Every fortnight we cover the best and worst football songs from every club in the UK from our book ‘The Sound Of Football: Every Club, Every Song’. You can buy it here
Airdrieonians (formerly Airdrie United)
Nickname: The Diamonds
Ground: Excelsior Stadium
Stadium Capacity: 10,170
Song: Can’t Help Falling In Love
‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ has an unusual background. The melody reworks an 18th century love song by Jean-Paul-Égide Martini (1741-1816). What little is known about Martini presents him as a rather odd character: by birth he was Bavarian and was baptized Johann Paul Aegidius Schwarzendorf. He later moved to France and, for some unknown reason, adopted the French version of his first name and changed his surname to the very Italian sounding name of Martini. That’s why ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ is a perfect song for Airdrie, a club that moved and changed its name, and is both one of the oldest and newest clubs in the Scottish football league.
It’s one of the newest clubs because it was formed in 2002.
It’s among the oldest because it was formed out of the ashes of two other clubs. It succeeded Airdrieonians, a club based in Airdrie, in Lanarkshire, and Clydebank, a club based in the suburbs of Glasgow.
Airdrieonians had a proud 124-year history. This included a three-year period between 1922 and 1925 when the club remained unbeaten at home, a factor which helped it win the Scottish Cup in 1924. But, eighty years later, in 2002, the club was bankrupt after debts spiralled to over £3 million. Airdrieonians was liquidated and the Scottish Football League invited applicants to join the league and replace them.
One of the applicants was Airdrie United, a new club set up to continue Airdrieonians legacy. Despite its link to the town, its bid was unsuccessful, and Gretna in the Scottish Borders was appointed instead. Gretna was the wrong choice. Despite a meteoric rise from the third division to the SPL in successive seasons, at the end of the 2008 SPL season, Gretna’s owner withdrew his financial support, and with fewer than 500 fans, the club could no longer afford to pay its players or its bills. All the club’s staff were made redundant, and the club was relegated to the Third Division before it resigned its place in the SFL in June 2008 and was formally liquidated on 8 August 2008.
While Airdrieonians was liquidated in 2002, another Scottish club had severe financial problems. Clydebank was in administration and Airdrie United spotted an opportunity to buy the club, its membership of the Scottish football league and transfer it to Airdrie to start again. With the blessing of the football league, the transfer was a success and Airdrie United (nee Clydebank) started 2002/2003 in the Second Division.
So, while Airdrie United have started to build a new history for themselves, it also continues the history of Airdrieonians and, in its uninterrupted link to the past, Clydebank too – which give it’s a unique musical legacy. While many players would be proud to have the name of a band emblazoned across their chest, Clydebank’s squad did not. In 1992 the club became the first in the UK to be sponsored by musicians when local band and ‘Love Is All Around’ chart toppers Wet Wet Wet became its official sponsor. That meant ever week players had to run out with Wet Wet Wet emblazoned across their chests. The players were not happy.
With a new Clydebank playing non-league football, Airdrie United has sought to distance itself from Clydebank and reclaim more of Airdrieonians history. In 2013, to reflect the club’s links to the past Airdrie United officially changed its name back to Airdrieonians.
One of the many traditions that has continued from Airdrieonians to Airdrie United and back again is for the fans to sing ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’, a tradition which started in the pubs around Airdrieonians’ previous ground, Broomfield, in the early 80s.
The lyrics are apt. The words portray a tragic and almost cynical view of love, claiming that happiness is temporary and heartache permanent, which in Airdrieonians case almost turned out to be prophetic after facing extinction.
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