Mark Mason

The truth about Three Lions

  • From Spectator Life
David Baddiel and Frank Skinner

During last year’s European Championship, England football fans switched, for some reason, from ‘Three Lions’ to ‘Sweet Caroline’ by Neil Diamond (‘so good, so good, so good’). If anything can make them switch back it’s the Football Association, who this week said they were thinking of dropping the Baddiel and Skinner anthem as England’s official song, because it could be seen as ‘arrogant’. Football fans are like children, and as any parent could have told the F.A., if you want to make sure someone does something then just tell them not to do it. The F.A. quickly had to issue a statement confirming there were no plans to change.

David Baddiel himself feels the F.A. have long disliked the song. ‘I think it’s the notion – misinterpreted by many people – that “football’s coming home” means that England owns football and we are the homeland of football. Which historically is the case – we were the first ones to ratify the rules of the game.’ But, as he and Frank Skinner always point out, the song’s whole ethos is the opposite of bragging – it highlights how much England have lost. ‘Thirty years of hurt’ go the lyrics – and now, with England still not having won a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup, it’s 58 years of hurt. The song’s point is that disappointment doesn’t stop fans supporting the team – it ‘never stopped me dreaming’.

Ian Broudie of the Lightning Seeds, who wrote the music when the song was commissioned for Euro 96, agreed. ‘I certainly didn’t want to do one of those cheerleading records.’ That was why he refused the F.A.’s offer of having England players singing on the song – he didn’t want it to be ‘England-istic’, saying it was more about ‘being a football fan, which, for 90 per cent of the time, is losing.’

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