Category Archives: The Sound of Football

The Sound of Football: Aston Villa (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

Aston Villa

Nickname: The Claret & Blue

Stadium: Villa Park

Stadium Capacity: 42,788

Song: The Bells Are Ringing

Maybe it’s an Eton thing? Both former prime minister David Cameron, and Prince William, ex-Etonians, are fans of Aston Villa. 

David Cameron’s the nephew of former Villa chairman Sir William Dugdale. Sir William took the former prime minister to his first ever game when Cameron was a 13-year-old pupil at Eton. The prime minister has (mostly) supported the club ever since*.

The reason why Prince William supports Aston Villa is harder to find. The Prince has never publicly revealed why he supports Villa – though there’s an urban myth that Prince William said he supported Aston Villa because it was in the country’s middle. 

We have another theory. It’s a simple one. Aston Villa won the European Cup in May 1982. Prince William was born in June 1982. Coincidence? Quite possibly, but, maybe, just maybe, our future King is a fan of the Claret & Blue because when he was born, he wanted to support the best team in Europe – and, at that time, the best team in Europe was Aston Villa.

Success, however, is fleeting.

For the first part of the decade, Aston Villa has flattered to deceive. Despite promising managers like Martin O’Neill and Paul Lambert; a youth set up that has produced players like Gabriel Agbonlahor, Gareth Barry, and Gary Cahill; and a chairman who could have taught ‘The Joy of Sex’ (his name is Randy Lerner), the team hasn’t delivered on its potential.

It all seemed so different at the European Cup Final in Amsterdam in 1982. Despite two goals disallowed, Aston Villa beat Bayern Munich 1 – 0. It should have sparked a glorious run, but the team lost the cup just a few days later while out drinking in a local pub. An opportunistic thief nabbed it when he spotted the team in The Fox Inn in Hopwas, near Tamworth.

The cup wasn’t lost for long. A couple of hours later, the trophy was anonymously handed into West Midlands police, who did the right thing but not before holding a five-a-side tournament. Of course, the winning team claimed bragging rights and a photo with the trophy. It was only after they’d finished celebrating that the West Midland police phoned the club to tell it the cup had been found.

As success is fleeting, Aston Villa has had a unique approach to its walk on music. Before home games, fans could vote for the song the team will come out to.

Favourite songs have included Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ by Guns N Roses. Other songs featuring prominently in the poll are ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen, Fatboy Slim’s ‘Right Here Right Now,’ ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ by Jeff Beck, ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC, U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’ and ‘Song 2’ by Blur. All great songs, but not original songs for the club. For that, we need to turn to ‘The Bells Are Ringing.’ 

The Bells Are Ringing refers to the bells of Aston Parish Church, which is situated on Witton Lane, only yards from Villa Park. It was a common tradition for the church to ring the bells before every game on home soil. And the song commemorates this strong tradition.

In 2011, the club was brought back by the club as a fan anthem. There was only one problem. The song repeatedly calls Villa the best team in the land. Which even die-hard fans like David Cameron and Prince William know is no longer valid. But, just as success is fleeting, so is a failure, and the glory days may yet return to Villa Park. Or, if not Villa Park, perhaps West Midland Police – if an enterprising fan spots another team celebrating the European Cup triumph down their local boozer and decides to make off with the trophy.

*Though David Cameron is not their biggest fan. He was famously slipped up in 2015 when he urged an audience to support his team, West Ham, when he meant Aston Villa. Although to be fair, many Aston Villa fans that year, watching relegation battles before eventual demotion to the Championship, would have loved to forget they supported the club too.

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The Sound of Football: Arsenal (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 Gunners

Stadium: Emirates Stadium

Stadium Capacity: 60,361

Song: Good Old Arsenal

She doesn’t strike you as a Gooner. Her majesty. Queen Elizabeth II. But when ‘Gooner’ is derived from ‘Gunner’ and was bestowed on Arsenal’s original fans because they worked at a weapons factory in Woolwich, it all makes sense. So who has the biggest cannons in the world? Take a guess. And it’s not Pornhub. Nor is it the Pope. He has canons. Instead, yes, you guessed it; it’s Queen Elizabeth II, commander in chief of the armed forces and ruler of the British Empire.

It’s no surprise Her Majesty supports a team that was once a significant force but whose fortunes have been on the slide. A team that was the first to be broadcast on radio; the first to be broadcast on television; and the first to be blocked by everyone in the world after Piers Morgan banged on about them every minute of every hour of every day on Twitter. And a team who seems to think that first is what you get if you eat too much salt. Let’s just say, if Arsenal were the monarch, we’d politely say, “you’re looking well, your majesty”, and not ask how many countries she’s conquered lately.

