Top 10 songs about football

There’s scant crossover between football and music. But here’s ten of the best.

10. Helen Love – Cardiff City Superstar

“It’s the end of the summer / So it’s going to be / Another long season in Division Three.”

South Wales’ finest glitterpunkpop girl (and the originator of the phrase ‘Girl Power’) pays tribute to the then failing Cardiff City, at the time more likely to feature Leo Fortune-West than Craig Bellamy.

This is poor quality due to being ripped from the original 7″ but it beats the version re-recorded with members of Super Furry Animals for Cardiff’s 2008 FA Cup Final.


9. Fio Maravilha – Ben Jor

A Brazilian classic. To use one translation…

“…driblou o goleiro
Só não entrou com bola e tudo porque teve humildade.”
(“…he dribbled past the goalkeeper but did not enter the goal with the ball because he had humility.”)


8. EnglandNewOrder – World in Motion

Listening to Anthony H Wilson tell an unnecessarily rambling and pecularily bollocks anecdote about driving to the studio and en-route “discovering that, to our surprise, there was a third syllable in ‘Eng-ger-land’.”


7. Colourbox – The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme

An instrumental released on 4AD Records and originally inspired by Baseball? It was cynically/smartly renamed for the 1986 World Cup, went up the charts and fits the coverage of the Mexican tournament.


6. Frank Sidebottom  – Football Medley

“YOU’RE GOING HOME ON AN ORGANISED FOOTBALL COACH”. Frank Sidebottom was one of the funniest comedians I’ve ever seen. Chris Sievey, the man behind the mask, died last year – I’ve written up my memories elsewhere. Here’s a medley of various tributes to Match of the Day, Altrincham FC and Frank’s own side – ‘Timperley Big Shorts F.C.’. Not including his final opus: ‘Three Shirts on My Line’.


5. Barcelona – Kasey Keller

The USA’s first-choice goalkeeper for most of the 1990s “saves the day again”.


4. The Fall – Kicker Conspiracy

MES, the man who put the ‘Town’ in Southampton FC, fired up Sparta FC and likes his football “with a nice clean sausage” fancies a bit of a Rowche Rumble.

Don’t miss him reading the results on Football Focus.


3. Half Man Half Biscuit – Mathematically Safe

The love that dare not speak its name; or, that moment of bliss only achieved on two occasions. Namely, when you’re holding someone you love very tight or when your stupid, incompetent football team grabs a gritty 1-1 draw to ensure survival in their division for one more season.

It’s not on YouTube – but listen online here or on Spotify.


2. Pete Green – The Ballad of Phil Jevons

This Grimsbonian renaissance man juggles the editorship of delightfully world-weary zine Cod Almighty with being a indiepop star in The Sweet Nothings (ex-‘The Pete Green Corporate Juggernaut’).

It’s a tale of football woe as the starlet is forced to drop the leagues as the dream turns bitter – and the fan can’t help but relate to his plight.


1. The Hitchers – Strachan

The song that actually gets it: “What’s that you’re watching? / It’s a programme about art.”

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Oxford Record Shop: Truck Store on Cowley Road

Once lost, some things never return: empires, David Trezeguet’s football shirt, the handloom industry, virginity, my Belle & Sebastian bookmark, records shops.

But Oxford’s bucking the trend and – in what’s either a calculated act of genius or misadventure on a grand scale – tonight (Thurs 10 Feb 2011) sees the opening of Truck Store, a proper independent music shop. For the first time in three years it’s possible to buy not-quite-mainstream CDs/DVDs/vinyl in the city. No need to use Amazon or eBay, just pop along to the warm shop at 101 Cowley Road.

I just went to have a look ahead of the official opening.

The shop’s a joint operation, run by Witney’s Rapture Records but with guidance and branding from the Bennett clan at Truck. They’ve gutted the old Videosyncratic building, given it a lick of paint and made the place a whole lot brighter. What used to be a murky storage area is now a mini-stage for gigs.

I’ve not lived near a decent shop since the loss of York’s Track Records. But this looks very promising.

