The Sound of Football: AFC Bournemouth (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

AFC Bournemouth

Nickname: The Cherries

Ground: Vitality Stadium

Stadium Capacity: 9,287

Song: Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond

The club’s official name is AFC Bournemouth. It should appear at the front of any alphabetical list of English clubs. However, this order is often ignored, and clubs like Barnsley, Birmingham, Blackburn, Blackpool, and Bolton are listed first. We have chosen to list them by AFC so that it’s in front of Arsenal and Aston Villa – at least until those clubs, like a crafty tradesperson looking to get a higher listing, change their names to AAArsenal and AAAston Villa.

Musically, Bournemouth doesn’t deserve a high position on our list. The club doesn’t have a significant song to call its own – though not through lack of trying, most recently by looking for inspiration from across the Atlantic. 

The baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, plays Neil Diamond’s classic ‘Sweet Caroline’ during every game at their stadium, Fenway Park. The sing-along song has become such a Fenway staple that the Red Sox mutes the sound for parts as fans know the lyrics off by heart.

Neil Diamond’s song was inspired by a photograph of Caroline Kennedy, daughter of US President John F Kennedy, that the singer saw in a magazine while staying at a hotel in Memphis*. Diamond wrote the song in an hour; it changed his life. He reignited his career and sold a million copies in the US.

Today, ‘Sweet Caroline’ is in every Boston bar, and it doesn’t matter if the Red Sox are winning, hurting, triumphant, or reeling when you’re down, and you sing it; it will lift you up. It’s Boston’s theme song. But not Bournemouth’s song, no matter how many times played it before kick-off.

This is not the first time a song has failed to connect with fans. Even a song written for the club couldn’t connect. 

In the early 1970s, the club would play  ‘Up The Cherries,’ an original song, when the team ran out at the start of matches. The song borrowed the club’s nickname – The Cherries – for its title. It was a nickname based on both the club’s cherry red striped shirts and the cherry orchards that once stood near its ground. However, surprise, surprise, it never caught on with supporters. 

It is the same story for one of the Bournemouth’s cup final songs. In 2003, the song ‘Go South,’ a reworking of the Village People’s ‘Go West’, was released before the Division 3 play-off final against Lincoln City. The song predicted the Bournemouth would win – and it was right. Bournemouth was a comfortable winner, beating Lincoln 5 – 2 and setting a record for the highest number of goals scored in a play-off final. Yet, even then, despite soundtracking this big victory, the song didn’t catch on. 

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The Sound of Football: Accrington Stanley (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

Accrington Stanley

Nickname: Stanley

Ground: Crown Ground (currently known as The Wham Stadium until 2021)

Stadium Capacity: 5,070

Song: On Stanley, On

Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem ‘Marmion’ describes one of Scotland’s heaviest military defeats, the battle of Flodden Field (1513). The English army routed the Scottish army after killing King James IV of Scotland.

Accrington Stanley’s song ‘On Stanley, On’ was inspired by a line in the poem.

’Charge, Chester, charge!  On, Stanley, on!’

Were the last words of Marmion.”

(Source: Marmion, Sir Walter Scott, public)

The “Stanley” referred to in the poem is Edward, the first Earl of Derby, and not the team. Instead, two journalists, Harry Crossley and Allan Lamber borrowed this line to write a song to inspire Accrington Stanley to victory against Torquay United after the club reached the third round of the FA Cup in 1953, the first time Stanley had got that far in almost 30 years. 

The song’s lyrics were published in the Accrington Observer on 12 December 1953. A version of the song, recorded by the Accrington Male Voice Choir, was played over the loudspeaker before the game. The music helped inspire Stanley to a 2 – 2 draw, though the replay saw Flodden Field recreated, as Stanley was slaughtered 5 – 1.

‘On Stanley, On’ became a popular song for supporters in the 1950s and 1960s with new versions recorded, including one by the local band Red Dawn and the Stanley Choir. However, the club itself was not so popular. It collapsed in 1966, and its current incarnation was formed in 1968. 

Stanley’s collapse and resurrection was, for many years, the most famous thing about the club. However, as it has steadily climbed the league, it has become more well-known. A fact that led to considerable angst for the band Accrington Stanley. As their lead singer, Dan O’Farrell, explained in 2013, they were counting on the club remaining obscure:

We chose [our] name in early 1986… purely because I had this ace book called The History of Football, and there was a picture of a football crowd watching an Accrington Stanley match in the 1930s… Accrington Stanley was only ever mentioned as a sad story from going bust in the 60s. It had the ring of the underdog about it. Now, [their name is] a bit of a pain, as it renders us very hard to Google or find on YouTube.

‘On Stanley On’s’ popularity has waned in recent decades. However, in May 2011, the Accrington Observer campaigned to resurrect it for a crunch play-off tie with Stevenage Borough. Reporters for the paper handed out song sheets to fans before the game. Sadly, the song couldn’t inspire the players to another famous result, Stanley lost its home game 2 – 0 and the return leg 1 – 0.

