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10th Jun 2018

Every official England World Cup and Euros song ranked

 "You've got to hold and give, but do it at the right time."

Wil Jones

 “You’ve got to hold and give, but do it at the right time”

The World Cup means a lot of things: the world’s greatest footballers coming together, TVs wheeled into classrooms and offices to watch England games, and expensive new Nike adverts.

It also means novelty pop singles. Indie acts, girl groups and TV comedians come together to cover old hits, with the lyrics changed to mention Sven Goran Eriksson or Gareth Southgate. Or at least it used to, as since 2014’s “Sport Relief’s Greatest Day” (which was never actually released as a single), the FA have refused to release or endorse an official England song for any major tournament. Killjoys.

Still, there have been 14 official England songs released since 1970 – some masterpieces, some abominations. And I’ve fired them all up on YouTube, and produced a completely accurate and scientific ranking of them.

IMPORTANT NOTE: As I said, these are just the ‘official’ songs given the approval of the English FA being that a few heavy hitters – “Three Lions 98” and “Vindaloo” in particular – are not on the list. So please don’t go “Oi, where’s Fat Les!?” in the comments.

14: “This Time (We’ll Get It Right)” England Squad – World Cup 1982

This might have came out in 1982, but as a millennial, this is exactly how I image the 1970s were. Men in ill-fitting slacks, with bad hair, and everything looking washed out and tired. Is this what The Three-Day Week was like? The life just sucks out of me watching this.

13: “We’ve Got the Whole World at Our Feet” England Squad – World Cup 1986

This just edges ahead of “This Time (We’ll Get It Right)”, basically for the reason that doesn’t have another bleak music video to go with it. By 1986, the ‘get all the lads in the studio and have a sing-song’ school of footy records was dying out, and in a few short years New Order would take them round back and put them out of their misery.

12: “Sing 4 England” Chris ‘Kammy’ Kamara (ft. Joe Public Utd) – Euro 2012

What fresh hell is this? By 2012, we’d had proper artists like New Order and Dizzee Rascal record a song for the national side. But in the absence of any official song, this abomination got approval from the FA. Chris Kamara has the flattest voice imaginable, the whole thing appears to have been shot in The Dog and Duck across the road from Sky’s studios in the ad breaks of Goals on Sunday. And just in case it didn’t feel outdated enough, halfway through a load of burlesque girls turn up so that there’s some skin for the lads. Atrocious.

11: “(How Does it Feel to Be) on Top of the World?” England United (Echo and the Bunnymen, Space, Spice Girls, Simon Fowler) – World Cup 1998

1998 was arguably the peak of England football songs. As Becks was kicking out at Simeone, both “Three Lions 98” and “Vindaloo” were rocking up the charts. However, in a perfect turning-down The-Beatles moment, the FA instead decided to go with the curious ‘supergroup’ (and I use that term loosely) of the Spice Girls, new wave goths Echo and the Bunnymen, and grating scouse Britpop also-rans Space. No one remembers it. It is the least memorable song ever. Why does it even exist?

10: “Jerusalem” Fat Les – Euro 2000

Speaking of “Vindaloo” – two years later the Keith Allen-led collective got bumped up to official status. But instead of the zeitgeist-grabbing cockiness of ‘”Vindaloo”, they gave us this surprisingly straight rendition of the William Blake hymn. It sounds more like something that would play during the ad breaks of the Six Nations than at a football ground, and Michael Barrymore is in the video for some reason. 

9: “Shout” Shout for England ft Dizzee Rascal and James Corden – World Cup 2010

This is a song of conflicting opinions. On one hand, Tears For Fears’ “Shout” is and forever will be a be a banger. And Dizzee Rascal is one of the most important musicians this country has produced. But on the other hand, we have rotund car insurance-shiller, Peter Rabbit-ruiner and national-annoyance James Corden featuring on the track. Thankfully, his vocals are barely audible in the mix, and this is certainly the only UK number 1 to name-check Aaron Lennon. But the bizarre decision to also sample “No Diggity” by Blackstreet sort of makes the whole thing too much to take.

8: “World at Your Feet” Embrace – World Cup 2006

Who actually likes Embrace? Your brother-in-law probably likes Embrace. He saw them at V Festival in 2005 and hasn’t shut up about them since. Which probably makes them the perfect choice for an England tournament song. Embrace hit their usual level of borderline competence and produce a song that lasts between three and five minutes and has verses and a chorus. We don’t even get any goofy cameos in the video.

7: “All Together Now 2004” The Farm featuring the SFX Boys’ Choir, Liverpool – Euro 2004

“Aw crap, we were meant to sort out an England song for the Euros, and the tournament’s in two weeks.”

*Switches on Absolute Radio 90s, The Farm’s 1991 baggy hit “All Together Now” plays*

“That’ll do.”

6: “We’re On The Ball” Ant & Dec – World Cup 2002

It’s an underappreciated fact that Ant & Dec had a lot of bangers. Their 2002 comeback wasn’t quite up there with “Tonight I’m Free 94”, but it’s still a lot of fun. Plus, the video reminded me that Tord Grip exists.

5: “Back Home” England squad – World Cup 1970

This is pretty objectively terrible record, but it’s also sort of joyous. It’s just really naïve and optimistic, and the perfect song to release whilst England were still reigning world champions. Plus, it gets a bump from being used as the opening titles of Baddiel and Skinner’s Fantasy Football League in the 1990s.

4: “Sport Relief’s Greatest Day” Gary Barlow ft Eliza Doolittle, Katy B, Melanie C and Emma Bunton – World Cup 2014

Gary Barlow might have a smug, punchable face, but he knows how to write a soaring pop ballad. Maybe a cover is a lazy option, but it’s easily more listenable than 90% of football songs. Plus the video features Michael Owen teaching tactics to Kimberly Walsh; Emma Button wearing goalie gloves, and Gary Mabbutt playing the violin.

3: “Three Lions” The Lightning Seeds ft Baddiel & Skinner – Euro 1996

You don’t need me to tell you how great this is. It was the first football song to truly understand the experience of being a fan. Not ‘Rah-rah-rah, we’re going to win!’ nonsense. Instead, the actual agony and ecstasy of following the national side. World Cups are kind of the worst, because they bring out of those fair-weather fans with completely unrealistic expectations, who haven’t watched a full 90 minutes for four years but get irrationally angry when England go out. Who scream about them not putting in enough effort, and call them overpaid prima donnas. Skinner and Baddiel didn’t write a song for them. It was for us.

2: “World in Motion” Englandneworder (England squad and New Order) World Cup 1990

It took a lot of gut-wrenching to decide who should come out top out of “Three Lions” and “World In Motion”, but ultimately New Order emerged victorious. The sheer synth-pop infectiousness won over Baddiel and Skinner’s arch knowingness. Plus you’ve got John Barnes rapping – football records need a bit of the endearing lameness, y’know?

1: “All The Way” England squad – Euro 1988

Is it just me, or is this actually brilliant? Put your pitchforks down and listen to it. I’m not saying “Three Lions” and “World In Motion” aren’t great, but this song is just so damn catchy.

Produced by 80s hitmasters Stock Aitken Waterman, it’s a ripe slice of their trademark Hi NRG, Italo-Disco. Those drums, the key change, the chorus, it’s all just the perfect sugar-coated package. Plus that breakdown where it goes “G-G-G-G-G-Going all the way,  G-G-G-G-G-Going all the way”? Chef kiss emoji.

And if you feel like treating yourself, there’s even an extended mix.