World Cup 2018: The best England football songs RANKED

Join us on a journey through some of the best & worst sing-songs in football history

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15:  An England fan celebrates as they qualify for the World Cup in Brazil after the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying Group H match between England and Poland at Wembley Stadium on October 15, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

In 1970, a tradition began for the England football team to celebrate their participation in major tournaments with a song. The original song, Back Home, set a high bar for those that followed – and over the years both official and unofficial songs have been penned for every tournament in which England have played.

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As time has passed, so has the style of song: some involving the players, others with nothing to do with the FA at all. Many involve celebrities and supergroups, but others began as parodies and jokes that rose to the very top of the charts.

One thing they all have in common is music, football and passion for the England team – but to be a truly classic England anthem, they need something more: to capture the imagination of a nation.

It is with this in mind that we present a countdown of 13 of the best England World Cup songs ever committed to vinyl/CD/MP3/cassette etc.

How to watch the 2018 World Cup – full TV guide

#16 Tony Christie – Is This the Way to the World Cup (2006)

Tony Christie re-wrote one of his most famous songs to celebrate England’s 2006 World Cup campaign, achieving a number eight hit in the charts. There’s certainly a lot of energy in Christie’s alternative history/ fantasy which tells the story of England winning the World Cup to the tune of Amarillo. Fans of cheese will definitely enjoy the video – not least some of the lyrics.

It’s a good effort, but there’s something missing from this record that will stop it from being remembered as an England football classic. It’s always a dangerous game re-wording a well-loved song (even if it’s your own), and although all football anthems are novelties, this particular type seem to be in a different division.

#15 This Time (We’ll Get it Right) (1982)

A reference to not qualifying for the previous two World Cups, this rather introspective record sticks with the tried and tested “whole team” vocal effect so successfully employed on 1970 classic Back Home. However, unlike that maiden England World Cup record, this song (despite liberal use of brass sections and marching drums) fails to capture the essence of its illustrious predecessor.

Although the video is an amusing time capsule for both music and football fans alike, not even an over-animated Kevin Keegan, disinterested Peter Shilton or cameo from Noel Edmonds can get this journeyman effort higher up in our list.

#14 Sing 4 England (ft. Joe Public Utd) (2012)

There’s something charming about this charity record, despite it not really being very pleasing to the ear.

Legendary pundit Chris Kamara takes on the – at times- clunky lyrics with aplomb:

“Too many years have come and gone/ this is our chance to prove them wrong / We’ll win if we stand strong/ Wouldn’t that be unbelievable.”

It’s got a real down the pub feel about it, but sadly there aren’t many pubs you’ll still hear this tune being played.

#13 Fat Les – Jerusalem (2000)

Two years after hitting number two in the charts with his brilliantly annoying Vindaloo, Keith Allen was back as Fat Les with Blur’s Alex James and another attempt at footballing gold – this time hoping to strike it Lucky with Michael Barrymore on board.

Featuring the London Community Gospel Choir and the London Gay Man’s Chorus this rousing rendition of the traditional hymn certainly hit the patriotic spot, but it doesn’t have the element of catchy surprise that Vindaloo delivered in the great battle of football songs ’98.

#12 We’ve Got The Whole World At Our Feet (1986)

“We’ve got the whole world at our feet, there’s not a single team that we can’t beat.”

Sadly this wasn’t true when the boys arrived in Mexico; the hand of God saw to that.

This rather sprightly marching band single sounds quite a lot like the b-side to The Self Preservation Society from The Italian Job.

It borrows something from 1970 classic Back Home, but fails to reach the same dizzy heights, even with its full-squad-singing-wall-of-sound and increasingly forced rhyming couplets.

However, this is a solid World Cup song that deserves its place on the list.

#11 All The Way (1988)

In 1998, England turned to the hit factory of Stock Aitken Waterman (the producers behind the likes of early Kylie, Rick Astley and Banaramma) to write their official anthem. What they delivered certainly represented their signature synth-laden sound.

“We’re going all the way, we’re going all the way…” You get the message pretty quickly – but no one is expecting the broken-beats of the stuttered breakdown three quarters of the way through the song, accompanied by inexplicable video footage of Tony Adams and others driving a pretend racing car.