The Queen is not the only member of the Royal Family to support Arsenal. Prince Harry is also a fan of the Gunners. We can only guess why someone who is fourth in line for the throne and moves further away with each year would be attracted to Arsenal.

Arsenal, unlike Queen Elizabeth, has a notable first (she, of course, is the second of her name). In 1971, Arsenal released a single to celebrate reaching the FA Cup final. The song was the indirect result of a competition to find a song for Arsenal which could rival Liverpool’s ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone. However, unlike that song (which we talk about later), Arsenal wanted an original song and not one borrowed from the charts. Instead, a TV competition organised by ITV tried to find a worthy song. However, none of the entries were considered right, and football pundit Jimmy Hill (who will pop up again for his musical legacy for Coventry City) asked the then Arsenal manager, Bertie Mee, for permission to write a song for the club instead. Bertie said yes, and Jimmy wrote “Good Old Arsenal” to the tune of “Rule, Britannia.” This became the first record released to be performed by a football team’s squad to commemorate the club reaching the FA Cup final. 

The Queen and Prince Harry are not the only famous fans of Arsenal. If you ask the average Gooner to name a famous fan, the Queen would not be their first choice. Arsenal fans have a more famous leader among their terraces: a man who brought more terror to the world than a ship of British boats laden with Earl Grey tea, Rich Tea biscuits, and a cargo full of bloody bayonets to stick it right up Johnny Foreigner’s foreign parts. Arsenal’s most famous fan is a deceased terrorist mastermind, Al-Qaeda leader, and professional recluse Osama Bin Laden.

As the Gooner chant goes:

Osama, woah-woah

Osama, woah-woah

He’s hiding in Kabul

He loves the Arsenal

(Source: fan chant)

This isn’t accurate – he was hiding in Abbottabad in Pakistan, which is not even the same country as the Afghan capital. If only Prince William (see Aston Villa) was a fan of Arsenal, he could have used his geography degree to point them in the right direction.

There are no chants about the Queen. If she is peeved at only being the second most famous Arsenal fan, she doesn’t mind. Even the Queen concedes there’s only room for two royal figures at Arsenal, and neither of them has the surname, Windsor.

There are two Kings at Arsenal. First, the team enters the Emirates Stadium to Elvis Presley’s ‘The Wonder of You,’ adopted as the club’s anthem in 2007. But, like the Emirates, the song has never caught on with fans has in recent years been replaced by ‘Lux Aeterna,’ a track from the soundtrack to the film Requiem for a Dream.

The second King, however, will never be forgotten. He is the King of Kings, Arsenal’s greatest player, Thierry Henry.

Thierry Henry is a former captain, a multiple winner of PFA and FWA Player of The Year, Arsenal’s all-time leading scorer (228 goals in all competitions), and winner of two league titles and three FA Cups. When Henry left to join Barcelona in 2007, we imagine that even Her Majesty bowed down to this King. All hail King Henry.

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The Sound of Football: Arbroath (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 Red Lichties

Ground: Gayfield Park

Stadium Capacity: 5,940

Song: Tom Hark by The Piranhas

Arbroath was the home of Scottish singer and entertainer Andy Stewart, who lived and died in Arbroath. In 1961, Andy had a hit worldwide with his song ‘Donald Where’s Your Troosers?’ about a Scotsman wearing a kilt. If he’d been singing it in Arbroath, he’d have sung ‘Donald Where’s Your Longjohns?’ The Red Lichties play matches at Gayfield Park, next to the sea. As a result, it’s exposed to the shifting, strong and bitterly cold North Sea winds. This creates problems for visiting teams as the ball can get caught in the strong wind, confusing attacking players and goalies coming for crosses.

Like Grimsby Town, the fans like to sing ‘We Only Sing When We’re Fishing’:

We only sing when we’re fishing!

We only sing when we’re fiiiiiiiishing!

We only sing when we’re fishing!

sing when we’re fishing!

(Source: terrace chant)

And, whenever a goal is scored at Gayfield, the stadium tannoy plays ‘Tom Hark’ by The Piranhas.

The song was initially recorded in 1953 by Elias And His Zig Zag Jive Flutes and is based on “Kwela,” the traditional South African folk music (see Burnley for another origin tale).

The Piranhas’ saxophonist Phil Collis discovered the song in his mum’s record collection and persuaded the band to do a version. Phil wrote the lyrics as the group travelled in the back of a van from their hometown of Brighton to a recording studio in London.

The original was an instrumental, so we brought it up to date with some lyrics,” says Phil. “I could say the words were deep and meaningful, but they don’t mean much. I scribbled them on an envelope in about an hour.

The song itself is 2 minutes 45 seconds long. If the club had played it to celebrate every goal in 1855, it would have been played for 85 minutes during Arbroath’s most famous victory. A victory that took place the same day as another famous match.

