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Best Football Songs: 25 Anthems For The Terraces
List & Guides

Best Football Songs: 25 Anthems For The Terraces

From indie-dance hits to showtunes turned Merseybeat pop singles, the best football songs are more than chants – they’re a way of life.

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Think best football songs and you may think celebratory terrace chants or cobbled-together rhymes intended to antagonise a hated player. But some football tunes are brilliant by any standards – and here are 25 of them.

There is always a caveat to whether you like a football song or not – it depends on who you support. A song in praise of England will not go down well in Scotland. An Everton ditty is not beloved across Liverpool’s Stanley Park. This selection of tunes offers no fealty to the supporters who might chant them; it’s just a list of the football songs we like. In fact, we like them so much, we might just lose our ball control (not for the first time). So here we go, here we go, here we go… etc.

Best Football Songs: 25 Anthems For The Terraces

25: The Proclaimers: Sunshine On Leith (1988)

The Proclaimers’ career is partly devoted to the joys of supporting Edinburgh club Hibernian. Their 1988 album, Sunshine On Leith, doesn’t only contain the title track, played regularly at Hibs; Cap In Hand mentions the team, as does Joyful Kilmarnock Blues, which mentions hitching 60 miles to see the Hibees win. The Proclaimers’ Craig Reid called it the best song he’d written, and Steve Lamacq’s BBC Radio 6 show saw it voted listeners’ favourite football anthem in 2018. Watch Hibs’ fans on YouTube singing it after winning the Scottish Cup in 2016 to understand why.

24: Norrie Paramor: Johnny Todd (Theme From The TV Series ‘Z-Cars’) (1962)

Famously played at Everton, the Z-Cars theme is based on a Liverpool folk song, Johnny Todd. Kids in the 60s were taught this ditty in junior-school music lessons; Everton fans picked up on it because the wildly popular TV cop show Z-Cars (which ran for 801 episodes) was set in Newtown, a fictional area of the very real Kirkby, Merseyside. It’s played when Everton run out at Goodison Park, but it isn’t just a load of old toffee: Watford also use it, as do Workington, and Sunderland adopted it, too. A cover by Johnny Keating made the Top 10 in the UK chart in 1962, but Norrie Paramor’s version was heard on the TV show. Norrie Paramor? That name should belong to a midfield clogger in the 50s.

23: Gala: Freed From Desire (1996)

Italian house singer Gala had three UK hits, but only Freed From Desire is widely remembered, and football is a major reason why. The title fits nicely with “on fire”, hence various players have been declared to be incendiary to its melody – “Vardy’s on fire”, “Will Grigg’s on fire” and Newcastle’s Aleksander Mitrovic (as “Mitzo”). The Belgium national team used Freed From Desire as an unofficial theme tune, and it’s often heard at major tournaments. She’s given us one of the best football songs, but shouldn’t Gala be played at swimming pools, too?

22: James: Sit Down (1989)

Always a crowd-pleaser, Sit Down, by Manchester indie band James, found a place in rivals’ hearts when it was adopted in praise of Liverpool’s Egyptian striker genius Mohamed Salah. “Mo Salah, Mo Salah/Running down the wing/Salah la-la-la-la/The Egyptian King,” bawls the Kop, and few could argue with that assessment (though Egypt is actually a republic). The song has been used by football crowds before, and the original 7” single had a sleeve which, for unknown reasons, featured former Fulham goalie Tony Macedo. James’ Tim Booth, who wrote the song about writer Doris Lessing and singer Patti Smith, has given his seal of approval to the Salah homage, though he is a supporter of Leeds United.

21 : The High Keys : Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) (1963)

“Whatever will be, will be, we’re going to Wemb-er-ley, que sera, sera…” Not quite the lyrics Doris Day sang so sweetly in The Man Who Knew Too Much – and she probably didn’t have any time for witty Millwall fans singing “We’re going to Shrewsbury” after an ignominious defeat – but, yes, Que Sera, Sera remains a favourite among the best football songs. Adopted by Irish and Scottish fans, it’s always likely to break out during a promising cup run. We are rather fond of The High Keys’ soul-soaked Latin-pop version, a US hit in 1963, ad we reckon Bob Marley, another football fan, liked it, too – compare those opening vocal lines to The Wailers’ Put It On. Are we going to Wembley? Not until we get a decent keeper, that’s for sure.