Other video highlights include a young Gary Lineker and Peter Beardsley in black and white looking a bit like a budget version of the Everley Brothers.

This is a song that perfectly represents 1988. Although it’s best it stays there, it really grows on you.

#10 How Does It Feel to be on Top of the World? (1998)

Still basking in the afterglow of England’s near-miss in Euro 96, and with Cool Britannia riding as high as the Three Lions themselves as they headed for World Cup 98, you can’t blame England for assembling a supergroup to celebrate what would surely be a glorious summer of football.

The band “England United” consisted of, wait for it: The Spice Girls, Echo and The Bunnymen, Space and Ocean Colour Scene – which if you’re not familiar with the mid to late nineties music scene was a pretty big deal.

The song itself wasn’t actually that bad and captured the general excitement and positivity of the nation at a time when we still believed England could win the World Cup, and it did it with a Britpop sound. Oh so 1998. It’s also noteworthy for its futuristic “morphing” video.

However, it suffered from one minor and two major problems.

Firstly, it is catchy, but doesn’t include a chant that football fans could get behind, meaning it was always going to struggle to become a terrace classic.

Secondly, and probably more terminally for England United, despite being a star studded official single it had two unofficial rivals that were, well, better, in the shape of Three Lions ’98 and Fat Les’s Vindaloo.

#9 Shout (Shout for England song) (2010)

An unofficial England collaboration between hip-hop superstar Dizzee Rascal and actor and comedian James Corden, this rap-led football song sums up fans’ frustrations with the England team.

Rascal’s lyrics are punchy and fun: “Leave the WAGS alone, put aside your ego – we’re tired of bragging about 40-odd years ago…” culminating in a big old singalong on the terraces of Tears for Fears with extracts of No Diggity.

Cue arm in arm dancing between Rascal and Corden and footage of the England team at their best, and you’ve got yourself a catchy World Cup Number One. Best of all, proceeds went to Great Ormond Street Hospital.

#8 Noble England (2010)

The late great Rik Mayall threw his hat into the football-related recording market on St George’s Day 2010 – the most English day of the year. The Young One’s adapted reading of a passage from Shakespeare’s Henry V is accompanied by a haunting chant of football fans singing “Come on you Enger-Land, you noble Englishmen”. Add a primal but subtle beat and slowly building anthemic crowd noises in all the right places and you have an unlikely hit.

Although it was well received on release, the song found even more success after Rik Mayall’s untimely death in 2014. Jon Morter, the social media whizz behind the Rage Against the Machine for Christmas Number One campaign, encouraged football fans to buy the record ahead of World Cup 2014, pushing the song up to seventh in the official charts.

#7 Greatest Day (2014)

This song for Sport Relief follows more of a charity record approach than a traditional England football song.

Take That’s Gary Barlow leads a chorus of footballing legends and pop stars in this well organised reimagining of his own song, Greatest Day.

It’s got some of the Spice Girls, some of Girls Aloud, Pixie Lott, Gary Lineker, Gary Mabbut, Geoff Hurst and everyone who’s anyone from the world of pop and football singing along line by line.

It’s a fine record for a fine cause – but the reality is, it can’t make it into the top five because it will always be a Take That song with celebrities singing along.

Highlight from the song worth looking out for: Glenn Hoddle’s solo line… he can sing!

#6 We’re On the Ball (2002)

Ant and Dec of course had chart pedigree when they were asked to take on the 2002 England anthem, so the pressure was on – but they didn’t disappoint.

It takes a while to get going, but once the talked/rap segments give way to the chanted chorus of “We’re on the ball, we’re on the ball” you now this is a song that’s going to translate to the terraces and stick in your head all day.

Add the recurring refrain at the end of the song that celebrates England’s famous 5-1 win over Germany in 2001 and you have a pleasing football song with legs.

“It’s Neville to Cambell, Cambell to Rio, Rio to Scholesy, Scholesy Gerrard, Gerrard to Beckham, Beckham to Heskey, Heskey to Owen, To Nodd… 5-1!”

What’s not to like about that!

