The Tuesday 10: Football lyrics in rock

Football and music: two of this country's greatest passions. No wonder rock's lyricists, searching for the common touch, have often referenced footballers in their ditties.

Presenting 10 of the finest, and hopefully less obvious, namechecks in musical history.

Where possible we've included links to the songs at Last.FM, which also sometimes includes video clips; many of the songs are also available on Spotify, not to mention your local record shop. Why not treat yourself to a football-themed CD or two?

Munich Air Disaster 1958 – Morrissey
Unlikely as it may seem, daffodil-clutching Smiths leader and perennial miseryguts Steven P Morrissey spent his youth on the Old Trafford terraces. Even if he denied any connection between the former Liverpool manager and the line "Frankly, Mr Shankly, since you ask/ You are a flatulent pain in the arse," he ended up penning a tribute to the doomed Busby Babes. “We love them/ We mourn them/ Unlucky boys in red,” he sang on the B-side to 2004 single Irish Blood, English Heart. The crash was also the inspiration for The Futureheads’ 2006 track News And Tributes and, moe opaquely, a post-rock instrumental by Volta do Mar.

Belfast Boy – Don Fardon
Swaggering glam-rock tribute to George Best. Originally recorded in 1970, it was later given a 2005 remix to mark the maverick’s death. “The lyrics are more or less the same,” said Fardon. “But it’s a lot heavier.” Its initial release was spookily prophetic, however: “You won't have long in the limelight,” sang Fardon, “No you won't have many days/ When you live and you play for United.”

Handball – The Business
Part of the Oi! Punk movement of the 1980s, The Business later penned a raft of football-related riffs. England 5 Germany 1 scored cult appeal with fans in 2001, but Handball marked them as a band big on songwriting wit: “3,000 miles is a long way to go/ To be beaten by a dwarf in Mexico/ He was an aged cheat who couldn’t give a damn/ Couldn’t use his head so he used his hand.”

...and a song is born

Football Fugue – Pete Townshend
Windmilling guitarist Pete Townshend pondered the game for the experimental track Football Fugue, on Another Scoop - a collection of Who demos and raw recordings. Townshend focused his lyrical fury on the terraces. “Music has arrived at the football stadium/ A logical step would be spears at the Palladium/ Fifty thousand watts screaming out for a goal/ Why don't they blow a whistle in rock and roll?”

Kicker Conspiracy – The Fall
Having hired and fired something like 60 band members during The Fall's three decades, Mark E Smith makes Claudio Ranieri look like the model of consistency. On this, the narky Manc launches a two-footed lunge at the FA. “Under marble, Millichip, the FA broods/ On how flair can be punished… In the booze club, George Best does rule/ How flair is punished/ His downfall was a blonde girl, but that's none of your business!”

Three English Grounds – I, Ludicrous
London two-piece I, Ludicrous “reviewed” a hat-trick of English stadiums - Craven Cottage, The Den and Burnden Park - in 1987 with the help of jangly guitars and a drum machine. Fulham’s home ground gets a positive write-up: “There's an electronic scoreboard to gaze at when the play gets dull/ Which isn't often, as Fulham play an attractive brand of football.”

Quite quaint

Pam Pam Cameroon – Macka B
British-born dancehall artist Macka B has performed with the likes of Burning Spear, The Wailers and renowned reggae crazy Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. In 1991, he released Pam Pam Cameroon, a tribute to Cameroon’s World Cup campaign the previous year. “The next team they play was Argentina/ Five thousand to one in the bookmaker/ And oh what a match, what a spectacular/ The 10 Cameroon beat Argentina/ Them all stop talk about Maradona.” Yes, but not for long, Mr B.

Give Him A Ball And A Yard Of Grass – Sultans Of Ping FC
The Sultans scored a minor hit with knock-kneed indie anthem Where’s Me Jumper? but the Forest fans also penned this passionate ode to then-player Nigel Clough. “Give him a ball and a yard of space/ He’ll give you a move with godly grace/ He’s a nice young man with a lovely smile.” You can't deny that, even if he does end up managing your rivals.

"Found one!"

Greetings to the New Brunette – Billy Bragg
Later to reveal that "I had an uncle who once played for Red Star Belgrade" (in Sexuality) before unleashing a one-two of football-themed singles with The Boy Done Good and Upfield, the Big-Nosed Bard of Barking really earns his place on the list for the deathless line from Greetings to the New Brunette, aka Shirley: "How can you lie there and think of England/ When you don't even know who's in the team?" Kudos also to The Saturday Boy's line "But I never made the first team, I just made the first team laugh."

Do You Believe In Me? – Catatonia
Possibly the greatest football-related opening line of all time. Although their most famous popular-culture reference was to the X-Files sleuths in hit single Mulder And Scully, the Welsh rockers had already namedropped a misfiring Manchester United striker on this, the B-side of their Top 40 debut You've Got A Lot To Answer For: “I'm Andy Cole's tortured soul/ Lost out again in front of goal/ I wish I had your cocaine confidence.”

But which band is responsible for the best football lyrics? See our final Rock'n'Goal Week blog for details...

Previous Tuesday 10s:
Changing the course of history
Football forfeits
Goal celebrations
Mourinho's greatest hits
The worst seasons ever
Weirdest sackings ever More to read...
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