20: Fat Les: Vindaloo (1998)

Oh, the horror. A Vindaloo is a spicy, vinegary dish from Goa, popular for macho types on post-pub curry blow-outs. Those not used to particularly hot Indian food should proceed with caution. And the same goes for the record of the same name, delivered by Fat Les for the 1998 World Cup. It’s supposedly a parody of football chants, but in one of those brilliant subversions fans specialise in, it was adopted on the terraces (or, more properly, in the stands). That marching beat, the terrible, terrible “nah-nah-nah” chant, the meaningless lyrics, the sense of aggression… It made No.2 in the charts, pipped at the post by a rehash of Three Lions. Those responsible – comedian Keith Allen, super-sesh muso Guy Pratt and Blur’s Alex James – are still on the run. James is now equally famed for creating fine dairy products, but he never made anything quite as cheesy (or should that be paneery?) as Vindaloo.

19: The Routers: Let’s Go (Pony) (1962)

Don’t know this song? Never heard anybody singing it at the San Siro? That’s because it doesn’t have lyrics, apart from “Let’s go!” But it does have that handclap – the one you’ve warmed your palms with on chill nights at Pittodrie or the Liberty Stadium. There are 11 beats to that percussive pattern – not the most obvious number for a cheerful surf ditty in standard rock’n’roll 4/4 time, though a few jazz drummers have been forced to tackle such a count, we guess. Naming themselves after IT kit that wouldn’t be invented until 1976, The Routers released Let’s Go (Pony) in 1962 and it hit the US Top 20, assisted by its adoption by cheerleaders, en route to taking its place among the best football songs. Who were The Routers? Scott Engel was a member before he discovered art-rock and became Scott Walker, and there was a connection with garage-psych legends The Standells. Oh, and the same beat was used by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich on Hold Tight. But who cares? Let’s go: clap clap, clap-clap-clap, clap-clap-clap-clap, clap-clap.

18: Chumbawamba: Tubthumping (1997)

The law says that all mentions of Chumbawamba must be accompanied by a description of the Burnley band as anarcho-communists. If Europe’s communist countries had anthems as enjoyable as Tubthumping, the Iron Curtain would never have fallen. This glorious tune about unity, resilience and, above all, getting pissed, has become one of the best football songs of all time, heard at grounds from Hereford’s Edgar Street, England, to Sassuolo’s Mapei Stadium, in Italy, and all points on football’s map. A tune for the undaunted defeated, it resonates far more than Chumbawumba’s more self-conscious effort, Top Of The World (Olé, Olé, Olé), adopted by FIFA as one of France 98’s World Cup songs. It is claimed Chumbawamba turned down a million-dollar deal to allow Nike to use Tubthumping in an advert. There’s integrity for you. Or insanity.

17: Rod Stewart: Sailing (1975)

Scottish-Cockney fan o’ tha fitba’, Rod Stewart did not launch Sailing, nor did he end its voyage. This tune was written by The Sutherland Brothers, a decent folk-rock group of the early 70s. They recorded it in 1972 and skimmed the charts with it. Three years later, Rod covered it in glory, hitting No.1 in the UK (it only went Top 60 in the US, presumably because they were unfamiliar with soccerball back then, or aren’t mad for boating). Rod’s version was used to bid farewell from Portsmouth to the Falklands Task Force in 1982, and in 1990 it was remade by Rock Against Repatriation in support of the Vietnamese Boat People. And Sailing lives on as one of the best football songs. Chesterfield fans sing it when their team looks like they’re gonna win (ahem), and it’s the melody used for Millwall fans’ attractive No One Likes Us, We Don’t Care chant. Doubtless the denizens of the New Den chose it because, in the words of co-writer Gavin Sutherland, “It’s an account of mankind’s spiritual odyssey through life on his way to freedom and fulfilment with the Supreme Being.” He must mean the great Terry Hurlock.