Posted in Music, Oxford | 13 Comments

Photos: Oxford students occupy Radcliffe Camera library

Jump to the bottom for a gallery.

Almost the whole of Oxford University’s Bodleian Library is currently closed due to the occupation of the flagship Radcliffe Camera building. The protest has now been running for almost twenty-four hours.

What started as a small protest against cuts at Carfax Tower became a – seemingly spontaneous – occupation when the group passed the library in early afternoon. When I arrived at 2pm yesterday the gates were locked and university security staff were standing watch but not stopping anyone from jumping the fence and running inside.

Within the building around 200 people were sitting on the stairs and within the lower section of the library. English students who had been working downstairs were forced to move to the upper section. This was in order to allow those fighting for education to speak.

Everything was discussed with the collective bargaining discussion ‘jazz hands’ method. Starting off with a ‘why are we here and why are we occupying’ (might be better to work that out earlier on?) it went through to discussing the health and safety implications of barricading the doors. Like every socialist state they needed a strong leader. A few middle-aged librarians sat around with bemused smiles.

Someone turned up with some very tasty Tesco Bakery Gouda Croissants and a large bag on mini tomatoes. The ubiquitous SWP started selling their newspapers. And after a while the children from Cherwell school went back home.

Despite the security presence on the door there was (reasonably) free movement of people in and out of the building. The police were quite happy to stand guard outside and concentrate on preventing more people joining the protest, searching every person on the way out. Faced with spending an afternoon listening to endless debates I left.

On the way out I was searched by police under section one of PACE Act. Despite declining to give my name/address they – quite neatly – used a dubious claim that ‘credit cards have been reported stolen’ to go through my wallet and read my ID.

In the People’s Republic of the Radical Camera every meal will be a feast! (Of yummy Tesco croissants.)

A day later a rump of protesters are still inside with a soundsystem, demanding the University issue a declaration promising never to go private and that they oppose all cuts. Whatever the rights and wrongs (and I’d suggest a good read of this IFS analysis of the Browne Report) the view amongst the average Oxford student is probably: sympathy for the cause, initial shock at what they’ve done and the sudden infuriating realisation that we cannot access any of the centrally-held books that we require. There are also moments of humour as it comes to an end.

An intriguing mix: ‘Aid to Africa’ and Free Education. The £7billion the UK spend on overseas aid has been ring-fenced while education funding has not.

But right now they are occupying the English section of the library a few days before English Lit finalists have their coursework due in. And what are they doing with that space? Having a party. They need to work on the PR aspects of this:

In the words of my good friend Richard James Foster (a no-nonsense son of Accrington): “We’re breeding a generation of Geoff Hoons.”

Update: An invite to a Free University is doing the rounds. Apparently the protestors oppose “all public sector cuts”. Every single one of them without consideration? Bonkers. Judging by the comments on the event wall they have angered an awful lot of students who are trying to work.

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Newspaper Review: “i” from The Independent

I’m a media geek with a penchant for borrowed nostalgia; an obsessive Twitter user with a love of newsprint. And despite doing my best to write for national publications I’ve, ahem, fallen out of the habit of paying for the damn things.

Battle of the breakfast table: the family divides

i“, the new slimline version of The Independent, is an attempt to capture my generation – an age bracket that haven’t so much stopped buying newspapers as were never introduced to the habit. Amongst friends here at Oxford I’d suggest that written news intake is roughly 50% BBC News website, 20% Guardian website, 10% Daily Mail website [those pap pics are so addictive] and 10% links from Facebook with the rest split between picking up a newspaper in the common room and assorted blogs.

Paper sales to individual students are almost non-existent: newsagents are for chocolate and fags.

