Amid all the talk of the “devaluation” of the FA Cup (and it should go without saying that we should all wish an eternal curse on that rogue organisation, the Premier League, for seeking to undermine further it by scheduling a round of matches on the day of the FA Cup final – how difficult would it have been for them to play them tomorrow?), one of the traditions – of a sort – that has faded into the background in recent years has been that of the Cup Final song. This year thus far, Manchester City seem to have managed two – one recorded by a busker and the other by a happy rastafarian – whilst Stoke City have retaliated with, well, whatever this is.
There doesn’t seem to be much of an official link with the clubs any more, though, which is something of a shame. After all, who amongst us hasn’t sat watching Manchester City and thought, “I wonder what Mario Balotelli’s singing voice sounds like?”, or, “I wonder if there’s anything in those rumours that Joe Hart is an accomplished banjo player?”. We will probably never find out, though, because it is now largely left to the supporters to do it for them. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to make the assumption that the players themselves may be of the opinion that this sort of thing may be beneath them, whilst the clubs are keeping themselves busy with this sort of thing (although it’s difficult not to admire Manchester City’s chutzpah in not taking said article down after the kerfuffle it caused).
There was a time, though, when the FA Cup Finals traditions seemed to be set in stone. Communal singing had been a feature of the day since the 1920s, and the residue of this is still on display to this day in the form of the Cup Final hymn, “Abide With Me”, which was first sung before the 1927 final between Arsenal and Cardiff City (and the words for which – only the first and last verses will be sung today – are available, should you wish to learn them, here). Where, though, do we apportion the blame for the crimes against that music that were subsequently to be committed to vinyl? The answer probably lies with the 1970 England World Cup squad and “Back Home”, which, to remind all of you of the opinion that the late 1960s and early 1970s was a world full of people dressed like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, went to number one for two weeks and, according to this, was still being purchased by somebody two months after England were knocked out of the competition. Since then, the Cup Final song has become of the vocabulary of the day and the tournament itself, and here’s six of the… well, here’s six of them.
1975: West Ham United – I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles: A popular song written at the end of the First World War, it has been said that this song was first heard at The Boleyn Ground when sung by supporters of Swansea Town (now, of course, Swansea City) at an FA Cup match between the two sides in January 1921.
1981: Tottenham Hotspur – Ossie’s Dream: In 1981, North London pub singalong duo Chas & Dave were big business and, as supporters of Spurs, were natural choices for the club’s song for the 1981 FA Cup Final against Manchester City. Osvaldo Ardiles had played in the World Cup final three years earlier and his decision to move to North London in the summer of that year was something of a surprise, considering that Spurs had only just been promoted after a year in the Second Division. Whether it was actually his “dream” to play in an FA Cup final or not has never been conclusively answered.
1988: Liverpool – The Anfield Rap: Possibly the absolute low in the entire history of music, never mind the mere sub-genre of FA Cup Final songs, Anfield Rap features John Barnes making an even worse job of rapping than he did on “World In Motion”, the never-to-be-forgotten sound of Bruce Grobbelaar rapping in a syrup-thick Zimbabwean accent and snatches of Bill Shankly hamming it up for the media whilst in his pomp, all set to the demo version of the theme music to “The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air”.
1995: Everton – All Together Now: Perhaps “Anfield Rap” was the beginning of the end of footballers getting involved – or wanting to get involved – in Cup Final songs. By the time that Everton reached the 1995 FA Cup final against Manchester United, former scallies The Farm were on board to re-record a version of their song “All Together Now” (itself based on Pachalbel’s Canon in D major) and the team is nowhere to be heard, although the dulcet tones of Alan Green can be heard.
1997: Middlesbrough – Let’s Dance: There have been several different songs called Let’s Dance over the years, and this one, was a reworking of – try to keep the sick down if possible – the Chris Rea version. It was fronted by the comedian (and Middlesbrough supporter) Bob Mortimer, and features, pleasingly, a slightly uncomfortable looking squad singing into microphones, although they seem to be enjoying themselves. Note also the inventive spelling of Curtis Fleming’s surname towards the start of the video.
1997: Chelsea – Blue Day: In 1997, it was a very different Chelsea to now. With a clear nod to the previous year’s “Three Lions”, Suggs led the team through a strangely maudlin (considering everything that has happened since) song with a curiously irritating, “Chelsea Chelsea!” chorus. It seems difficult to imagine Didier Drogba getting involved in something like this.
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