16: David Bowie: “Heroes” (1977)

Many of the best football songs acquire their status through fan chants – bottom up, as it were – but David Bowie’s iconic anthem “Heroes” became part of the game from the top down. Originally released in 1977, the passing of time accorded “Heroes” extra status as one of the best David Bowie songs, and when Kasabian’s specially commissioned cover was used in British TV network ITV’s coverage of the 2006 World Cup, its position within football was cemented. Janelle Monáe’s later cover, accompanying a dazzling Pepsi Max advert shot in Rio, featuring appearances by Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Agüero, David Luiz, Robin Van Persie and Smokin’ Jack Wilshere, was another positive factor. One of the best moments in the song is the “just for one day” lyric, perfect for underdog teams who play out of their skins for one game only.

15: Joy Division: Love Will Tear Us Apart (1980)

These pioneers of dark post-punk might not be the most obvious artists to create a stadium anthem, but bear in mind three of the band went on to make World In Motion. Love Will Tear Us Apart has found an extra life in football: with the word “love” replaced by “Giggs”, “Ince”, “Fred”, the song is a Man U fan favourite, which is fitting because Joy Division were one of Manchester’s greatest musical exports.

14: Compay Segundo: Guantanamera (1940s)

Ah, the Caribbean sun. The people toiling happily for the people. The greatest cigars in the world. It can only be Cuba, where gentle cha-cha-cha guitar and a voice can stir the soul. One of the oldest entries in our list of the best football songs, Guantanamera (Woman Of Guantanamo) is a patriotic ballad sung since the 1920s and popularised in Cuba by Compay Segundo before the politicised US folk scene adopted it in the early 60s, when Castro’s revolution was a hot topic. It then became a hit for The Sandpipers – who knocked the politics out of it – and has since lilted through pop, Latin music – and football grounds. Fans use it for the “only one” devotional chant (“One Neil Lennon, there’s only one Neil Lennon,” etc). It also fits “Sacked in the morning” to serenade hapless opposition managers, and, funniest of all, “There’s only two Gary Stevens,” because two players with that handle were in England’s 1986 World Cup Squad. Genius.

13: The Marcels: Blue Moon (1961)

Manchester City’s anthem, selected because their home kit is sky-blue – and because, until comparatively recently, they only saw success once in a blue moon – was written in 1934 by musical-theatre legends Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. It took four sets of lyrics before the version that stuck was completed, and became a Variety magazine No.1 song in 1935. The following year, City also topped the chart, landing their first League title. The song and the club were a natural fit – like the team, Blue Moon’s fortunes ebbed and flowed. It was a hit for jazz midfield generals Mel Tormé and Billy Ekstine in 1949; maverick left-winger Billie Holiday sang it in 1952; one of the greatest strikers of all time, Elvis Presley, scored with it in 1956. There have also been covers by Rod Stewart, Frank Sinatra, The Mavericks and The Supremes, but we’ve opted to bring you The Marcels’ doo-wop version in our run-down of the best football songs: a No.1 on both sides of the Atlantic in 1961, it still sounds fresh. However, this was the last time Blue Moon won a title; City have been somewhat more successful in the interim.

12: Pet Shop Boys: Go West (1993)

Though “football culture” is reckoned to be infinitely homophobic, a gay disco anthem has been regularly chanted at grounds for decades. Go West, launched by Village People in 1979 and revived with delicious subtlety in 1993 by Pet Shop Boys, provides the melody behind many a chant, including One-Nil To The Arsenal (back when they were seen as stodgy and tight – those were the days, eh?) and Stand Up, said to be invented by FC Schalke, though we believe football fans used to stand up all the time (cue sobbing

about the death of the terraces). Our favourite use of Go West was by Spurs fans, when striker Teddy Sheringham left them for Man U in 1997, citing a perceived lack of ambition in the London club. They bawled, “Gone North, and you won fuck all.” And it was true, for a season. Then United landed a treble, and Sheringham netted the equaliser and made another goal in a remarkable comeback victory against Bayern in the Champions League Final. But yeah, it was a fantastic chant for one season in a very real sense.

