We want beans not goals


Spring should almost be springing (although I write this on a chilly Saturday, having had a radio show appearance cancelled due to snowy weather!) but spring is *almost* springing and with that comes plenty of lovely gigs. I have had a few magical ones to start the year already and am keen to get more. I have some lovely local ones and some really not local at all, need to take a plane to ones. I have some collaborative shows in the pipeline too and I am really excited to get things sorted so I can start promoting and badgering you to get a ticket and come along.

But in the meantime….

As some of you know (and i am guessing if you are a reader of my blog you may be one of those people) one of the projects I have up my sleeve is to release a record of Football songs – I am at the stage with that where it may  not seem like it’s happening, but it is. I am taking any opportunity – such as this weeks snowed in days off work to keep up the research and start nailing down the songs I want to rework/create/cover/pay tribute to on this record. I am SO excited about some of the ones I have discovered.

So here is a little update on things that are circling my head about this at the moment. 


Why do I want to do this? Well I am super fascinated with the oral tradition of folk tale – I did a whole masters degree in it – I am keen on that idea that some stories are somehow innate to us, I can’t remember being told Little Red Riding Hood, but I know it – maybe not the same version as you, but I know it, I love the way we twist them and change them and continue to share them and nobody takes credit for the original.  I like that the way we choose to talk about/kill off/forgive the wolf can say a lot about our society or us individually.

I’ve been increasingly more interested in Slave/Worker songs, I love to hear people reworking them in folk clubs, although ever growing in popularity it does still feel to me that these sort of musical moments are a niche, unique and special thing, sung by and listened to by, people who actively choose to engage in music and the tradition of shared stories through song.

Football Chants  seem to me to be one of the lasting oral traditions of our time that are not sought out by local historians or musicians but are sung almost religiously on the weekends by hundreds of thousands of people who do not consider themselves ‘folkys’ ‘musicians’ ‘social commentators’

If you know a football fan who attends matches, who says they aren’t into folk music, perhaps start singing the Wild Rover or something similar at them – I bet they’ll know how to join in. They aren’t likely to be singing the same lyrics. It’s much like Little Red Riding Hood in that way !

So football chants are pretty much designed to encourage your team on to a win, or discredit and distract the opposing team! Some of them are mean, angry, offensive, some of them are encouraging, social commentary, heartfelt, proud – just like the people who sing them-they have their light and their dark.  But where there is hate there is often social commentary – for example, the line of a chant
“I’d hate to be a Scouse, eating rats in a council house”

is pretty offensive – but a quick google search of poverty in liverpool in the early 90s and it gets you to realising that perhaps even these chants have something honest to say about our history in the UK.  I don’t know? but it’s something that interests me.

You’ll hear things you instantly recognise but wont necessarily know why. My favourite to hear is “Oh when the Saints Go Marching in” because it is a song I have heard my Grandad play and sing, and also a song my mum occasionally sings around the house.

There is something about familiar lyrics or even just melodies that feel like home. And I think when a lot of people all start singing something you instantly recognise then that feels really magical to me. I feel a surge of energy and excitement – much more than I do when any goal is scored! – The songs aren’t spontaneously written on the spot but they sort of feel it, they feel like we all know them by heart just like we know how to breathe! This is my favourite part of a live game,  I am perhaps a football fan for all the wrong reasons. I recall similar feelings when I have been in church and everyone sings together. I honestly think if we all stand on a picket line and sing with all our hearts we could change the whole world. 

In my ‘research’ so far, it has been hard to pin down who ‘owns’ a particular football chant or where they have originally come from. They beg and borrow from every genre known, from call and response work songs, hymns, pop, rock, music hall, nursery rhyme – it is all there. Many players have received the Seven Nation Army Treatment way before it became the unofficial anthem for Jeremy Corbyn.

Teams will happily take a chant from other fans if a player with a decent chant transfers to them – it is often just a case of singing a new colour, someone can easily be “Born to be Blue” one season and then “Born to be Red” another!
Club specific songs are hard to pin down – I have already had some great conversations with people who insist that a chant is “theirs” rather than someone elses – seems every single manager has at some point in their career had an “army” that was “barmy”

So far my conversations with Fans/Chanters have been casual but as part of this project I would like to document that too somehow? Maybe some vlogs?

Of course some of the chants are more complete songs you’d know and weren’t necessarily written with the team in mind but they nevertheless belong to that team and there is a football chanters unwritten code that you wouldn’t take it – I guess Liverpool’s ‘You’ll never walk alone’ would be the obvious example of that

It is SUCH an interesting ‘genre’ / way of sharing music with it’s own sort of unwritten rules, ways of being, crediting, sharing, performing. I am obsessed with it! 🙂


So I am working on ideas, plans, schemes to put a record together. I want to work with other people, hear from other people, create something wonderful as a tribute to my new favourite genre of what I see as some of the last standing oral tradition we have.
So please get in touch if you want to be involved in some way/any way or have any advice or guidance.


And yes, everybody has already recommended I do the John Barnes rap! 


We want beans not goals

2 thoughts on “We want beans not goals

    Alan O’Kelly

    They said that football died when Busby’s Babes had lost their lives
    And to this day we still remember them,
    But gradually the people saw the future of the game
    When Bobby Moore hugged Pele it would never be the same.

    They faced each other on the pitch two giants of the sport
    No give or take or quarter asked at all
    Brazil V England up there with the battles of the past
    But this times they were fighting for possession of a ball

    1970 long ago Brazil had won that game,
    Jjust a match now firmly in the past
    But people still remember when the final whistle came
    How Bobby Moore hugged Pele it would never be the same

    Just a guy from East London and A guy from East Brazil
    Only football brought them face to face
    But their respect in football annals is remembered still
    They strode the hallowed turf with perfect grace.
    You inspired me to write a lyric, Minnie.


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