The Sound of Football: Barnsley (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


Nickname: The Reds

Ground: Oakwell

Stadium Capacity: 23,287

Song: Cocoon

Barnsley has spent more seasons in the second tier of English football than any other club. In the 1996/97 season, Barnsley reached the top level of English football for the first time in its history. A song was released to celebrate the occasion called ‘Up & Up.’ Unfortunately, it should be called ‘Up & Down’ as the club was relegated the following season.

Its solitary year in the top division saw the signing of Macedonian international striker Georgi Hristov. Hristov was signed to help Barnsley score on the pitch, but he had trouble scoring off it. In an interview with a Belgrade sports magazine, he said:

I’m finding it difficult to find a girlfriend in Barnsley, or indeed settle into a decent way of life. The local girls are far uglier than the ones back in Belgrade or Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, where I come from. Our women are much prettier. Besides, they don’t drink as much beer as the Barnsley girls.”

This prompted the response from the Barnsley fans that “Barnsley women are the prettiest in the country,” which country was never confirmed.

Hristov would have known which town had the prettiest girls if he’d carried out some basic research before joining Barnsley – or he could have just watched the telly. For years, ITV filmed a show inside northern nightclubs called The Hitman and Her and hosted by northern soul expert, pop producer, model railway enthusiast Pete Waterman (The Hitman), and ex-children’s TV presenter Michaela Strachan (Her).

Each week The Hitman and Her broadcast live from a club in the north of England. If Hristov had tuned in, he would have seen what the women of Barnsley looked like on a Saturday night. First, though, he would have discovered another connection to Barnsley: the club plays The Hitman and Her’s theme tune – ‘Cocoon’ by Timerider – when players run out at the start of games.

(The song also features in the 80s Britflick The Fruit Machine, which wasn’t half as good as its proposed sequel and prequel The Time Machine or its porn version: The Sex Machine.)

The song has become derided in recent years, but older fans still remember it fondly for soundtracking their promotion in 1997.

One song that Hristov would have known while at Barnsley was the town’s official anthem. It’s called ‘The Barnsley Anthem.’ It remembers the mining struggles of poverty in Barnsley in the early 20th century. Families were so poor that they were forced to hide in their cellars from threatening bailiffs. So why would he know the song? Well, after his comments about Barnsley women, he’d need to know the best place to hide on a Saturday night.

We’re all dahn in t’ cellar-‘oil where muck slarts on t’ winders,

We’ve used all us coil up and we’re reight dahn to t’ cinders;

If bum-bailiff comes ‘e’ll never finnd us,

Cos we’re all dahn in t’ cellar-‘oil where muck slarts on t’ winders.

(Source: trad.)

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