Before the game, Accrington Stanley chief executive Rob Heys told the Observer:

I’ve heard the song a few times. There is a lot of history associated with it. I am sure some of the older supporters remember it fondly, and if people were to sing it again, that would be great.”

Another link between Stanley and Flodden Field made ‘On Stanley On’ a perfect line to borrow for a football song.

King James IV of Scotland was the last British King to die on a battlefield. After the battle, his body was taken to Sheen Priory in Richmond, Surrey, where it remained until the 16th century before it disappeared – though it’s believed it’s buried underneath the fairway of the Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club.

While the body remains missing, at least until the golf club decides to check beneath the 14th green, there’s an easy way to identify King James once found – he has no head. This is because the King’s head became detached from his body before being transported to Sheen Priory. And, legend has it, the last time anyone saw the King’s head was when a group of Elizabethan workmen found it and decided they would use it to play a game… a game of football.

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The Sound of Football: Aberdeen (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 Dons


Ground: Pittodrie Stadium

Stadium Capacity: 21,421

Song: The Northern Lights of Aberdeen

In 1983, Bayern Munich had a team filled with legendary players: Breitner, Augenthaler, Hoeness, and Rummenigge. Names that were as well known then as BMW or Audi today.  

Aberdeen had Mark McGhee. When he walked into a room, even his wife asked, “who are you, and why are you in my kitchen?”

When Aberdeen met Bayern Munich in the 1983 European Cup Winner’s Cup quarter-final, it should have been no contest; Bayern would win. But, after drawing the first leg in Munich 0 – 0, Pittodrie’s greatest night followed.

Bayern scored first, then Aberdeen equalised. Bayern scored again, but a well-practiced free-kick led to Alex McLeish drawing Aberdeen level. One minute later, striker John Hewitt added a third. Despite late pressure, Aberdeen held on and won the game 3 – 2.

As the referee blew the final whistle, Alex Ferguson leapt from the dugout to run onto the pitch. It was a legendary night for a legendary manager – and one followed a few months later when Aberdeen won the European Cup Winner’s Cup final 2 – 1 against Real Madrid. A victory soundtracked by the European Song – a record so popular that an initial run of 100,000 copies sold out, and more copies had to be issued to satisfy demand. 

The European Song wasn’t the cup final’s only musical legacy.  The final was one of the first matches where fans could be heard singing a chant that would dominate Eighties football:

Here we, here we, here we f*****g go!

(Source: public)

Despite his success, Sir Alex, as he would become known, is only the second most famous man to have worked at Aberdeen. We’d argue the most famous Aberdonian is former coach Donald Colman. Who, you may ask?

In the 1930s, Donald Colman had a successful career with Motherwell and Aberdeen, where he was appointed club captain and capped by Scotland three times. However, it was his post-playing career that saw him achieve football immortality

Colman loved feet, but not in a kinky way. When appointed as a coach, he persuaded the club to dig a hole at the side of the pitch. Colman would stand in it and have his head level with the player’s feet. Donald believed players needed to work constantly on their footwork, which he could see far better from his vantage point below pitch level. 

When English club Everton visited Aberdeen a few years later, it saw Donald’s ‘dugout’ and created its own at Goodison. Soon every club followed until we have the airport lounge/dugout for today’s modern pampered footballer.

If standing up was Donald’s obsession, he would have been proud that fans have adopted a chant called Stand Free. 

Stand free wherever you may be,
We are the famous Aberdeen,
We don’t give a f**k
whoever you may be,
We are the famous Aberdeen.

(Source: public)

The tune is from the Lord of the Dance and is shared with other clubs, including Hibernian (We Are Hibernian FC) and St Mirren (We’ll Go Wherever St Mirren Go). If you want a song just for Aberdeen, then you need to meet Mary Webb. But, again, you may ask, who?

Mrs. Webb was the co-songwriter behind Aberdeen’s anthem, The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen, a song played by the club and by the city. Yet when Mrs. Webb died, nobody mentioned her passing. She was forgotten, even though her song had become the unofficial anthem of Aberdeen. 

Mary and her husband William wrote the song in the 1950s to cheer up a homesick colleague. Mary worked in London and thought the song would help a friend, Winnie Forgie. It did, and it helped thousands more. Including, as Aberdeen’s Evening Express reported in March 2019, providing comfort to sailors fighting in the Falklands conflict. One letter from a sailor to Mary said:

We are a Scottish ship, and on the evening, we were all clustered on the front end of the ship under the cold skies of San Carlos Water, waiting for the bomb to be defused, the Captain said ‘Sing!’ So we sang, and the first song that came to the lips of the most vocal member of the Ship’s company was your song, and of course everybody joined in, and it made us all feel better. “

This is the perfect song to remind us how important the sound of football is to fans. Of course, not every club wins a league or wins a cup. Not every club can be a success. But still, the fans sing, whether winning or losing, and all they can ask is for a song that makes them feel better. 

Today, the Northern Lights of Aberdeen can be heard regularly at Pittodrie – along with a few other words that we have had hide with asterisks.

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