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England songs which hit ­– and missed ­– the target

By Mark Andrews | Music | Published:

It's coming back, it's coming back – 22 years after comedians Frank Skinner and David Baddiel made No. 1 with their unofficial song for the England football team in the 1996 European Championships, their song is back in the charts.

The football song, made in conjunction with the Lightning Seeds, is at the moment at No. 26 in the charts, but will surely rise still further if England beat Croatia on Wednesday.

England World Cup songs have been a mixed bag over the years – here we look at the highs and the lows:

Hit ­– Baddiel & Skinner/Lightning Seeds, Three Lions (1996)

Looking back at the original video, probably the most striking feature is not Frank Skinner's youthful appearance, but how much David Baddiel looked like Will from the Inbetweeners. Uncanny.

Whatever the aesthetics though, it is hard to think of another song which captured the mood of the nation, the bittersweet optimism that Three Lions did in 1996. It was even adopted by the Germans, reaching No. 16 in their charts.

It was reworked for the 1998 World Cup in France, but by this time had lost its freshness. It did mean, though, that it is technically a World Cup song and eligible for inclusion here.s

Miss – Neil and Christine Hamilton, England are Jolly Dee (2006)

Yes, this really happened. Having been bankrupted by a libel case with Mohamed Fayed, and dumped by the electorate at a general election, Neil Hamilton did what any disgraced politician would do – and released his own England song. Of course, it was a collaborative effort, at the time he didn't seem able to do anything without his battleaxe wife Christine, but nobody could ever accuse the gruesome twosome of being shy.

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Needless to say it was a dreadful song, but it did expand on the old saying that politics is showbusiness for ugly people. It's showbusiness for ugly people in stupid hats. And who can't sing.

Hit - Fat Les, Vindaloo (1998)

Not the most insightful of World Cup songs, but then again the best ones seldom are.

Fat Les was fronted by actor Keith Allen, and also featured Blur bass player Alex James and artist Damien Hirst.

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Anything that followed Three Lions was always going to struggle, and it has to be said that the lyrics, which predominantly consist of nah, nah, nah, vindaloo, are not especially imaginative, but somehow this one worked, and was arguably the soundtrack for France 98.

On the other hand, it also gave us Lily Allen, so it will always have something to answer for.

Miss - Chico Slimani, It's England Time (2010)

Take one dreadful song by an egomaniac reality show contestant, and make it just that little bit worse.

Slimani said he recorded the track after having a 'vision' England would lift the trophy in 2010 and that afterwards, the commentators in the final would namecheck his song.

Needless to say, England flopped, and so did England Time, not even making the top 40.

Hit – Stan Boardman, Stan's World Cup Song (2006)

It is hard to imagine the conversations that must have been going on at the BBC as this most unlikely – not to mention politically incorrect – song soared up the charts during the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Boardman had already been banned from ITV following a controversial joke on the Des O'Connor Show. And now the Scouse funnyman was on the brink of making the top 10 – and an inevitable appearance on Top of the Pops – with the rousing chorus of "aye, aye, yippee, the German's bombed our chippie", in a song produced with the help of Stafford man Darren Kinnersley-Hill.

Top of the Pops producers were probably relieved that it eventually stalled at No. 15, but it certainly capture the public's imagination.

Boardman released another hit for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. And the lyrics were equally politically incorrect.

Miss – England squad, This Time (1982)

Official FA England songs don't have a particularly good track record, for two very good reasons. Firstly, football is supposed to be the people's game, and fans rarely appreciate having music imposed on them by the blazers at Lancaster Gate. And secondly, footballers can't sing.

This was proved perfectly from by the dreadful effort from the 1982 World Cup squad, which had all the panache of Wayne Rooney mumbling the National Anthem. Not even Kevin Keegan's perm could save this one.

Oh, and England bombed out the World Cup with a dismal goalless draw against Spain in the second group stage. This time, indeed.

Hit – Lonnie Donegen, World Cup Willie (1966)

There is a certain irony that the first England song of any note was sung by a Scotsman, but the rivalry was much gentler back then.

Donegen was very much on the way out by the time this record was released, and it could easily have gone the way of many World Cup record flops, save for one thing: This was the year that England won the World Cup. A piece of musical history, then.

Miss – England United, (How Does It Feel to be) On Top of the World

If ever there was a case of trying too hard, this was surely it.

Like a Who's Who of English popular music during the late 1990s, England United was formed by members of Echo and the Bunnymen, Ocean Colour Scene, Space and the Spice Girls.

While Keith Allen and Fat Les sounded a populist, anti-establishment note, this was all a bit too clean-cut, a bit lacking in bite.

England's 1998 World Cup campaign ended with effigies of David Beckham being strung up from the lamp-posts. At least his wife Victoria avoided that.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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