3 Classic Football Chants (..& a bit of chants history)
We’re going to take a little look here at 3 of the most famous of football chants, and also a bit of the history around football chants in general and these particular chants, because the phenomenon of chants at football matches goes way, waaaay back. To at least the 1890’s in fact, when the chant known as ‘the oldest chant still in use today’ was penned.
It’s not all that well known, but the oldest known chant still in use today is ‘On The Ball, City’ as sung by Norwich City but it seems first written for ‘Norwich Teachers’ back in the 1890’s. The ‘chorus’ says a little about what has & hasn’t changed in football since then:
Kick off, throw in, have a little scrimmage,
Keep it low, a 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.
Some big names in composition even wrote football ‘chants’ back in those days, Sir Edward Elgar for example who was a Wolves fan and wrote ‘He Banged the Leather for Goal’ after seeing them play Stoke in 1898. Elgar whose ‘Land of Hope & Glory’ is adapted as a chant these days of course.
…but anyway, with the rich heritage of football chants in mind lets take a look at those 3 classic football chants starting with…
Blaydon Races is the song best known of Newcastle Utd of course, though they’re often irritated by the fact that it’s been taken on by about a dozen other clubs (including Brighton, Shrewsbury, Blackburn, Man Utd, Bolton and more) with variations made to the lyrics such as ‘Burnden Aces’ for Bolton Wanderers.
It’s indisputably a north-eastern chant in origin though, written in the 19th century about races in a small town in Gateshead and first taken on by NUFC & Sunderland, it’s not clear when exactly but it’s certainly been in use since the ‘50’s.
The Fields of Athenry
This one didn’t really kick off until the ‘90s, but I’d still argue it’s a classic. It’s an Irish folk ballad set in 1840’s Ireland which was put into words and music in the 1970’s by one Pete St. John. It got picked up by many Irish clubs, and also by Glasgow Celtic with their Irish ties and became a rousing call of unity in the stands (with a pretty sectarian alternative version mentioning Sinn Fein & the IRA of course).
Liverpool also took it to heart & adjusted the lyrics to suit themselves(making it The Fields of Anfield Road), which is so often the way with chants. One great little factette for this one is that during the Euro 2012 group stages, with Ireland four goals down against Spain & knowing they were imminently out of the group stages, Irish fans sang it in solidarity for a good 6 or 7 minutes until full-time and their departure from the competition.
You’ll Never Walk Alone
The famous chant so closely tied to Liverpool FC of course, though also sung by Celtic and a number of European teams including Borussia Monchengladbach (whose fans we once joined in a chant of their version of ‘Roll Out The Barrel’ at a pre-season friendly) and even Japan’s FC Tokyo.
It’s from the 1945 Rogers & Hammerstein musical ‘Carousel’ of course, but found its way into scouse hearts through a cover by Liverpudlians ‘Gerry & The Pacemakers’ in ‘63 which ‘Gerry’ presented a copy of to Bill Shankly during pre-season who absolutely loved it, which the travelling journos chose to use for headlines suggesting it’d been adopted as the club’s song… sooner or later it effectively was & the rest is history.
And that was a bit of football chant history for you! A far cry from many of the songs used for modern chants, which we’ll take a look at in another post.