It’s a bold decision to launch a new newspaper now, especially one that forks a core product. The Independent costs £1, already has an established readership and enjoys strong brand recognition. The new version is a financial and brand risk. I want it to succeed, both as a reward for Lebedev’s chutzpah and in the hope that someone can find a working model for a modern newspaper. So can “i” convince me to pop into the newsagents every morning? Let’s see:

  • The pitch
  • “Colourful and accessible, concise and intelligent, it’s your essential daily briefing”.
    So far, so Metro. But if the words have weight behind them then I’m interested. By the time I get to the newsagents to buy a copy I’ll probably have scanned the BBC News headlines on my BlackBerry and know what’s going on. If I pay, I want content that I can’t get for free on my phone. If it contains more than agency copy then I’ll be tempted to buy it for a journey: anything to escape the cute animal pics and dreary writing found in the freesheets.

    Phwoar, check out that new publication

  • Name
    A hard pitch since it has to retain the link with the parent newspaper but emphasise youth, brevity and the like. I reckon it’s a grower. But there’s a few problems: one of them is the complete inability to Google the paper. Another is that asking someone whether they saw “that story in i yesterday” doesn’t roll off the tongue. And crucially I’m still not sure how to type it: bold, italicised, however I like it? Even the Indy’s own website struggles with the formatting:
  • The price
  • I hesitate before paying a quid for a weekday newspaper and I adore the things: for most students paying anything for news is a strange concept. It’s not the price: it’s the fact it requires any money to exchange hands or effort to obtain. Added to which in student areas The Times and Indy are often available at heavily discounted prices – when I lived in Manchester I never paid more than 30p for a copy of The Guardian. The Oxford Union has all the quality nationals available at similar prices.

A lengthy report on new historical discoveries in German archives (left) becomes a NIB in i (right). I’d be worried if I was a foreign correspondent at IN&M.

  • Marketing
    If it it were not for my close-reading of MediaGuardian then I would never have heard of it. I’m not sure how I’d sell it to less media-aware friends. The man who runs Amit & Ajatores newsagent on Cowley Road was equally bemused: “What is it? It arrived this morning without any warning. At first I thought I was supposed to put copies of it inside The Independent.”
  • First impressions
    Ultra-colourful, a cheerful design and the most eye catching headline asks “Is Bert gay?” – it’s definitely more at home in the mid-market. But it’s 56 pages for 20p with a few articles that are worth that alone. 

    There’s a bit too much of the ‘wacky graphics boxes’ and entertainment news but it suits the market.

    It’s also pretty clear that i isn’t in competition with its mother paper.

Same words, different article. i on the left, Indy on the right.

  • Design
    While the matriarch has chosen to go all black-and-white for its relaunch (just to emphasise the difference, today’s Indy has a ponderous Robert Fisk article on its cover, beneath a a chunky stone tablet), in design terms  i is midway between Metro and The Evening Standard. 

    There’s a bit too much of the former’s reliance on stock photos of celebs but they’ve squeezed some quality content into the colourful mould – almost as though they’re trying to trick the audience.

  • Content
    Mainly sliced ‘n’ diced versions of Indy news stories, edited down to fit. The subbing changes are telling. Emphasis is moved to the start. More adjectives in the opening line. The final 200 words of waffling context is always lopped off. 

    Johann Hari’s piece entitled “Why Obama disappoints us so much” gains a chunky colour photo of the man, loses a few hundred words and becomes “I wept when Obama was elected. So why do I feel let down now?”

    Exclusive content includes a two page feature on Mel Gibson’s recent travails.

    While the main paper has a two page science feature on a new collection of preserved prehistoric insects, i has a similar-sized health spread imploring us to try ‘thinking like a child’.

    Lengthy letters from worthy dons have been replaced with Tweets, texts and brief emails.

  • What’s missing
    The politics. Swathes of The Indy‘s news section dealing with the funding gaps, pensions and the fine print of the Spending Review don’t make the cut, even in edited form. 

    Comment only manages to get one article across the divide – though it’s pleasant to read a fairly well argued piece in a true tabloid.

    Most of the stuff that is in broadsheets for no better reason than it always has been – think chess columns, horse racing form, obituaries – is out.

    Anything lengthy. I want a bit more meat on my stories, more than the headline and some background. There just isn’t much in the way of analysis or content to pieces beyond the headline and opening couple of paragraphs. It’s a 20-minute read.

