As we continue our look at the atmosphere at the County Ground, Will Wardrop assess Swindon Town’s recent history in song, featuring the Thomsons, Pericard and Amankwaah…
Following England’s 3-1 victory at Celtic Park in November, The Guardian’s Barney Ronay suggested that the reason England fans resorted to singing ‘Fuck the I.R.A.’ was due to a lack of imagination when it comes those who follow the three lions away. To his credit, I try my best not to cringe seeing the hundreds of videos showing sunburnt tourists drunkenly slurring their way through renditions of Ten German Bombers or the funeral march that is God Save the Queen on YouTube. There just seems to be very few alternatives to choose from. Ronay seems to think we are “a nation in the slow lane her” and “the best football songs have a little wit, or express a certain superiority: Anderlecht fans singing Your Support is Fucking Shit’ in perfect English at the Emirates earlier this season, or German football’s effortless annexing of Football’s Coming Home.”
However, I disagree with this assertion. While Anderlecht and the German national side have received well-deserved praise, so too should English club sides. There was much to enjoy in Manchester United’s tongue-in-cheek rendition of ‘We are staying up’ last season under the ever-sweaty David Moyes, Everton’s slightly risqué ‘Let’s go fucking mental, Li Tie’s oriental’ or the simplicity of Birmingham’s ‘Fahey’s a jolly good fellow’.
But where do Swindon’s recent songs rank against the wit and panache of the very best? Borrowing songs from other teams and putting our own spin on things seems to be the order of the day, done beautifully in some cases by the Red and White Army.
One chant that has hit the big time in recent years is the Yaya/Kolo Toure song, sung to the tune of 2Unlimited’s No Limit. The original is a vomit-inducing ‘club banger’ and one that should have had no place at a football match, even a 90’s one. However, the cheesy/catchiness of the source material heightens the chant’s appeal, making it what it is – wonderful. Newcastle University students even managed to stop traffic in the city centre with it, parading across several roads after a club night, fuelling a number of outraged Daily Mail articles and hilarious videos on social media.
It seems just a matter of time before someone records a charity Christmas number one with the former Man City team-mates appearing in a video featuring various points of interest around the North West in an homage to Jon Barnes in ‘World in Motion’. The height every footballer wishes to reach! It is little wonder then that when both Thomson brothers broke into Swindon’s first team over the past two seasons, that this chant was adapted to them.
While it’s catchy and gets most of the crowd going, it also shows ingenuity and even highlights the players themselves and what they mean to the club. Where Kolo and Yaya played a key role in City’s title-winning season so can the Thomson brothers, Nathan and Louis, in Swindon’s surge for League One supremacy.
Links between the Toure and Thomson brothers are undeniable (albeit not for looks and Yaya’s unnatural obsession with birthday cake); both consist of a no-nonsense centre-half and a marauding centre-mid, and both are thoroughly likeable characters to their own fans, yet not so much to oppositions’. But what sets the Thomson’s apart is their connection to their club, both coming through the youth system, Nathan becoming captain at a tender age and is well on his way to become somewhat of an icon, not least after his joyful celebrations in front of the Bristol City fans earlier this season. It makes me sad for the end of the season when we see Louis off to Norwich. Not least due to the gaping hole he will leave in our midfield, but also the death of this celebratory chant. RIP. Does Anton Rodgers have a younger brother?
When Chelsea bought the Champions League in 2012, a segment of Russell Howard’s Good News reported on their victory parade. The segment focused on the club’s bizarre chant about their love of celery. Not interested in the fact that you burn more calories chewing celery than ingesting it, much like every person seems to tell me when I begrudgingly chew my way through a stalk, the chant seems more to focus on it’s proficiency as a sex toy. So it is little wonder that when Town met Chelsea in the League Cup last season an ingenious chant was born. Did we sing about a bland vegetable like the bland, glory-hunting fans of a bland club? We certainly did not!
Instead the focus of our affections were aimed at a certain journeyman left back and ‘if she don’t come I’ll tickle her bum with Jay McEveley’ became a fans’ favourite, as did the song (pause for laughter). The image of the bulky Scouser being wheeled out into the bedroom in order to boost the arousal of an annoyed girlfriend is both humorous and somewhat shocking. With McEveley playing in the number 3 role during his time with Town, this chant holds greater weight in light of this bizarre threesome.
The third and final song I’m going to look at is one from a number of years back. Kevin Amankwaah was a player who occasionally lit up/let down Swindon’s defence throughout his three seasons at the club with his somewhat inconsistent performances and controversial comments. That aside, he also set alight the stands after fans came up with a chant based on The Automatic’s ‘Monster’. “What’s that coming over the hill? Kevin Amankwaah, Kevin Amankwaah’ was a true homage to player the opposition saw as monstrous, if not slightly clumsy. It also brought about laughs from my school peers back in 2010 when, on a high that can only come from reaching a playoff final, the song made an appearance in the playground.
Almost five years later my friends still bring the song up with me. It is true that without them reminding me, I most likely would have forgotten both the song and the glorious player for which it celebrates. Yet it is testament to the song’s catchiness and hilarity that my friends remember it. Much like the McEveley song, it’s the image that it conjures that makes it so memorable, an image of horror as both Town and opposition fans alike spy a frightening sight upon the horizon, in some cases highlighting Amankwaah’s hopeless defending.
When assessing Swindon’s recent chants it’s worth a special mention to “Pardew’s a Swindon fan”, a song aimed at a greying, middle-aged fan who shares a passing resemblance to the Palace manager, “You’re going down with the Woolies”, about the then-imminent closure of Woolworths and who could forget “When you’re sat in row Z and the ball hits your head, it’s Pericard”. It’s important to say therefore that, unlike Ronay has suggested, the art of the witty British chant is still alive, at all levels of the football pyramid. Humour is at the heart of every football supporter, even those that follow England on their biennial stumbling past the group stages of a competition, simply to be sent home by the Germans.
“5-1, even Heskey scored” is a chant that holds particular weight, reminding our European neighbours of that night in 2001 and “England’s going home” following our shambolic early exit at the 2014 World Cup. Both show that at international level, the Great British sense of humour is not lost and that like a Jay McEveley massage, this story does have a happy ending.