Wednesday, 12 Jun 2024

Football Anthems: Amplifying the Spirit of the Game

FC Zenit Saint Petersburg fans Singing an Anthem
FC Zenit Saint Petersburg fans Singing an Anthem by – GAndy, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The way football supporters engage with the game varies across different countries. In England, fans tend to remain relatively quiet during the match, becoming more animated only when there’s a reason to celebrate. Contrastingly, on the continent, particularly in leagues like the Bundesliga, fans generate constant noise, sometimes led by a boisterous supporter with a loudspeaker. This may create a continuous atmosphere, but do players eventually become desensitized to it? While English fans’ cheers provide an extra boost to their team, the constant noise in European stadiums may not have the same effect.

To encourage a more structured and organized approach to supporting the team, clubs have introduced anthems. These specific songs are sung or cheered by the crowd before the match, aiming to generate an atmosphere, even if somewhat artificial. In this article, we explore some of the most famous football anthems, their origins, and the clubs that adopt them.

Liverpool / Celtic – You’ll Never Walk Alone

You'll Never Walk Alone Gate Sign At Anfield
You’ll Never Walk Alone Gate Sign At Anfield – cchana from London, UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Arguably the most renowned football anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” is closely associated with Liverpool Football Club. While Celtic fans may contest this claim, it was Liverpool that first started singing the song before matches. The story behind its adoption is quite fascinating. In the 1960s, Anfield’s public address system played the top ten songs from the charts. Liverpool supporters began singing the number one song of the day, resulting in incredible scenes of the Kop belting out Beatles tunes.

Liverpool’s connection with music, thanks to The Beatles during the Merseybeat era, made the city a hub for British music. In 1963, Gerry & The Pacemakers released “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” which reached number one on the charts. Liverpool fans sang it for weeks, capturing the attention of the club. It became the ‘new song of Liverpool FC’ and gained momentum when the team won the FA Cup in 1965. Since then, other clubs like Celtic and Borussia Dortmund have also adopted the anthem.

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Everton – Z-Cars

Everton Fans singing Z Cars
Александр Осипов from Ukraine, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Across Stanley Park, at Everton’s Goodison Park, players stride onto the pitch to the tune of “The Theme From Z-Cars.” This song, based on a traditional folk tune called “Johnny Todd,” was the title theme for the 1960s TV show “Z-Cars.” It reached number eight on the charts in 1962 and was adopted by Everton fans due to the show’s connection to Liverpool. The exact reason for its association with Everton remains somewhat uncertain. One theory suggests that a cast member who supported Everton attended matches with some of the cast, prompting the club to play the song. Regardless, it has been played at Goodison Park before every home game, except for a brief period when the club attempted to replace it with the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Other clubs like Watford and Sunderland have also used this tune due to various connections.

West Ham United – I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles

West Ham United offers a unique match-day experience by playing “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” while artificial bubbles float onto the pitch as the players emerge. Although the song has been popular in America since 1919, its association with West Ham might seem puzzling to those unfamiliar with its history. It was introduced in the 1920s by former manager Charlie Paynter. The song’s origins are somewhat convoluted, as it is believed that one of the club’s players, Billy J. Murray, resembled the “Bubbles” character from a Pears Soap commercial. When Murray’s school team performed well, the headmaster would sing a modified version of the song. The headmaster, a friend of Paynter, likely sang the tune in front of him when Murray was a trialist for West Ham. The nickname “Bubbles” stuck, and the song became a fan favorite before important matches. While the song remains unique to West Ham, it has been used by other teams like Workington A.F.C. due to their manager’s Everton connection.

Leeds United – Marching On Together

Marching on Together, newsagents shop sign on Elland Road in Leeds
Marching on Together, newsagents shop sign on Elland Road in Leeds – Mtaylor848, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At every Leeds United home game, the anthem “Marching on Together” is played before kick-off and at the start of the second half. This anthem, officially known as “Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!,” was created by Les Reed and Barry Mason as the B-side to the club’s official song before the 1972 FA Cup Final. Surprisingly, while the official song failed to gain traction, the B-side featuring vocals from players and fans peaked at number ten on the charts and stayed in the UK Singles Chart for three months. Although no other football clubs use this song due to its city-specific lyrics, other Leeds-based sports teams, like the Leeds Rhinos Rugby League side, embrace it. The only difference is the exclusion of the lyrics mentioning “United.”

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Manchester City – Blue Moon

Actual Blue Moon in the Sky
Actual Blue Moon in the Sky – PumpkinSky, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Distinct from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” “Blue Moon” is a composition written by Rodgers and Hart. Over the years, it has been covered by various artists, including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Rod Stewart. In 1989-1990, Manchester City fans embraced the song as their own, inspired by the trend of football supporters adopting pop songs as anthems. The first time it was heard was when the club’s supporters remained inside the stadium after a match, entertaining themselves by singing “Blue Moon.” Since then, the club has officially adopted it, playing different versions of the song before kick-off throughout the season. The opening lyrics may raise a few eyebrows, considering City’s lack of success before being acquired by Sheikh Mansour:

Blue moon, You saw me standing alone,
Without a dream in my heart,
Without a love of my own.

Why Do Football Supporters Sing Anthems?

Liverpool fans singing YNWA before the kick-off
Liverpool fans singing YNWA before the kick-off – md.faisalzaman from Worcester, MA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Given the popularity of football anthems, it’s fair to wonder why they hold such significance. In some cases, it’s simply a matter of tradition. For instance, “Z-Cars” may seem unfamiliar to younger Everton or Watford fans, but it has become ingrained in the pre-match routine. Additionally, anthems can uplift players, providing them with a mental boost before the game. While “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” might appear amusing to outsiders, West Ham players feed off the fans’ singing and the playful sight of bubbles on the pitch. For Liverpool fans, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” represents more than just an anthem. It symbolizes unity and resilience, especially in the aftermath of the Hillsborough Disaster.

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The future of football anthems remains uncertain. Some clubs have attempted to establish anthems artificially, but the success of such endeavors is limited. It remains to be seen if more clubs will adopt anthems organically, or if those with anthems will continue to hold onto their tradition. Only time will tell.

FAQs

Q: Which football anthem is the most famous?
A: The most famous football anthem is undoubtedly “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” closely associated with Liverpool Football Club.

Q: Are there any other clubs that sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”?
A: Yes, other clubs like Celtic and Borussia Dortmund have also adopted “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as their anthem.

Q: How did “Z-Cars” become Everton’s anthem?
A: The exact reason is unclear, but one theory suggests that a cast member from the TV show “Z-Cars” who supported Everton attended matches, leading the club to play the theme song in their honor.

Q: Why do West Ham fans blow bubbles onto the pitch?
A: Blowing bubbles onto the pitch is part of the match-day experience at West Ham. Combined with the singing of “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” it creates a fun and uplifting atmosphere for the players.

Q: Do other clubs use “Blue Moon” as their anthem?
A: No, “Blue Moon” remains unique to Manchester City and has not been adopted by any other football clubs.

Conclusion

Football anthems play a significant role in generating a vibrant atmosphere and uniting fans. From the iconic “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at Liverpool and Celtic matches to the playful “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” at West Ham United games, these anthems have become ingrained in the traditions and identities of their respective clubs. Whether they uplift players or simply evoke a sense of camaraderie, these songs have transcended the boundaries of the sport. As football evolves, it remains to be seen if more clubs will adopt anthems, but for now, the power of these musical expressions continues to resonate with fans around the world. So, join in the chorus and let the passion of football anthems inspire you. For more information on football anthems, visit Movin993.