The much-vaunted ‘news matrix’ is quite easy to skip: but it does create a feeling that ‘stuff is happening’. Not really aimed at the news junkie: you’ll probably have already seen most of it elsewhere.

  • The future
    Remember the mp3 chart? Launched in 2004 it was an attempt to register sales of digital downloads, separately from the physical release-only Singles Chart. It was quickly apparent that the division was completely arbitrary and within a year the two were merged, with digital downloads now making up over 95% of sales. 

    Given that there was discussion of The Indy following Lebedev’s Evening Standard and going free nationwide, it’s hard to see i as anything other than a stop-gap to a future merger – a way of testing the water for a heavily discounted (or free) relaunch of the main paper at some point in the near future.

    The Independent, once every graphic designer’s dream paper, has become a more authorial read – but to to tell the truth, it feels quite heavy going in comparison. I envisage sort of halfway house between the two papers with a briefer news in the style of i with the lovingly produced Viewspaper supplement in the middle.

I doubt I’ll be buying it regularly – probably only if I’m on a short journey. But there’s potential to get i right, especially on commuter routes outside the saturated South-East. And don’t be surprised if the main paper smartly follows its lead at the first hint that this business model could work. Good luck to them. And, er, gizza job?

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The Queen in Dublin for Totally Dublin Issue 73.
Click on the first image for a WALLPAPER SIZED VERSION.

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Dream: Casiotone for the Painfully Alone

Owen Ashworth bringing lo-fi to Zyblikiewicza.
(for Totally Dublin Issue 72)

(The keyboard’s wrong. I dreamt it that way. So it’s ok because I am being accurate to my dream.)

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Rip It Up and Start Again: York Development Plan of 1948

As part of my dissertation I’m working on some of the hairbrained schemes to redevelop my hometown of York. This fantastic document was commissioned during WW2 as a masterplan for the city – a beautifully printed vision of the future. There’ll be more bits and pieces from this project in the coming months.

In 1948 the city grandees felt that York was missing out. It was an ancient city that was rich in architecture but filled with poverty, still reliant on the Victorian industries of railways and chocolate. It was time for progress and reform. A committee was formed. A plan was proposed. It was completely nuts. From the smug comfort of the current city – where just about everything is connected to heritage – it’s a hilarious dystopia.

The predominant problem was that there was nowhere for cars to go in the medieval streets. And those lovely Victorian and Georgian terraces around the city walls were considered old-fashioned and unsuitable. So it was proposed to clear a large swathe of the city, put in a ring road and leave the ancient settlement as one of the world’s biggest traffic islands. The demolished area would be left as a combination of green space, playing fields and municipal facilities. Modern mid-rise housing with ample car access would be built around the edges of this green belt and would replace the (much desired in 2010) residential buildings.

If your house is in green (mine is) then it would be demolished – only St Mary’s Abbey and Bootham Park Hospital would survive, so goodbye to the railway station. The blue line is the route of the new expressway. And if your house is under one of those pins then you’d currently be below a substantial roundabout: this was a plan to turn one of the world’s best-preserved cities into Milton Keynes. The plans rumbled on until the early 1970’s, by which time it was apparent that similar schemes had caused irreparable damage to the likes of Salisbury and Gloucester. It was only the incompetence and inactivity of the local authorities that saved York.

Still, would have made driving easier.

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Searching for a meaning: A dozen songs about places I love

Songs always become linked to specific locations in my head – be it the first time I heard it or the person I was with at the time. But others have a head start. Here’s twelve songs about places I love.

1. The Parachute Men – Leeds Station

Like any level-headed and popular fourteen year old circa 2004 I used to bulk-buy NME compilation tapes from the late ’80s. They were full of serviceable janglepop songs such as this one which took on some significance after I spent a bitterly cold November night on the Leeds Station concourse while trying to get home from a British Sea Power gig. The platform clock is still burnt into my retinas after watching it tick through every second from 2am to 5am. All the while this song rattled around my head as I attempted to sync it with chattering teeth.