11: Harry J All Stars: Liquidator (1969)

This reggae ditty has hung about on the terraces since they were populated by the crop-headed kids who sent it to No.9 in the UK chart in the late 60s. Liquidator is an instrumental version of the song What Am I To Do, by Tony Scott, and it went on to inspire The Staple Singers’ soul classic If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me) and numerous other reggae versions. Its roots, however, lie in King Curtis’ jazz-soul US smash Soul Serenade. But we don’t care about that here: what makes Liquidator one of the best football songs is the hummable melody and the bit where we can yell “West Brom” or “Chelsea”, etc, in the chorus. That’s poetry, that is.

10: Van Dyke Parks: Stars And Stripes Forever (1972)

Now hold on a minute, we hear you thinking. The US may have hosted a World Cup; may have beaten England in the 1950 tournament; and may have given the world its first defender with a hipster goatee beard in Alexi Lalas – but there are still plenty of stateside folk who have never seen a game of football in their lives. But we love soccer, yes we do, and there’s no arguing with its contribution to the art of the football chants. We’re not talking the slightly curious “I believe that we will win!” – a message so short of the usual US razzle-dazzle that the fact it ever caught on is baffling. We mean Stars And Stripes Forever, the official National March of the United States Of America. Composed by John Philip Sousa on Christmas Day 1896, it’s packed with stirring patriotic lyrics… none of which are sung in the football version, which prefers the far simpler “Here we go, here we go, here we go.” Yes, it’s that tune, also utilised as a gleeful “Cheerio!” when an opposition player is sent off (and every player is an opposition player). Here is Van Dyke Parks’ steel-drums version from his wonderful 1972 album, Discover America. Such artistry. Such grace …

9: Pigbag: Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag (1981)

Often heard at Middlesbrough, Celtic and QPR, and even as far away as South Africa, for the 2010 World Cup (vuvuzelas appeared on a remix), this tribal-funk-punk stomper was built to chant. From the heavy groove hotbed of, um, Cheltenham Spa, in the West of England, Pigbag were a highly inventive band, as the hurtling Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag makes clear. Paul Oakenfold and Thunderpuss covered it to some acclaim, and there have been remixes aplenty. Sadly, James Brown, whose Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag inspired the title, was not among those who versioned it. The original remains curiously irresistible.

8: Luciano Pavarotti: Nessun Dorma (1972)

No, not a tribute to those windows that jut out of roof extensions, but a piece of Puccini eternally linked to the Italia 90 World Cup for a generation of British football fans. It was the BBC what dun it: they chose it as the theme for their coverage, and it resonated perfectly with the beautiful game. They used a 1972 recording of Pavarotti singing it, but his 1994 performance of the song – alongside Plácido Domingo and José Carreras, as The Three Tenors – was broadcast to over 100 countries ahead of the Brazil-Italy final that year, cementing its place as one of the best football songs of all time.

7: Jeff Beck: Hi Ho Silver Lining (1968)

Could have been intended as a football chant, though it wasn’t. Two US tunesmiths, Scott English and Larry Weiss, wrote Hi Ho Silver Lining, and hadn’t intended it to be anything. They started the song, binned it, but 60s record producer Mickie Most heard it and persuaded them to finish it. The songwriters hated the tune, so deliberately filled its lyrics with the sort of crap nobody would possibly sing, but Most still saw potential. He handed the song to Jeff Beck, who had a hit with it. He, too, thought it was crap, saying it was like “having a pink toilet seat hung around your neck for the rest of your life”. What colour loo furniture might be acceptable, we wonder? It’s not like Jeff could forget Hi Ho Silver Lining, because it’s been sung ever since at Wolves, Sheffield Wednesday and Villa, and a few other grounds besides…

6: Tyson Fury: Sweet Caroline (2022)

Neil Diamond wrote this song for his wife, er… Marcia. Her name didn’t fit the melody, somehow, even though it has the same number of syllables, so he changed it to “Caroline” when he saw a photo of the daughter of John F Kennedy and decided her name might fit. The track started to get played at US sporting events, fans loved singing it, and it spread from there to the England Women’s Football Team. Then some bright spark at Arsenal matches began playing it over the Tannoy – and it’s as infectious as measles. It’s a song fans never tire of, assuming they have something – anything – to celebrate. Ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Tyson Fury smashed his way through a recording of Sweet Caroline, releasing it in partnership with the men’s mental-health charity Talk Club. We all know the original; this version has brawn.

