Why Stoke fans sing 'Delilah'

Paul Brown investigates why the Tom Jones hit is sung by the Britannia faithful...

Has there ever been a weirder football club anthem than Stoke City’s Delilah? The 1968 Tom Jones hit is a creepy murder ballad about an insane voyeur who knifes his cheating lover to death. As football songs go, it’s hardly 'Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go'. Welsh rugby fans also sing Delilah, prompting politician Dafydd Iwan to question its suitability as a sporting anthem, and point out that the song’s lyrics “trivialise the idea of murdering a woman”. To be fair to Stoke fans, their slightly rewritten version does remove the reference to the knife – albeit replacing it with a bawdy reference to a penis.

Has there ever been a weirder football club anthem than Stoke City’s Delilah?

Stoke fan and roofing contractor Anton Booth claims to be the man responsible for starting his club’s Delilah tradition, which he says began before an away match at Derby on April 11, 1987. Fans gathered in a pre-match pub were asked by police to stop singing sweary songs, so Anton – now known as TJ due to his association with the Tom Jones song – climbed onto a table and sang Delilah. TJ went on to sing the song at matches, being hoisted into the air to lead with the famous opening line: “I saw the light on the night that I passed by her window…”

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Other fans claim the song was first sung on the terraces back in the 1970s, possibly inspired by a rainy and violent rock concert at Stoke’s Victoria Ground in 1975, when prog headliners Yes were supported by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, who had a top ten hit that year with their cover of Delilah. Fans who were at the gig recall the crowd raucously singing along to the song, and Stokies continued to sing it long after the rockers left town and attention returned to football.

Check out where Delilah finished in our 50 best football chants here