On Saturday, 12 September 1885, Dundee Harp played Aberdeen Rovers in the first round of the Scottish Cup. The result made football history as Harp beat its Aberdeen rivals 35 – 0. But, what was thought to be the biggest ever victory, only lasted a few short hours.

Dundee Harp had an Irish player, Tom O’Kane, who lived in Arbroath. After the game, he sent a telegram home to wind up his friends and boast of his achievement. But, unknown to Tom, that very afternoon, Arbroath had gone one better. The rampant home team handed out a 36-0 thrashing to Bon Accord.

To make matters worse, Dundee Harp had scored more than 35 goals. The referee had noted at least 37, but as he was unsure of the exact total, he discussed it with O’Kane, and they agreed that the ref would tell the football league that the score was 35 – 0. Not knowing the tally was so important, O’Kane was happy to take the lower figure until he heard back from Arbroath.

At first, he thought their response was a joke, that Arbroath couldn’t possibly have scored one more goal at the same time as Dundee Harp was creating a new record. However, when Tom arrived back in Arbroath, he realised the truth – Arbroath had set a new record for the highest winning margin in football, a record that still stands to this day.

Even if Harp’s original 37 – 0 scoreline had been allowed to stand, there is evidence to suggest that Arbroath may still have beaten it. Many years later, the referee of the Bon Accord game, Dave Stormont, admitted in a newspaper article that he’d disallowed seven legitimate Arbroath goals, and the score should have been 43-0.

If it’s any consolation to Tom, the Dundee Harp game still officially holds the record for the game with the second-highest winning margin. And if they’d play Tom Hark, fans would have heard it for 82 minutes.

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The Sound of Football: Annan 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

Annan Athletic

Nickname: Galabankies

Ground: Galabank

Stadium Capacity: 2,514

Song: Gallows Bank

Some songs celebrate success like ‘The Best’ by Glasgow Rangers; some songs celebrate glorious failure like ‘Blue Moon’ by Manchester City, but there’s only one song that warns fans about the danger of supporting their club – and that’s ‘Gallows Bank’ by Annan Athletic.

Annan is an unusual town. It lies on the border of Scotland and England and has changed sides more frequently than a pancake. During the Roman invasion of Britain, the Romans established large camps and fortifications in Annandale as a base before venturing further north. In Jacobean times, the town of Annan was fought over by noblemen in Scotland and England as the borderline become a fluid concept enforced by the lord or baron with the strongest army. In modern times, after forming in 1942, Annan Athletic has jumped between Scottish and English football.

For most of its life, Annan Athletic has been a non-league side. It started in the Dumfries and District Youth Welfare League, a league set up by local businessmen to provide games during the second world war. In 1952 the club successfully applied to take part in the Carlisle and District League by the Cumberland Football Association. This lasted until 1976, when the club decided it had better long-term prospects if it played in Scotland rather than England.

Annan started in the South of Scotland league and won every competition. It then showed the same level of ruthlessness that saw the club leave England – it moved to play in the East of Scotland league as the standard of teams was higher. This ambition continued through the 80s and 90s, and by 2000 the club was applying to play in the Scottish football league when expansion meant two new clubs could join. It was unsuccessful, but, in 2007, after Gretna was liquidated, another space opened up, and Annan became the latest member of the Scottish football league.

Annan has yet to clinch promotion from League Two. Still, given the ambition it has shown in the last 50 years, it probably won’t be long before it wins the Scottish Premier League and then successfully apply to move back to England win the Premiership title too.

Despite its growing reputation, Annan’s official song ‘Gallows Bank’ is the dark tale of a fan waiting to be hanged just because he was wearing an Annan top.

I am an Annan Athletic Fan,

They say this day that I must hang,

For I wear the black and gold,

And the secret I have told,

I am an Annan Athletic Fan.

So when you hang me, hang me high,

That I might see before I die,

Those Annandale Hills and that famous Solway Turf

And I see again the Hogle Brae.


(Source: unknown)

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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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The Sound of Football: Albion Rovers (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

Albion Rovers

Nickname: The Wee Rovers

Ground: Cliftonhill Stadium

Stadium Capacity: 1,238

Song: The A-Team theme song

Everyone knows a Mike Post song. He started as a session musician in the early 60s playing on songs by Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. By the end of the decade he was in a band with Kenny Rogers and playing guitar for Sonny and Cher on their biggest hit ‘I Got You Babe’. But it wasn’t his session songs that made him famous. After moving to television he composed theme songs for the biggest shows of the 70s and 80s. He wrote themes for classics like Doogie Howser, M.D., Hill Street Blues, Law & Order, Magnum P.I., Quantum Leap, Remington Steele, The Rockford Files and The A-Team, which is how 

Albion Rovers can hear the following famous voiceover as it’s unofficial anthem.

