Songs from the Terraces

Posted on: 31 July 2019

August is almost upon us which means the start of the new football season. We’ve got our new shirts, rivalries are renewed and the chants in stadiums up and down the country will soon greet the kick offs in the first games of the season.

The adoption of pre-existing songs, hymns and rhymes is now ever present on the terraces of football clubs up and down the country. This has been the case from the 1920’s when the use of chants started becoming more frequent, and took off with the growth of youth culture in the 1960’s. As brass band entertainment before matches diminished, pop music started to be played over the speakers at football stadiums. These, along with many other tunes from the entire spectrum of the musical world, would form the basis of some of the longest standing chants and songs heard today.

 

The 1970’s saw the increase in chants targeted at players, staff and officials. Not always about footballing ability, and certainly not always to flatter either. As synonymous with humour and passion as football songs are, they’ve also been sadly linked to some of the lowest points of football culture.

The sense of tribalism isn’t always used positively, but at its best the sound of tens of thousands of supporters singing support for their team can make neck hairs stand on end.

 

Possibly the finest example, and no football chant article would be complete without it, is the sound of the Anfield faithful at full tilt, singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. Regardless of your football allegiance, most opposing fans would begrudgingly recognise that as one of the greatest songs in football. Originally from the 1945 Rogers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, and adopted by Liverpool fans following the Gerry and the Pacemakers cover in 1963, the title is now the motto on the teams coat of arms.

Song's tied to teams can date back decades

Birmingham City legend Alex Govan brought an adapted version of Sir Henry Lauder’s ‘Keep Right On’ to the club during their FA Cup run in 1956 and West Ham United’s then manager, Charlie Paynter, introduced the club to ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ in the late 1920’s. There's also “We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands” which became the rallying cry for Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest as they won two straight European championships and a first division title.

These songs are now as identifiable with the respective teams as the colour of their kit.

 

The mix of sources is admirable and goes against the stereotype football fans get labelled with. Contemporary classics like ‘Freed from Desire’ by Gala have brought us ‘Will Griggs on fire, your defence is terrified’ and the Welsh hymn “Cwm Rhondda” provides the tune for ‘Shall we sing a song for you’. And how about the delightful use of ‘Guantanamera’ which provides us with the tune for ‘You only sing when you’re winning’ and ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’, amongst others!

Chant's and songs can inspire teams to success

Laced with wit and sarcasm, and used as an effort to drag a little extra out of their team, the world of football chants is surprisingly, and maybe unwittingly, cultured, chaotic and delightful.

If you’ve ever been witness to a large stadium in full voice, you’ll know the atmosphere it adds to the experience of watching football. If you haven’t, maybe this is the season to give it a go!

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