I guess their thought process went something like: “Right lads, our career’s on the up but we need a hit. Let’s record a song that speaks to the ordinary man…yeah, just sing about an incredibly grim 1960s transport hub.”

2. The Fall – Edinburgh Man

Yeah, Yeah, so you did the grating, painful, challenging stuff. Then you met Brix and went pop. And now you find that the North-West has become the coolest place in the music world. So what do you do if you’re Mark E. Smith in 1989? Bugger off to Leith and knock-out well-produced albums that feature approximations of actual singing. [See also: Bill Is Dead.] The ultimate Salford resident wrote one of his best songs about a love of the Scottish capital.

It’s one of my favourite places: tenements cascading down the volcanic rock, wide streets that suck in light and astonishing views around every corner. Sit on top of Calton Hill and listen to this while taking in the Forth Rail Bridge, the Scott Memorial and Easter Road and attempt to understand how the city fits together.

[Watch Mark talk about the city]

3. Half Man Half Biscuit – The Light At The End Of The Tunnel (Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train)

Nigel Blackwell celebrates unloved Britain better than anyone else – and did it two decades before anyone started writing quirky off-piste travel pieces about alternative destinations. There’s endless songs to choose from:  “We Built This Village on a Trad. Arr. Tune” is my rural upbringing in musical form while “Mathematically Safe” is both the greatest love song ever and has a reference to the Cumbrian monastic village of Cartmel.

But to have a song that includes a shout-along advertising slogan about a small Peak District settlement? A place that’s mainly notable for the overwhelming stench from the nearby Parma Violets factory? That’s good going. Altogether now, “No Frills! Handy for the Hills! That’s the way you spell ‘New Mills’!”

[For a better quality studio version try Spotify]

4. The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu – It’s Grim Up North

York. A64. Slipways. Driving. Passed Test. M62. Pounding music. Service station. Leeds. Batley. Dewsbury. Change the CD. Cleckhuddersfax. Over the damn. Under the bridge. Lanes divide. Stott Hall Farm. Up. Summit. Down. Milnrow. M60. Bury. Salford. Manchester.

Are all in the north. I like driving up north.

5. Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Roadrunner

…and I like travelling all over the place. One of the world’s worst earworms, a creature that winds its way around your brain for hours as you hum it under your breath and only punctuated by the odd subconscious shout of “Radio On”. It’s the soundtrack of movement and of pushing on towards the destination. It worked when I was singing it with Tommy Ogden as we pounded along a seemingly endless stretch of the beautiful Pennnine Way. And it worked when I was driving to Torquay on a Friday night to watch York City lose.

6. Elbow – Station Approach

That feeling of being away for a few months and then being overwhelmed by the comforting embrace of home – finding you can walk the familiar city without thinking and recognise the streets through your soles.

Pull into Piccadilly station, look over to the Star & Garter and recall being chucked out at 3am, give a nod to the crumbling Victorian Fire Station on your left, head down the approach ramp past the bloke hawking copies of the M.E.N., turn right onto the cobbles past the Golftorium (“Manchester’s leading Indoor Golf Bar, Pictures of Stella only £9”) , head over the Rochdale canal where Britain’s industrial dominance began, go into the Jolly Angler pub where there’ll be a pint of Hyde’s at £2.20 and Granada Reports on the TV. Sit down.

7. Pulp – Wickerman

I’ve always had a propensity for wandering around ruins and jumping around abandoned industrial sites. Jarvis is talking about a trip through the heart of Sheffield but it applies to any area where industrial waters sink and rise, railway arches cross over the path and flecks of resilient wildlife appear amongst the shopping trollies. To me it’s walking the grubby paths around Gorton industrial estates that transform into the gentrified towpath around Jutland Street, then heading past the Gay Village where rentboys once used the unlit route to supply their wares and on past Castlefield towards the endless new flats in North Hulme.

