An office, at the far end of a trading estate, at the far end of a medium-sized town that could be somewhere near you, or nowhere you’ve ever heard of. Wood-panelled walls support shelves lined with 45rpm records – mostly 1970s pop hits and old folk tunes – the sleeves faded at the edges.
A man in a pair of sunglasses looks out of a one-way window. On his desk are a rhyming dictionary and an old-style rotary dial telephone. Suddenly, it rings. The man hesitates before picking it up. He is not expecting this call.
Supporter: Oh hi, is that the National Head of Football Chants?
Man (suspicious): Who wants to know?
Supporter: Well, I do.
Man: And you are…?
Supporter: I’m just a fan.
Man: Just a fan? You’re not that bloke who does wacky features on Match of the Day 2, are you?
Man: Or the one with silly hair from Soccer AM?
Supporter: Which one?
Man: Well, any of them. I’ve not watched it since Tim Lovejoy left.
Supporter: I’m not from Soccer AM. Or Match of the Day 2.
Man: And you’re not Skinner or Baddiel? Or Andy Goldstein? Or Danny Kelly?
Supporter: No. Look, I’m not any of those comedy actors or writers turned football journos who dabble in doing off-the-wall items gently mocking eccentric characters and lower-division managers.
Man: Good. Good. As long as we’re clear. I’m not into doing that kind of thing and I don’t want my identity made public. So how can I help you?
Supporter: We need a chant.
Man: For the weekend?
Man: Who for?
Supporter: Stoke City.
Man: What about something to the tune of Sloop John B?
Supporter: Oh Christ, no! Have you heard how many football chants there are to the tune of Sloop John B these days? It’s about 80 per cent now.
Man: OK, calm down.
Supporter: We need something different.
Man: Right, right, right. It’s just that…
Man: Well, Sloop John B is very catchy.
Supporter: We don’t want Sloop John bloody B!
Man: OK, OK! Let me… let me think. How about Football’s Coming Home?
Man: Go West?
Man: Tom Hark?
Supporter: Forget it, we’ll come up with something ourselves.
Man: No, no, no! Wait! I’ve… there’s a cassette on the shelf. Must have been left here by the person who used to work in this office. Now That’s What I Call Music 1995. Ah no, there’ll be nothing on there you can turn into a chant.
Supporter: Well, stick it on and play it down the phone…
Last on MOTD: Aston Villa 1 Stoke 1
Commentator: John Roder
I knew an adolescence wasted listening to local commercial radio would come in useful one day. When Robert Huth headed Stoke City’s equaliser at Aston Villa on Easter Monday and the away fans started singing ‘Huth – there it is’, I recognised the tune without even having to Google it.
Yes, fans of largely forgotten mid-1990s dance tunes, it was Clock’s number four hit Whoomph! There It Is! – a tune that was played roughly once every hour on Rock FM for about seven weeks in the summer of 1995, and then never again. As a chant, it is easily adapted to fit Huth’s name – I’m just staggered that Stoke’s fans remember it.
Were Clock really that big? They seem to have had other hits, but I don’t recall any of them. Perhaps a section of Stoke’s support are around my age, and wasted large chunks of their youth listening to local commercial radio too.
If that’s the case, then I’m staggered that they haven’t managed to come up with any other chants based on successful mid-1990s mainstream dance hits. How about, perhaps, adapting U Sure Do by Strike! (the exclamation mark was theirs, not mine) to make it “You Shaw Do” for Ryan Shawcross? Or changing Haddaway’s movingly melancholic Europop lament What Is Love? to “Walters Love” for Jon Walters? Or altering Baby D’s Let Me Be Your Fantasy to “Let Me Be Your Mamady” for Mamady Sidibe? Or rejigging Rednex’s five minutes of fame as “Cotton Eyed Diao”? Or making Living Joy’s Dreamer into “I’m A Peter” for Peter Crouch?
I can’t think of any more, but I bet you could come up with loads.
If you could be bothered.
I’m still wasting large chunks of my life listening to local commercial radio, by the way, while my more intelligent friends are improving their brain power by listening to thought-provoking Radio 4 documentaries about racial tensions in France.
Earlier this evening, listening to one such station, I heard a newsreader say this while rounding up the sport: “In the Premier League tonight, Liverpool are aiming to end their winless run at Blackburn. Kenny Dalglish’s team have won only one of their last nine games.”
Then they played Move Like Jagger. And I still didn’t switch over. I really shouldn’t be allowed to own a radio. But then neither should the National Head of Football Chants. If he exists.
And he does.
1. Fulham: 8 (2L: 3, 3L: 3)
2. Aston Villa: 7 (2L: 4, 3L: 4)
3. Norwich: 6 (2L: 3, 3L: 4)
4. Stoke: 6 (2L: 2, 3L: 8)
5. Wigan: 5 (2L: 8, 3L: 5)
6. Sunderland: 5 (2L: 7, 3L: 0)
7. West Brom: 5 (2L: 5, 3L: 4)
8. Swansea: 4 (2L: 7, 3L: 4)
9. QPR: 4 (2L: 3, 3L: 2)
10. Tottenham: 4 (2L: 2, 3L: 1)
11: Wolves: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 7)
12. Blackburn: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 5)
13: Liverpool: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 4)
14. Chelsea: 3 (2L: 0, 3L: 6)
15. Newcastle: 2 (2L: 1, 3L: 0)
16. Everton: 1 (2L: 10, 3L: 4)
17. Bolton: 1 (2L: 4, 3L: 6)
18. Arsenal: 0 (2L: 3, 3L: 1)
19. Manchester United: 0 (2L: 1, 3L: 0)
20. Manchester City: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
2L = On second last (Everton 4 Sunderland 0)
3L = On third last (Fulham 1 Chelsea 1)
(Teams receive one point every time they are last on Match of the Day. Teams level are separated by the number of times they are on second last, then by the number of times they are on third last. MOTD2 not included.)