5: The White Stripes: Seven Nation Army (2003)

One of the best guitar riffs since Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water is routinely heard at football grounds across the globe, chanted first by fans in Europe before spreading across the game. Italians sang Seven Nation Army in the streets of Rome when their country won the 2006 World Cup, and it’s routinely played before games at FIFA’s showcase competitions. An appropriately massive tune from The White Stripes’ Elephant album, it’s more than earned its place among the best football songs.

4: New Order: World In Motion (1990)

If you’d put a tenner on three quarters of the darkest of post-punk bands making one of the best football songs of all time, you’d have made a bookie very miserable indeed. It’s 1990, and New Order electronic heroes turned doyens of indie dance, make a star of an apprentice rapper called Barnesy to create a record that might have been a classic even if it wasn’t associated with Italia 90. Peter Beardsley, Paul Gascoigne, Des Walker, Chris Waddle and Steve McMahon were on hand for backing vocals; John Barnes was chosen to handle the rap after an MCing competition with Beardsley, Waddle and Gazza. Now that’s a freestyle face-off you wish you’d witnessed. Craig Johnston, Barnes’ Liverpool teammate, helped write the rap, though he was never in the full England squad. Lyrics for the song were supplied by actor-comedian Keith Allen, father of Lily and future member of Fat Les, responsible for the horrifically catchy Vindaloo. Credited to ENGLANDneworder, was there ever a cooler football song than World In Motion? Disagree? Well, it’s our list, and if you won’t play by our rules, we’re taking it home.

3: Baddiel, Skinner And The Lightning Seeds: Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home) (1996)

One of the best football songs of all time, Three Lions captures a certain poignancy while grasping the fact that fans are disappointed far more often than they’re delighted – but they travel in hope nonetheless. Penned by Ian Broudie of The Lightning Seeds, with football-obsessed comedians and former flatmates David Baddiel and Frank Skinner, it offers the thwarted dreams of fans – dreams fed by a few glorious moments – with samples of commentary thrown in that suggest the shortcomings of some of the England squad’s performances. A runaway hit released for Euro 96, it has been the unofficial anthem of the national team’s fans ever since. The title kisses the badge, more in longing than expectation. There’s always next time…

2: Monty Python: Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life (1979)

When everything is going tits up for your side, this Life Of Brian earworm will cheer you up. And the same goes when you want to mock your bitter rivals who you happen to be tonking. Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life been heard on the lips of Sunderland, Celtic and England fans, and God knows the latter have needed to try to find the bright side once in a while. Having settled in among the best football songs, it surely says a lot that Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life is also one of the most requested songs at funerals…

1: Gerry And The Pacemakers: You’ll Never Walk Alone (1963)

Everyone has sung it, from Elvis to the guy who inspired him, Roy Hamilton. But the people who have invested You’ll Never Walk Alone with the most emotion are the denizens of Anfield. Topping our list of the best football songs, Liverpool fans copped it from Gerry And The Pacemakers, who scored a UK No.1 in 1963 with their delicious adaptation of a tune from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical Carousel. Various other clubs have since adopted it: Celtic for European competition; FC Twente; Borussia Dortmund, etc. Already touching, the song had several moments when its power to move a crowd was multiplied: when Celtic and Liverpool faced each other in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals at Celtic Park in March 2003, Marsden performed it; he also joined a recording of it to benefit victims of the fire at Valley Parade, Bradford, in 1985; and it was recited and sung at a memorial for the Hillsborough Disaster. Its title is emblazoned above the Shankly Gates at Anfield, and a replica of the gates stand at the Memorial Garden at Hillsborough Park in Sheffield. You’ll Never Walk Alone is not a song, it’s a hymn and a way of life. Walk on.

Looking for more? Check out the best World Cup songs.

Original article: 21 May 2021.

Updated: 11 June 2021, 15 November 2022.

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