8. Billy Bragg – A New England

A song I’d always liked but never adored, until I had the briefest of chats with Billy Bragg. He told me that he’d spotted the “two shooting stars” that inspired him to write the song while walking past the Chemistry block at my old school. The same place where twenty years later I’d had my first kiss by the fume cupboard extractor fans. Oh, the youthful taste of sulphur dioxide…

9. Iggy Pop – The Passenger

I’ve written about my love of Berlin before and this always puts me in the mood for trundling over the S-Bahn rails from Warschauer Straße to  Zoo Station with a bottle of Beck’s Green Lemon.

10. Pet Shop Boys – King’s Cross

Way before JK Rowling inadvertently wrote about the wrong London Terminus I found King’s Cross magical. It was the portal into the foreign country of London, a bizarre place full of strange accents and odd people that was well removed from North Yorkshire. The annual trip down with my parents was a big event and there was a real thrill as the emerged out of that long tunnel, past the gas holders and pulled into King’s Cross.

We’d be off to visit some attraction or meet some friends but the station was amazing in itself. The enormous engines that carried us down would be lined up at the buffers, humming under the great canopy. And it was an impossibly busy place with people rushing in every direction, accompanied by the clackety-clack of the old departure board that rattled through every possible station – Leicester, Lincoln, Luton – before finally reaching ‘York’ and revealing our platform.

A few years later I discover King’s Cross was essentially a crap area full of prostitutes, drugs and poverty. Way to go, Neil Tennant.

11. Saint Etienne – Teenage Winter

One of the most underrated pop groups writes a misanthropic monologue full of regret, love and non-League football. Yeah, I’m in for descriptions of real people; of changing habits and dying communities.

Gary can’t believe the Claremont Road pitch is going to be covered in executive housing /He talks about the Newcastle game, Boncho’s debut, / but Tony can hardly hear him.”

It’s from a vaguely concept-album entitled “Tales from Turnpike House”, a name that meant nothing to me until I was wandering around Islington last month and saw said building, a prominent tower block stuck in no-mans land by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Beautifully mundane source material for perfect pop songs.

12. Malcolm Middleton – Ryanair Song

Aka the “One that’s basically about me”. The beautiful and wonderful developments that enables us to fly around the world also screws us up – it allows us to grow attached to things that should be beyond our reach. Because you CAN fall in love with people in different countries, because you CAN pop over to Stockholm to catch up with old friends, because you CAN just about afford an away day to see a gig in Berlin… because you can, I did.

Which condemns you to a life playing hard-ball with Ryanair. I’ve taken around forty flights with them in the previous eighteen months. It’s become a mundane, dopey ritual to head around Europe in search of new thrills. Grab the five pound flight, turn up wearing seven layers of clothes and push on through to the other side.

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IoS: Let undergraduates into All Souls

The Independent on Sunday subs are at it again. It’s not on the same scale as last week’s wanky balls incident there’s another inadvertant slip in the photo caption. Though it’s just a bit of bad luck.

Above a fairly standard article regarding the lack of University entitled ‘Limits on student numbers must be lifted, say heads’ they’ve plonked a nice picture of an Oxford College.

It’s just shame that they chose All Souls College, probably the only University establishment in the UK that hasn’t got around to recruiting any students in the last couple of centuries.

As for the caption, if record numbers are applying to such institutions then it’s no suprise that so many are getting rejected. Exclusive research for This Is Pop reveals that 10/10 applicants can’t find All Souls on their UCAS form.

It does inadvertantly raise the point that there is the ability to squeeze a few more students in Oxford. All Souls currently grants recognition to two Oxford grads a year, allowing them to join around eighty other academics in reaping the rewards of this elaborate, £236-million endowed dining society high class educational establishment. If we all have to do our bit to help the educational crisis they could probably increase their intake by, say, 50%. To three.

Incidentally, the new look IoS is worth a read if you get a chance. A nice alternative to the slightly po-faced Observer and the rabid anger over at The Sunday Times.

[All Souls did debate becoming ‘just another’ Graduate-only college in the late 1940s but John Sparrow fought off those who questioned any use of educational funds for this strange instituion, instilled some real academic rigour and let Isiah Berlin carry the college’s name. Due to some clerical quirk I was taught there last term. Got strange looks every time I walked in, on account of being under fifty.]

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Illustrations: Summertime

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