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48 Years of Hurt – and Dreams: An Introduction to English Football Songs

Av Tim Stickings

Stamford Bridge 2013 Foto Tim Stickings
Stamford Bridge 2013. Foto: Tim Stickings

In 2003, the Premier League announced it was searching for an official writer of football chants. Jonny Hurst, a Birmingham City fan, was chosen from around 1,500 applicants as football’s first ‘Chant Laureate’, and awarded a salary of £10,000 per year. Andrew Motion, Britain’s ceremonial state poet and chair of the selection panel, enthused about the “huge reservoir of folk poetry” expressed in the form of football songs.  

Mr Motion’s tribute is glowing, but perhaps misleading. In March 2014, Channel 4 broadcast a programme entitled Hate on the Terraces, making use of hours of undercover film gathered at a range of football grounds to show the continuing racism and homophobia audible in football. Songs can be uniting and uplifting, or abusive and hateful. The difference between the two can be just a few words. Poetry it may be, but not always of the sort Mr Motion imagined.

Some chants are used by fans of all clubs, while others are the property of particular sides. The song ”You’ll Never Walk Alone” can be heard at many European football grounds, but in E