The Sound of Football: Alloa Athletic (Andrew)

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

Alloa Athletic

Nickname: The Wasps

Ground: Recreation Park

Stadium Capacity: 3,100

Song: The Boys In Black & Gold by The Utopians

Just like Albion Rovers, Alloa has used The A-Team theme song when walking onto the pitch – though we think it has missed a trick by not renaming it – just like the French, who renamed The A-Team as the All Risks Agency (L’agence Tous Risque). However, the French didn’t stop there. They also added new lyrics to the music and turned it into a full-blown soft rock song. A-Team leader Colonel ‘Hannibal’ Smith may have loved it “when a plan comes together,” but when the plan involves an iconic 80s TV show and a cheap rip-off Charles Aznavour singing, even he will baulk at the result. So, maybe Alloa is right to just call on the A-Team even if we all know that they should have renamed the song as the AA-Team. 

Our favourite song for Alloa’s is ‘The Boys In Black & Gold’ (the team colours) by The Utopians. The band was founded in Leicester in 2007 by frontman Jason Westall and guitarist James Shaw. They didn’t last long, and their Facebook page consists of only a handful of entries. The second last one from 2010 promises “that work has begun on a record which is arguably ‘more important than the New Testament,'” which shows while they may have lacked success, they didn’t lack ambition.

The band toured in January 2008 to support the release of its debut single ‘There’s a Train,’ which gained good reviews and Radio One airplay. ‘The Boys In Black & Gold’ was released as a B-side, and the band was invited to Recreation Park. The club’s website confirms that the song was played before kick-off, halftime, and after the final whistle.

It’s appropriate that the song was a B-Side as, while many clubs are known as perennial runners-up, Alloa Athletic has made a career out of coming second. It holds the record for finishing runners-up in the third tier of Scottish football a record eight times, most recently in 2012/2013 when Alloa clinched promotion to the First Division via a play-off.

Many clubs hate playing Alloa Athletic, not because of a fearsome reputation, but rather because its pitch is artificial turf. However, this had one benefit – in 2010, Alloa was the only club in the country to play football after a cold snap meant every other Scottish game was postponed due to freezing weather conditions.

One of its greatest players was Willie Crilley, affectionately known as “wee Willie Crilley,” “Electric Spark,” and also “The Mighty Atom,” a free scoring striker who played for Alloa in the 1920s and was considered to be one of the best strikers in the league. He still holds the record for the most goals scored by an Alloa player in a single season.

Willie’s nickname was not ironic. At best, he measured 5 foot 3 inches, but some records say he was smaller. He was so small that even the club’s official history recounts an apocryphal story that during one game, he ran with the ball between an opponents’ legs before scoring. He subsequently joined Celtic, but his heart was with Alloa, and he only lasted a few months before returning.

Injury meant his career was, ahem, cut short, and he emigrated to the United States to start a new life. He played for several US clubs but, after marrying a US girl and taking American citizenship, a dream return to Alloa was foiled by immigration. In 1929, Willie had returned to Scotland to re-joining Alloa, but as he was a US citizen, he was deported back to America before playing for the club.

In 1934 he returned to Scotland for a final time to try and re-join his beloved Alloa but time and injuries meant he was not the player he once was, and the club’s directors turned down his offer to play.

If Willie had played today every time, he scored he would have heard ‘Live is Life’, the 1985 hit by Austrian pop group Opus. 

‘Live is Life,’ often misconstrued as ‘Life is Life,’ was recorded live at Opus’s 11th-anniversary gig at Oberwart Stadium in Austria. This live version of the tune immediately shot to number one in the Austrian charts, and as 1985 dawned, the hit went global. While Opus is often considered one-hit wonders, they’d started in 1973, and, in Austria, they continued to release hits, including a tune for the Austrian national team for the 1998 World Cup. ‘Viva Austria’ sold thirty thousand copies, although sadly, the Austrian team didn’t fare quite so well after being knocked out in the first round.

‘Live Is Life’ has been adopted by several sports as an anthem, particularly in Europe, and in 1994 Opus released a new version for the World Cup that year, held in Willie’s adopted homeland, the United States.

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