The 80s and 90s were great. Top-flight English football was full of prematurely balding men called Steve whose lifelong dream was buying a financially unviable pub, 85% of all foreigners were baby-faced blond guys from Scandinavia who accepted anglicised nicknames because it was easier than trying to correct people’s pronunciation, and if a team made the cup final then they released a song.
We’re not talking stuff like Ledley & the Kings’ ‘Hot Shot Tottenham’ or Heavy D’s ‘Gooners and We’re Gunning’. Original songs, or occasional covers, with actual squad members joining in with vocals.
From 1980-2000, there were 28 songs released by teams who reached the FA Cup Final. In the 17 years since, there have been just two – Millwall in 2004 and Cardiff City four years later.
Not only that, but the teams in question were often joined by actual celebrity fans on vocals. No, not like how Barack Obama is allegedly a West Ham fan because he had family from the East End, or how Arsenal are repeatedly forced to distance themselves from toxic supporters like Osama Bin Laden or Piers Morgan. These folks were prepared to sing for their supper, and that supper was football pie.
Spurs had Chas & Dave. Middlesbrough had Bob Mortimer and Chris Rea. Chelsea had Suggs at the peak of his solo career renaissance, just a year on from Cecilia, singing about how he was “Gonna make this a blue day”. And he did make it a blue day – the bluest, indeed – when Roberto di Matteo responded to his rallying cry with the fastest ever cup final goal.
Was the lack of a song the main reason why Chelsea lost the 2002 final to Arsenal? We’re not saying that’s why, but we’re also saying that is definitely, unquestionably why.
How can you not miss the sight of professional footballers gathering round an insufficient number of microphones in a recording studio to shout the bare minimum of words. Just look at the Chelsea lot: Gianluca Vialli fulfilling a lifelong dream to record a hit single, Frank Lebeouf knowing where the camera is at any given moment, like a man who knew he would go on to play ‘Swiss Doctor’ in The Theory of Everything, Dan Petrescu just happy to have been asked along.
That came along in 1997, just one year after Manchester United and Liverpool came to blows over which club was the rightful owner of the word ‘move’ in a musical context.
Roy Evans’ team won the battle but lost the war. ‘Pass & Move (It’s the Liverpool Groove)’ peaked at number four while United’s ‘Move Move Move (The Red Tribe)’ only just cracked the top six, but three months later – with Liverpool’s song long gone – Fergie’s squad continued to bother the charts.
Liverpool peaking early and United showing more consistency but sticking around in sixth? Seems far-fetched.
Could we see a comeback for the art form? Yes, we said art form.
Well, we’ve got our theory for the lack of anything like this in the last few years, and if we’re right then it doesn’t look good.
Premier League clubs have begun making squad members available for commitments with brand partners, and you’ll have noticed that only two or three will appear at any given time.
Exhibit A: This work of art, so cruelly overlooked for the Best Short Film award in the 2011 Oscars.
The longer that top flight teams share out players for commercial partners as if they were underdogs looking to disturb an opponent’s rhythm with niggly fouls, the less chance they’ll get everyone together in one room (/recording studio).
It’s no coincidence that the last two cup final songs have come from second-tier clubs, free from the responsibilities that come with high-profile deals with wine, haulage or noodle partners (other commercial deals are available).
We have a solution, though. We’ve worked out what we think is the only viable way to revive the annual tradition of the cup final song. That’s right, holograms.
The players can each film their segments separately, whenever they each have the time to do so, and then someone can science them all together for the finished product.
If that’s not going to bring us the next ‘Anfield Rap’ then nothing will.