In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.

Post has made it known several times that the theme is very close in rhythm to ‘Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah’ a song from the 1946 Walt Disney film Song of the South.

The 80s provide another interesting addition to Rover’s history. In 1983, as part of a sponsorship agreement, the Wee Rovers agreed to change the appearance of its shirt to mimic the gold wrapper with red diagonal stripes of a Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer. The link between Tunnock’s and Albion Rovers was inspired as one of Hannibal Smith’s cunning plans.

Tunnock’s is a company that’s changed very little. It knows its strengths and it has kept to them, selling wafers, teacakes and snowballs in the same way established by Thomas Tunnock over 100 years ago. The company hasn’t changed the size or packaging one bit. Tunnocks is a company that believes in its product and actually heeds the common sense advice ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

Albion Rovers also believe in the principle that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, especially if fixing it might involve spending cash.

Albion has spent most of its existence, since it was formed in Coatbridge in 1892 from the merger of Albion FC and Rovers FC, in the bottom league of Scottish football. Coatbridge lies close to Glasgow and the pull of the Old Firm has always meant that the Wee Rovers has always struggled to build a support, and with few fans, and little cash, it’s finished bottom of the league more times than they care to remember.

Recent seasons have seen an improvement, winning promotion though a play-off in 2010-11, the first time Albion has left the bottom tier of Scottish football in 22 seasons. After managing to avoid relegation the following season, the first time they avoided going straight back down in almost 80 years, the club couldn’t deny football gravity in 2012-13 and was relegated.

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The Sound of Football: Airdrieonians (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

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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Sunderland fans sing ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’

The Sound of Football: AFC Wimbledon (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 Wimbledon

Nickname: The Dons

Ground: The Cherry Red Records Stadium

Stadium Capacity: 5,339

Song: We Are Wimbledon

‘We Are Wimbledon’ is the perfect song for AFC Wimbledon as, despite being formed in 2002, the club is the proud winners of the 1988 FA Cup. To understand why a club formed in 2002 can claim a trophy from 1988 we need to understand how AFC Wimbledon was formed.

In 2002, the original Dons, Wimbledon FC, was in administration, living out of a rented ground, its stadium long sold, and watched by a handful of fans. The club directors argued the only salvation for the club lay in a fresh direction.

After trying and failing to find a new home in south London, the directors applied to the Football Association to relocate the club to a new stadium in Milton Keynes, 56 miles north. To its fan’s dismay, the FA sanctioned the move; and, in 2003, Wimbledon FC upped sticks to Milton Keynes, changing their name to the MK Dons.

Many Wimbledon fans refused to follow the club to Milton Keynes. Instead they established a new club: AFC Wimbledon.

AFC Wimbledon entered the ninth tier of English football and has steadily climbed through the divisions to reach the Football League. During their rise AFC Wimbledon went 78 matches without losing a game, an English record.

Yet, although formed in 2002, it’s AFC Wimbledon rather than MK Dons who has the right to claim Wimbledon most famous victory: the 1988 FA Cup – and with it the club’s cup final song.

In the 1980’s and 90’s Wimbledon was famous for playing direct football – a long ball, straight to an attacker as fast and as often as necessary to create more chances to score. It wasn’t pretty, neither were the players, but the Dons reputation for direct football meant teams would under-estimate them, believing the players had nothing to offer. Liverpool was one such team.

Liverpool was the dominant team of the 1980s and, in 1988, the club had just been crowned league champions. The FA Cup Final should have been no contest – Liverpool v Wimbledon. There should only have been one outcome. A victory for Liverpool.

Yet, Wimbledon scored first. Liverpool tried to battle back. Liverpool created lots of opportunities, even had a goal disallowed, but they just couldn’t score. It looked like a shock was on the cards until Liverpool was awarded a penalty. But even then, they couldn’t find the back of the net: Liverpool striker John Aldridge’s shot was saved by the Don’s goalkeeper Dave Beasant, making Dave the first keeper to save a penalty in a FA Cup final. Wimbledon went on to win the match and claim an epic upset.

Today, both the final and the song released to celebrate it are ‘owned’ by AFC Wimbledon after The Football Supporter’s Federation refused MK Don’s fan group permission to join the federation unless MK Dons acknowledged that AFC Wimbledon had the real rights to Wimbledon’s history.

‘We Are Wimbledon’ is the perfect song for the new club. Although, when the song was first recorded, fans and players thought it was cheesy, now when the fans belt it out now it becomes a genuine, lump in the throat anthem to power of working as a team. In 2012 it was re-recorded by the Big Blast Band, a band based in a local care centre for people with learning disabilities. The players teamed up with the band and recorded a new version for a local charity. Because that’s what fans of the Dons do – they see it through, determinedly, directly, together, at home, always and forever in South London.

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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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