#5 Three Lions (1998)

The self-referential reimagining of Three Lions two years after the heartache of Euro 96 will never be remembered as the definitive version of this brilliant song, but it’s certainly not without its merits, and earned the gang another number one as England headed for France 1998.

Beginning with real footage of fans chorusing “It’s coming home…” across the terraces in Euro 96, before introducing the idea that “we still believe” instantly throws every England fan back to that magical summer and just how close we came to winning something.

The song updates with references to that Euro 96 campaign (Gazza/ Shearer/ Psycho), and gets around the tricky “30 years of hurt” line with a swift change to “no more years of hurt”. Clever.

Although the new words will probably be lost in time, this song once again captured the mood and imagination of the nation, earning it a prestigious top five placing.

#4 Back Home (1970)

Reigning World Cup champions England began the tradition of team songs in 1970 with this classic chant which topped the charts in May 1970 for three weeks ahead of the Three Lions’ campaign. Sadly, the team could not match their chart performance on the field, only making it to the quarter finals of the tournament before being knocked out 3-2 by 1966 finalists West Germany.

It was meant to be the first of a string of new England team songs for every World Cup going forward. Sadly, England failed to qualify for the following two tournaments, so fans of this sort of thing had to wait until 1982 for the tricky second album.

It’s hard not to like this tune, and as a groundbreaker deserves its high position in our chart.

#3 Vindaloo (1998)

Keith Allen, instrumental in the success of 1990 New Order and England football team mega-hit World in Motion, returned to the pop big time in 1998 as his band Fat Les produced one of the most well-known and catchy football songs of all time – this time with the help of Blur bassist Alex James and artist Damian Hirst.

Although this time it wasn’t the official England song (that was The Spice Girls et al – see England United), Vindaloo eclipsed it with its nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah’s, proving we all love Enger-land. It also tunefully reminded fans of the aim of the beautiful game: “We’re gonna score one more than you…”

What started as a parody (see Bittersweet Symphony by the Verve) grew into an uncontrollable monster which in June 1998 reached number two in the charts – only to be held off top spot by another unofficial England song, Three Lions 98.

Watch out for Paul Kaye, Ed Tudor-Pole, Matt Lucas and David Walliams in the video.

#2 World in Motion (1990)

In 1990, not only did England almost win the World Cup with the best team since ’66 getting to the semi-finals in Italy, they released what can only be described as very, very fine football song.

Credited to England New Order, it’s a proper well thought-out song that evolves from an (albeit overtly football themed) early 90s electronic tune into a true sporting anthem. You cannot help but go on the journey of musical discovery, all the way to the now legendary rap by John Barnes.

It then of course descends to Keith Allen (who co-wrote the song) dancing about behind Barnes in the video before the final catchy chanted refrain – “We’re playing for England {In-ger-land} / We’re playing the song / We’re singing for England {In-ger-land} / Arrivederci it’s one one one”.

There’s a reason that 28 years later this is still being played on the radio and sung on the terraces: because it’s a stone cold World Cup classic.

#1 Three Lions (1996)

Euro 96 was a moment in British footballing history like few others.

The English game had been on a rollercoaster ride in the 90s, from the brilliant performance and subsequent heartbreaking exit from Italia 90 to the dismal failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the USA. It was time to put all that behind us. Football was coming home for Euro 96 in England… and we were ready to win!

Baddiel and Skinner teamed up with indie-pop behemoths of the time The Lightning Seeds to produce a footballing anthem that perfectly encapsulated the way the nation felt about the “30 years of hurt” that had dogged the English game since 1966, when we last hosted a major tournament (and won).

Its simple and eminently chant-able refrain (“It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming – football’s coming home…”) pulls on the heartstrings of even the most ardent of cynics, whilst the nostalgic (and at times tuneless) storytelling of Baddiel, Skinner and the nation’s collective footballing memories produce a self aware, amusing and yet heartfelt song that all England fans can relate to.

Add the mid-90s musical flourishes of The Lightning Seeds and you have a novelty song that not only topped the charts and was adopted on the terraces but has remained popular for more than 20 years since its release.

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Whether or not you remember Nobby dancing, if you’re an England fan, you’ll always remember this song. And that’s why it’s number one.