Liverpool and Celtic fans both enjoy spine-tingling versions of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ prior to kick-off, while Manchester United and Spurs supporters have been happy to share the distinctive, though not entirely original ‘Glory, Glory’ chant down the years. But there are certain terrace anthems which are unique to certain groups of football fans, special to them and them alone. When these tunes are heard, they are immediately synonymous with a particular club.
So here’s a look at some of the more distinctive terrace tunes from down the years which are still sung today and the, often very peculiar, explanations of how they came to be.
You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling – Nottingham Forest
By all accounts, Nottingham Forest fans have sung the Righteous Brothers’ classic ‘You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling’ for almost 30 years, having first adopted it as a terrace chant back in the late 1980s ahead of a trip south to watch their side.
The story goes that the night before Forest were due to play at Southampton in 1989 the song was played at the wedding for a well-known supporter and those in attendance continued to sing its words on the trip down to the South Coast the following day, even serenading Saints goalkeeper Tim Flowers. After the game the group went to Portsmouth for a night out and managed to persuade a local DJ to play the newly-adopted anthem, which they duly belted out at the top of their voices to the surprise of the regulars in the bar.
Such was the song’s popularity that in 2013, after hearing Forest fans had converted his hit song into a terrace chant, Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers insisted on attending a match at the City Ground to hear it first-hand before being introduced to the crowd on the pitch at half-time.
I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles – West Ham United
The origins of this one are thought to go as far back as the 1920s but the reason that West Ham adopted the song, which was originally featured in the 1918 Broadway production ‘The Passing Show’, is unclear. One explanation is that it came about due to a player’s resemblance to a cartoon character. The story goes that Hammers player Billy J. Murray was a dead ringer for the ‘Bubbles’ character from a well-known Pears Soap commercial of the time and as a result the nickname stuck with supporters singing the tune before the club ran out for games.
However, the song was also a staple in underground shelters and Tube stations during the air raids of the Second World War, and its popularity during those dark days only helped to cement its popularity among the inhabitants of east London, which might be a more logical explanation. Whatever the reason, the lyrics have been amended somewhat down the decades and the song has remained a terrace anthem, with West Ham still playing it at the entrance of the teams at their current London Stadium home.
Marching on Together – Leeds United
To give it its full title, ‘Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!’ - now known as ‘Marching on Together’ - has been a terrace staple among Leeds fans since the early 1970s, and is still sung before every game at Elland Road. The original version dates back to 1972 when Don Revie’s side made it to the FA Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley and was actually the B-side of the club’s official cup final song which went by the rather uninspiring title ‘Leeds United’.
Though the original never really caught on, the flip-side - which included vocals from members of the Leeds side – made it to number 10 in the charts and was quickly adopted by United’s supporters as a terrace anthem which can still be heard both home and away all these years on. A re-mastered version hit the charts again back in 2010 to mark the club’s return to the Championship, while ‘Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!’ also has the honour of being belted out by fans of the Leeds Rhinos rugby league team – one of the few terrace anthems to straddle the worlds of football and rugby.
Goodnight Irene - Bristol Rovers
Like all good myths, there are several versions as to why Bristol Rovers fans sing ‘Goodnight Irene’, though the general consensus is that it dates back to a game against Plymouth Argyle in 1950. Legend has it that Argyle turned up to the ground with their own accordion player, who proceeded to churn out a number of contemporary hits including this number by Huddie William Ledbetter, who was better known as Lead Belly.
After Plymouth took the lead their fans began singing the folk favourite in celebration, only for Rovers to turn the game on its head within a matter of minutes, scoring three in reply. That prompted the massed ranks of ‘Gasheads’ to mock their opponents by performing a resounding version, which they adapted to ‘Goodnight Argyle’.
The popularity of the song quickly grew among diehards at the old Eastlands ground, leading to the ditty soon being taken up as the club’s anthem – one which is still sung by Rovers fans today.
Blue Moon – Manchester City
Now a staple at the Etihad Stadium before and after games, it’s hard to believe that ‘Blue Moon’ has apparently only been sung by Manchester City fans since the late 1980s when the team were a shadow of their current selves. The song, a composition by Richard Rodgers and lyricist Lorenz Hart, is thought to have been first aired by the City faithful during their game against Liverpool at Anfield during the 1989/90 campaign to entertain themselves as they were waiting to leave the stadium, according to City historical expert Gary James
Coinciding with a pretty dismal period for the club, who struggled throughout much of the 1990s, the somewhat melancholy melody probably rang true with many frustrated Blues at the time. It is not surprising, then, that the club embraced the anthem for the next three decades.
Delilah – Stoke City
Originally released by Welsh crooner Tom Jones in 1968, ‘Delilah’ tells the story of an insane voyeur who stabs his cheating lover to death. But for some reason it is now belted out before, during and after Potters games. Some claim origins of the chant date back to 1975 when the Sensational Alex Harvey Band played a show at Stoke’s old Victoria Ground and performed a cover of the record with City fans joining in with the chorus during a mass singalong.
Others argue it was used as a pre-match tune-up in pubs before City’s away games in the mid-1980s, with roofing contractor Anton Booth telling Four Four Two magazine that he was the man responsible for starting the tradition prior to a match against Derby County in April 1987. Whatever the reason, Stoke fans found themselves in hot water recently as politician Dafydd Iwan questioned its suitability as a sporting anthem, claiming that the song’s lyrics “trivialised the idea of murdering a woman”.
This article first appeared in The Sportsman on 09/10/19