Every Saturday afternoon, across the land, football terraces reverberate with song. Some are funny. Others are designed to inspire the eleven players who carry our hopes and dreams.
Then there are these chants. In the great footballing songbook, these are our Nickelback.
Oh when the Spurs…
When The Saints Go Marching In has a rich and storied past, beginning its life as a Christian hymn before becoming a jazz staple, covered by all the greats.
In the Fifties this up-tempo, up-lifting number made a natural switch to the sporting arena, adopted by Southampton because of their nickname, though there is earlier evidence of Tottenham singing it, changing ‘saints’ to ‘stripes’.
If that gives the North London giants some sort of proprietorship of the song what they’ve done with it since is little short of abhorrent, slowing down the words to a droning dirge that evokes a record player on the wrong speed.
Thankfully, all of the football bet tips suggest it’s not going to pollute the air at Wembley anytime soon.
Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea
See also Everton, Everton, Everton and Villa, Villa, Villa.
Chanting your club’s name unaccompanied by any lofty claims at being the best team in the land and all the world is as stripped back and tribal as it gets. And frankly, we’re all here for that.
A crucial caveat however is that it must be sung in short bursts.
Chelsea are unquestionably the worst offenders at purposely prolonging the chant, sometimes for nearly an entire half, and inevitably it burrows deep into the senses, setting them on edge. This is clearly the intention.
The footballing equivalent of someone flicking your ear over and over again.
Where were you…
…,when you were rubbish? Or words to that effect.
With a select few lucky clubs benefitting from heavy investment that has seen them rocket among the elite – or to use shorthand, Manchester City – the charge here is that the fans are glory-hunters. As jibes go, it aims for just under the skin.
A problem arises however when it’s sung at away supporters, who have travelled hundreds of miles, paying extortionate train fares, despite the game being on Sky.
A further undermining flaw is that when City were indeed rubbish, they averaged 28,000 in the third tier.
The latest sports betting suggests the Blues might win a fifth league title in six years. They don’t appear to be unduly bothered by a chant that contradicts itself.
Stand up if you hate
There you are, on a freezing February day, hoping that if you sit still enough the cold might get bored and leave you alone.
Then at the far end of your row a fellow fan stands and declares they hate your main rivals. Good for him. Only he’s not content with that.
This perfect stranger demands that everyone else gets up and declares their hatred too. This is how cults start.
Old-school chants are always welcomed but perhaps it’s time to return the nursery rhymes back to the Seventies? Maybe we should acknowledge that as a society we’ve since evolved?
The third line of this well-established Manchester United chant is ‘With a knick knack paddy whack, give a dog a bone’.
This is sung by grown-ups, who have children and mortgages and responsibilities. Please stop.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*
FIRST PUBLISHED: 24th January 2023