Where do football chants come from? The modern football chant draws from a wide variety of musical sources, borrowing and adapting the melodies of popular hymns, nursery rhymes, Christmas carols, European and American folk songs, music hall, pop music, film theme music and even Italian opera. Below are a few examples of the tunes on which today’s football chants draw:
Written by Davis and Mitchell (or possibly the Rice Brothers), and first recorded in 1939.
“You are my City, my only City,
You make me happy when skies are grey,
You’ll never notice how much I love you
Until you take my City away!
Written by Elias and His Zig-Zag Jive Flutes, a South African kwela band, in 1958. It was re-recorded and released by Brighton-based ska band The Piranhas in 1980.
Written by Giuseppe Verdi in 1851, “La Donna è Mobile” is the Duke of Mantua’s canzone from act three of the opera Rigoletto.
Written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934. It was a hit for doo-wop band The Marcels in 1961. The tune has also been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, The Mavericks, Dean Martin, The Supremes, Rod Stewart and Bing Crosby. The tune is the basis for a vast number of terrace chants, for example:
It’s just like watching Brazil!
It’s just like watching Brazil!
It’s just like watching Brazil!”
A popular Cuban song written by José Fernández Díaz in around 1934 (although there is some controversy surrounding the true origin of the song). It gained international recognition in a recording by Pete Seeger, and later was made a hit by The Sandpipers, amongst others. The tune is the basis for a whole host of standard chants, such as “There’s Only One Arsene Wenger!” or “You Only Sing When You’re Winning!” and many more improvised chants:
“Small town in Derby!
You’re just a small town in Derby!
Small town in Derby!
You’re just a small town in Derby!”
(Sung by the Coventry City fans at a match against Nottingham Forest at Highfield Road on 6th April 2005.)
Originally a gospel song or spiritual dating back to at least the beginnings of the twentieth century. The song passed through the jazz repertoire (it was famously recorded by Louis Armstrong) before eventually reaching the football terraces of the British Isles. It is the anthem for Southampton Football Club (nicknamed “the Saints”), but also sung by the supporters of many other English clubs including Derby County, Wolverhampton Wanderers, West Bromwich Albion, Liverpool Football Club and Leicester City, amongst others.
Christian hymn written by John Hughes in 1905. Like “Guantanamera” and “Blue Moon”, a huge number of terrace chants are set to this tune. Typical chants include: “You’re Not Singing Anymore!” “Shall We Sing a Song For You?” and “Who the Fucking Hell Are You?”
Traditional folk song from Nassau, circa 1916. It was famously recorded by The Beach Boys in 1966. The tune became a staple for the protesting Sky Blue Army during the 2013 to 2014 season when they played their “home” matches at Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium:
“I wanna go home,
Please let me go home!
Back to the Ricoh,
I wanna go home.”
Written by John Philip Sousa in 1896. Since 1987 it has been the official National March of the United States of America. Often thought of as the “here we go” song, the tune’s patriotic associations have been lost in its transition to British football stadiums.
Written by Franco Migliacci and Domenico Modugno. It was recorded by Modugno in 1958, and entered as that year’s Italian Eurovision entry. It was also a massive hit for American artist Dean Martin in the same year. It was famously sung by the Arsenal fans in praise of their midfield giant Patrick Vieira, and it was also adapted by the Coventry fans to venerate home-grown attacker Gary McSheffery.
He comes from Coventry!
He’s better than Henry!”
Written and recorded by The Village People in 1979. It was later covered by the Pet Shop Boys in 1993. It is the basis for a great many chants, for example the charming “You’re Shit, and You Know You Are!”
Written and recorded by The White Stripes in 2003. The iconic electric guitar riff by Jack White was allegedly first brought to the terraces by Club Brugge KV during a Champions League match in Milan. The tune is typically sung to celebrate goals without any discernible words.
The author and date of origin is unknown. The song dates back to at least 1918 and is particularly associated with the working class culture of London’s East End. It is the basis for ubiquitous chants such as “Who ate all the pies?”
An infectious 1979 funk single written and recorded by the Gap Band. The tune is the basis for a great number of terrace chants, many of them improvised. For example, “We Are Staying Up, Say We Are Staying Up!”
Written by Jester Hairston in 1954. It was originally recorded by Harry Belafonte and later famously popularised by Boney M when it was their Christmas single in 1978.
Recorded by The Carefrees in 1964, it is an adaptation of “We Love You Conrad” from the musical “Bye Bye Birdie” (lyrics by Lee Adams and music by Charles Strouse).
Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and recorded by The Beatles in 1968. The famous extended coda section of the song is used on the terraces.
A hymn written by Sydney Carter in 1963. It was adapted as a fighting song across the country, which is generally sung following strong challenges on the pitch: “Fight, fight, wherever you may be!”
Written by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine, Mull of Kintyre was a number one hit single for McCartney’s band Wings in 1977.
Written and recorded by British post-punk band Pigbag in 1981. The instrumental was released in 1982, reaching number three in the UK charts.
This song was written in around 1862 by Captain Algernon Drummond, who was an ex-pupil of Eton College. In 1962, Sky Blues manager Jimmy Hill together with director John Camkin wrote new words to the original Algernon Drummond tune, which became and remains the Coventry City anthem, the “Sky Blue Song.”
Written by Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert, Tony Tucker and John Denver. It was recorded by John Denver in 1971. The tune took on particular significance for the Sky Blue Army during the 2013 to 2014 season whilst City were exiled in Northampton for a season.
“Take me home,
To the place I belong!
The West Terrace,
To see the City,
Take me home,
Written by Fat Les in 1998, the song was released in the lead up to the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Generally sung on the terraces with no words, and ending with the name of the club in question, for example:
Written by Ian Broudie, David Baddiel and Frank Skinner in 1996, and released ahead of the 1996 European Championships in England.
A nursery rhyme dating back to the mid nineteenth century.
Written and recorded by skiffle singer Lonnie Donegan in 1960, it reached number one in the British charts that year.
Written by Stephen Foster in around 1850, “Camptown Races” is a North American minstrel song.
A popular children’s song, probably a derivative of the North American folk song “Coming Round the Mountain,” which is a derivative of the nineteenth century spiritual “When the Chariot Comes.” Classics on the terraces include “It’s all gone quiet over there … shhhhhh!!” or in Coventry “If you all hate Leicester clap your hands … CLAP-CLAP-CLAP-CLAP.”
A North American folk song, which is a derivative of the nineteenth spiritual “When the Chariot Comes.” The tune is almost identical to “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” As a general rule, if it repeats it’s “Coming Round the Mountain,” if it doesn’t repeat but ends in “shhhhhh!” “ahhhhhhhh” or applause, it’s “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
Written by Pete McGovern in 1961 and famously performed by Liverpool folk band The Spinners. Since Coventry also has two cathedrals and a distinctive accent, the song translates perfectly for Coventry’s terrace anthem “In our Coventry Homes.”
An Irish folk tune, whose exact origin is unknown. It is the tune to which almost every football club in the country makes the dubious claim of being “by far the greatest team the world has ever seen.”
A socialist anthem written by Jim Connell in 1889. It has been the anthem of the British Labour Party since its inception.
Written by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith in 1934. It has been recorded by over two hundred artists.
Written by James Cavanaugh, John Redmond and Frank Weldon in 1940. An inveterate party song, the melody is sometimes sung in particularly care-free moments (usually when winning a game by a large margin) as “Let’s All Have a Disco.”
Written and recorded by Arrow, and featured on the 1982 calypso album of the same name.
Written by Paul Leka, Gary DeCarlo and Dale Frashuer in 1969. Bananarama made the top ten in the UK singles charts with this song in 1983.
Written by Giorgio Moroder in 1971 and later popularised by Chicory Tip in 1972. To listen to an example from the archive, try this one from Coventry versus Leicester City on 16th October 2004, sung to ex-City striker Dion Dublin: “Oh Dion Dublin, he went to Aston Villa and he broke his neck!”
Written by Ken Jones in 1979, it is sometimes referred to as the “I Am H-A-P-P-Y” song. In Coventry this melody is the basis for “City Till I Die.”
Written by Elmer Bernstein in 1963 for the war time epic starring Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough. Frequently heard at England matches, the tune is occasionally sung (usually without words) in the context of avoiding relegation.
Theme tune from the anarchic 1968 Hanna-Barbera children’s television show.
American folk ballad, usually credited to Percy Montrose (1884). In Coventry this tune is used as the basis to serenade local rivals Aston Villa and Leicester City:
“Build a bonfire, build a bonfire
Put the Villa on the top,
Put the Leicester in the middle
And we’ll burn the fucking lot.”
A British folk song and dance dating back to at least the first half of the nineteenth century.
Written in 1907 by John Glover-Kind. It was recorded in 1909 by the music hall performer Mark Sheridan.
A nursery rhyme by an unknown author, dating back to at least 1826 in Germany.
