It’s been suggested I write a post about football songs. (Hat tip plus sincere apologies for what follows to Mark Holland).
This sums up my attitude to the genre:
Something you see a lot in British football broadcasting and writing these days is a determination to find charm and tradition and ancient values in the charmless, recent and unrooted. Some of you will have listened to the “song” and gone straight into that.
The original “Vindaloo” song wasn’t written within the game – it was an attempt at satire, albeit poor, like most football satire . “Vindaloo” pointed out that a large proportion of football fans – namely, that proportion that thrust their fandom down your throat on your homeward train on a Saturday evening – are ignorant, selfish and desperate for attention. The problem was that it didn’t leave enough room between itself and reality: satire needs that little bit of space in which to work. It was adopted straightaway as a theme tune by its targets, and the writers had to act as though that was what they’d meant all along.
When British journalists lambast the United States (they’ll use the “yank” word or something similar) for not “getting” football, is this what they want the US to get? Do they want the US to get what I’ve seen, many times, on Surrey commuter trains: gangs of middle-aged skinheads in Chelsea shirts, bawling obscene chants into the scared faces of little children, just because they can?
Six weeks ago, I saw this happen in Waterloo Underground station: the culprits this time where AFC Wimbledon fans. The kind of people who reckon they deserve marks for their choice of team.
There was one chant I liked. I liked it the first time I came across it:
Away in a manger no crib for a bed, the little lord Jesus, stood up and he said, FOR WE HATE HIBEES, AN WE HATE HIBEES, WE HATE HIBEES, AN WE HATE HIBEES, …
It began to die on me the second time. But that’s the thing with football songs and chants. They aren’t just once. They’re again, and again, and again…
And they’ve changed over the years. One thing they do is to reinforce the need to segregate fans of different clubs, something that should not be acceptable in modern civil society. It wasn’t necessary for many years, something for which there is ample photographic evidence. Old football songs might have been terrible, but they weren’t all shorthand for bottling a random opponent. Take this from Norwich City:
Kick it off, throw it in, have a little scrimmage
Keep it low, splendid rush, bravo, win or die,
On the ball, city!
Never mind the danger,
Steady on, now’s your chance,
Hurrah! we’ve scored a goal. City!, City!
Or this, from Huddersfield Town:
There’s a team that’s dear to it’s followers,
Their colours are bright blue and white,
They’re a team of renown, they’re the talk of the town,
And the game of Football is their delight.
All the while upon the field of play,
Thousands gladly cheered them on their way,
Often you could hear them say,
Who can beat the Town today?
Then the bells shall ring so merrily,
Every goal shall be a memory,
So Town play up and bring the cup,
Back to Huddersfield
If Methodism’s songs had been this bad, we’d have heard no more of Wesley.
Anyway, football songs: don’t like ’em.
(Please do not comment with songs-I-have-sung, chants-I-have-loved, or paeans to non-league football.)