Gimmicky-to-shitty World Cup singles touting England’s chances in the competition have ranged from John Barnes’ cameo on New Order’s “World In Motion” to the not-quite TOTP hit “Have A Wank For England”, from the charmingly dubbed Kunt & The Gang. With this rich history in mind (well, maybe not Kunt & The Gang), the Guardian’s Barney Ronay — author of the fantastic recent tome “The Manager – Absurd Ascent Of The Most Important Man In Football” — recalls a pair of notables that may or not be on your cultural radar.
The first England World Cup song was 1970’s Back Home, . This is also the only official anti-World Cup song, a song about the pleasures of not being at the World Cup. Instead it is a heart-wringing paeon to homesickness. “Back home, they’ll be thinking about us¦” Back home, they’ll be really behind us ¦ Back home, they’ll be watching and waiting”. The message here is: we want to be back home. This is perhaps not surprising.
In 1970 England had only ever travelled to four World Cups and the experience had often been traumatic: beaten by the US in 1950, knocked out by Uruguay in 1954 and outclassed by Brazil in 1962. England were, if not exactly fearful world champions, then grudging tourists. The song also mirrors Sir Alf Ramsey’s own anxieties: Leo McKinstry’s recent biography revealed that Ramsey’s Back Home-merchants took vast quantities of Bird’s Eye beefburgers to Mexico (which ended up being gleefully burnt on the quayside by customs officials) and even shipped over their own team bus (which died in the heat). In the end this was a self-fulfilling prophecy. England wanted to be back home. They soon were “ and for an entire decade.
Spain 1982 brought the next England World Cup song. This Time is musically similar, but elegiac in tone. “This time,” Ray Clemence, Peter Withe and Steve Foster sing. “More than any other time this time.” This is the refrain: this time, finally this time, we’re going to find a way to get it right this time. It is worth noting at this point that England “ wracked with long-suffering deprivation “ had won the World Cup only 16 years previously. This is the equivalent of having won it under Graham Taylor in 1994 and still in 2010 recording a song called “Oh When, When Will We Finally Get Our Hands On That Trophy?” If ever proof were required that English football seeks out and gladly wallows in (a) self-flagellating nostalgia and (b) a baseless sense of entitlement, we find it above all in This Time.