The music for this song was written by Edward Elgar in 1902, with words by the poet A. C. Benson. The music is an arrangement of Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance No. 1.”
A folk song, probably of military origin, which is popular in Scouts communities. It was frequently sung in the 1980s at Coventry in praise of prolific striker Micky Quinn.
“He’s fat, he’s round,
He scores at every ground!
A Scottish folk song dating perhaps as far back as the mid eighteenth century. The original lyrics possibly refer to the exile of Bonnie Prince Charlie.
A folk song to which Scottish poet Robert Burns set his poem “Auld Lang Syne” (“for old time’s sake”) in 1788.
Written by George Bruns and Thomas W. Blackburn at Disney studios for the 1955 Disney film “Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.”
Originally a North American folk song dating to the early nineteenth century. It was recorded by Hector Nicol in 1955, adapted as “Glory, Glory to the Hibees” in praise of Edinburgh’s Hibernean Football Club. The tune became a Tottenham Hotspur anthem in the 1960s and is also sung by several other clubs. The Manchester United squad released the song as “Glory, Glory Man United!” prior to the 1983 FA Cup Final. Since that release, opposition fans have enjoyed singing the riposte “Who the Fuck Are Man United?” after scoring.
A Scout song written by Robert Baden-Powell, apparently borrowing the melody from Mozart’s “Symphony No. 1 in Eb Major.”
A popular American children’s skipping song, or partner-stealing song, which dates back to the early nineteenth century. It was popular in the 1970s at Old Trafford, sung as “Skip to my Lou Macari!” It is usually sung in praise of a player, for example, “Super, Super Frank! Super Frankie Lampard!”
Composed by Jaromír Vejvoda in 1927, the tune was popular around the world by the late 1930s. It was recorded by The Andrew Sisters, Glenn Miller and Vera Lynn, amongst others. The song was popular amongst soldiers of various nationalities during World War Two. In Coventry the tune is popularly adapted to express contempt of traditional rivals Aston Villa.
Written by Alan Lerner and Frederick Loewe in 1951, the song was a UK number one hit for Lee Marvin in 1970. It is a favourite at Wolverhampton Wanderers, where they sing “I Was Born Under a Wanderers’ Scarf!”
Little seems to be known about the origin of this simple three note melodic pattern. It is often heard on repeat throughout England national team matches, “Come-on-Eng-land! Come-on-Eng-land! Come-on-Eng-land!”
The origin of the Pompey Chimes is popularly accredited to Portsmouth Football Club, where the chant “Play up Pompey!” dates back to at least 1900. The simple melody is in fact derived from one of the “Westminster Quarters,” a set of melodies chimed by a peal of four church bells to mark the quarters of the hour
The origin of this song is unknown. This now ubiquitous ditty possibly originated in the Spanish La Liga, with the words “Campeones, campeones, olé, olé, olé!” (“champions, olé!”). Arsenal fans will claim it is theirs, dating back to the call and response chants in their old Highbury ground: “We’re the North Bank, We’re the North Bank, We’re the North Bank Highbury!” met with the response from the Clock End, “We’re the Clock End Highbury!”
The origin of this song is unknown. A popular chant sung at many grounds across the UK, “E-I-E-I-E-I-O! Up the football league we go!”
Written in 1907 by William Ward-Higgs, this march was popularised during the First World War by the Royal Sussex Regiment. It is the anthem of both Brighton and Hove Albion and Sussex County Cricket Club.
First published in 1794, this march possibly originated in an earlier folk song. Allegedly inspired by the fifteenth century siege of Harlech Castle during the War of the Roses, the song is recognised by many through its prominent role in the 1964 movie “Zulu” starring Michael Caine.
A folk song with its origins in the Rhondda coal mining valley in Wales. Sung during the general strike of 1926, it was later recorded by The Stand in 2010. The song is strongly associated with Cardiff City Football Club.
Probably invented on the terraces, this tune doesn’t really have an official name (we could just as easily call this tune “The Referee’s a Wanker”). Musically speaking the chant consists of two alternating notes three semitones apart; a mocking tune reminiscent of old school playground taunts.
Another melody which was probably invented on the terraces, or at least adapted from another tune, and subsequently looped so as no longer to be of recognisable origin. This tune is sung at almost every ground across the country, requesting a wave from the manager on the touchline (e.g. “Fergie, give us wave! Fergie, Fergie give us a wave!”). Often sung relentlessly until the singing support receive the acknowledgement of the manager. Note, the manager’s name or nickname must have two syllables!