Football, eh? Mid-August and already we’re two games into the new league campaign. It just starts earlier and earlier each year, doesn’t it? Love it or loathe it, you can’t always avoid it. Not even here, I’m afraid. Luckily you don’t have to give a hoot about the beautiful game to admire these songs about footballers and their profession.
Half Man Half Biscuit - All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
Up first, a tale of childhood days spent on games with high set-up overheads to negotiate and not all that much actual game to be played. I wasn’t that into Scalextric, but Subbuteo was another matter entirely. I wasn’t completely accessory-crazy, although I did have the scoreboard and some match officials to provide a bit of match-day atmosphere.
It was written in 1983 in order to celebrate the name of one of those mysterious European football teams who popped up against our British sides every now and again. It was originally intended for the club to be Ujpesti Dosza, but this didn’t seem to scan with the music as well as the Czech team and so the strip of the somewhat unpopular crack army unit was awarded the dubious honour.Nigel Blackwell
Googling for old Subbuteo kits and boxes has brought on some pretty severe feelings of nostalgia, and to think it so nearly referenced a Hungarian team just makes this the perfect way to start this set of picks.
Super Furry Animals - The Man Don’t Give A F**k
Unless you were a Reading or Cardiff fan in the mid to late 1970s, Robin Friday probably was “the greatest footballer you never saw”. His talent and charisma led him to be voted top cult hero at both clubs, and is frequently cited as Reading’s best ever player. In 1996, Super Furry Animals released this single and dedicated it to Friday, and his stand against the man. A 23-minute long live version, released in 2000, is said to be the sweariest single of all time.
Kirsty MacColl - England 2 Columbia 0
From the bard of Barking to an artist who had a top 10 hit in 1984 with a cover of his track A New England. A little less known than that enduring classic is this track, taken from her final album Tropical Brainstorm, released in March 2000, just nine months before MacColl’s tragic death in Mexico. Not at all about football, in fact, the song acerbically tells the tale of a date with the kind of lying treacherous toad who gives all us decent chaps a bad name.
Billy Bragg - God’s Footballer
A bright, shining contrast to Robin Friday can be found in Wolverhampton Wanderers and England Under-23 striker Peter Knowles. In 1969 he used his post-season break to represent Kansas City in a promotional league. While there he became a Jehovah’s Witness; on his return he announced he had lost his desire for the game, and retired a short way into the 69-70 season. In 1991 Billy Bragg told his story in this beautiful orchestral track, which appears on his album Don’t Try This At Home
Sultans of Ping FC - Give Him a Ball and a Yard of Grass
John Robertson was a very unattractive young man. If one day, I felt a bit off colour, I would sit next to him. I was bloody Errol Flynn in comparison. But give him a ball and a yard of grass, and he was an artist, the Picasso of our game.Brian Clough
Confusingly, it is claimed that the track containing this Cloughie quote, by Cork’s knitwear-losing Sultans of Ping FC, was in fact a tribute to his son Nigel. Certainly, from Clough’s quote it’s hard to see Robertson as “a nice young man, with a lovely smile”…
New Order - World in Motion
Well it is the greatest football song ever recorded, despite, or possibly because of, John Barnes.