love the sight of John Barnes, ball tucked under his arm, melodiously rapping away with Keith Allen doing whatever the hell he was doing behind him? This is without doubt my favourite England-related tune, I even got my hands on a World in Motion t-shirt for the latest World Cup tournament. Speaking of, Russia 2018 saw the huge comeback of another England favourite: It’s Coming Home was very much the sound of that summer. You heard it spilling out of pubs, broadcast on the news, echoing across the school playgrounds, and even your Nan was asking you thought it could happen. Baddiel and Skinner’s track seemed to transcend music – it became a saying, a national slogan, a mantra. That hot summer was unforgettable, made even better by England’s nostalgic re-embrace with music and my New Order tee, of course.
It was well known that if Alexis liked anything more than football, it was his dogs… oh, and his piano?
Transfer windows in the modern age are becoming an increasingly strange phenomenon. For the more recent benefit of global fanbases, most football clubs turn to social media to announce their new signings. After several days-worth of teasing tweets, there tends to be a rather peculiar craze of making these player-reveals quite the spectacle (many of my phone calls featured the words ‘Come to Besiktas’ for a while). Yet, Manchester United are the team who really have taken a musical route with this. For example, Paul Pogba’s return to Old Trafford, or #POGBACK, was celebrated with a bizarre collaboration. I don’t quite know how to describe the Pogba x Stormzy video without sounding like a dinosaur but let’s just say, rightly or wrongly, Pogba hasn’t quite recovered from the reputation that came with that dancing. Even more curious was Alexis Sanchez’s reveal almost two years later. As an Arsenal fan, it was well known that if Alexis liked anything more than football, it was his dogs… oh, and his piano? His eerie rendition of Glory, Glory Man United still haunts me to this day – and yes, it’s probably because I am bitter, but I guess it turned out okay in the end…
Growing up in North London, it was hard not to be influenced by grime music. The school playground would be full of people Bluetoothing diss tracks to each other whilst the new instrumental was being spat over by the bike sheds. Having been a keen listener since then, I have always enjoyed nods to some of the finest (or not so finest) in the game from certain grime stars. Last summer, super-fan Alex made headlines as he appeared on stage with Dave at Glastonbury, rapping Thiago Silva perfectly in his PSG shirt and bucket-hat. But this isn’t the only grime song to include a famous player. A popular lyric of Stormzy’s aptly reads: ‘I come to your team and I fuck shit up. I’m David Moyes’. Years before that, Skepta told the Newham Generals that he ‘rolls with the Gunners like Arsene Wenger’ and on a more recent album:
Your ex plays in the Prem but you never see him taking a pen
‘Cause if you can’t hit the G-spot when it comes to the spot kicks
Manna gotta wait on the bench.
Big Narstie charmingly tells us about ‘kicking man in the face’ before shouting ‘Batistuta!’, which always made me laugh anyway. That track was Break Me Down with JME who himself once skilfully asked ‘beats? I ain’t sharin’ em like Teddy’. The list does not end there either, it is safe to say that a book could be written about the Grime-scene’s relationship with the sport. It is clear that football gives these artists a chance to connect with their audiences, with clever imagery and humour making for a great sound.
It is well known that a career in football lacks longevity. What are players to do with their days when it’s all over? Punditry maybe? Property development? Or maybe even picking up the mic themselves? Probably the most famous example (and most successful? Maybe? No? Okay) is Andy Cole’s Outstanding. Produced by DJ Pied Piper, reaching Number 68 in the charts, and having some shameful nods to his footballing past, Cole tried his hand at some seriously liquid RnB. ‘United forever, whatever the weather. Less than 100%? Never’. Enough said.
I think I’ll leave it at that when it comes to Andy and move on to my favourite example in this section. This player didn’t even wait for his footballing career to finish before he was posting videos of himself rapping on YouTube. That’s right, we’re talking about “Deuce” aka Clint Dempsey. If there is one thing I would like you lot to take away from this, it is to go and watch his music video Don’t Tread. This West Coast-style rap video is really something. I mean I know football must boost your ego a fair bit, but really?!
Seven Nation Army
Now this White Stripes tune has really taken on a life of its own. It is no longer the song Jack White came up with when mistaking the name of The Salvation Army and is instead, effectively the soundtrack of sport. This particular track has grown since its first use in the World Cup of 2006 as it was used in just about every capacity during the most recent competition. The start of the game, a goal, the acknowledgement of an oppressive dictator in the crowd (I’m trying to go easy on FIFA but it’s difficult). Its first real popularity in football started as a chant as I remember. When I was at university, you couldn’t go into the mens’ toilets on a night out without the place being absolutely wrecked to the chants of ‘Oooooh Santi Cazorla!’. It was one of those chants that seemed to transcend rivalries like that of a flaming Will Grigg. However, this track does bring back harrowing memories too. I remember standing outside of the Allianz Arena waiting to get into a Champions League last-sixteen tie against Bayern Munich. Hearing those beats blasted around the stadium five minutes into the game, before anyone had even looked at my ticket, told me that it was not going to be our night. And it wasn’t. We lost 5-1. Thanks Jack White and Arjen Robben – thanks a bunch.
This short trip down memory-lane was by no means an exhaustive list of when football meets music. I haven’t even scratched the surface of what fun football chants can provide, and I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I were to try and describe Yannick Bolasie’s infamous rap battle with Bradley Wright-Phillips (also worth a Google). One thing has been made clearer to me though: football and music make an amusing couple, and long may it continue.