It’s football on TV (again) tonight and despite England’s somewhat lacklustre performance against Scotland, Mr B and I will be watching. I will, as usual, be playing the part of a pundit (think Gary Lineker)
while Mr B will be telling me to please keep quiet while play is underway. Though he may not be as polite as that...
Be that as it may, I think I have come up
with an answer - based on an old pamphlet I have found, dating back to April 6th 1957. For those of you who weren’t born then, and for anyone who can’t think that far back, that was the date of an England - Scotland fixture at the “Empire
Stadium Wembley.” There is a drawing of the famous two towers (now no more) on the front cover while a colourful Union Jack takes up the whole of the back page.
But it’s the inside content which has attracted my attention, because this is the Community Singing song sheet produced by the Daily Express. Community Singing - that’s what we need! My Singing for Pleasure choir, having been denied the
right to singalong together for so many months, would definitely back me up on this.
I’m sure you want to know what the crowd was singing on that April Saturday
while the two teams were limbering up in their respective dressing rooms. It was a programme to cheer the soul of everyone watching, either there in person or watching on TV in their living rooms, starting with Jolly Good Company. You know the one, it starts
“Here we are again / happy as can be.”
There is a clever mix of songs to satisfy the Scots - Loch Lomond, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean and Annie
Laurie - plus others for the English fans like Heart of Oak, Land of Hope and Glory. Perhaps reflecting on the fact that one team will probably win and one team will lose, the crowd will be encouraged to warble Que Sera (“whatever will be, will be”)
and a song I’ve never heard of called Good Companions, which includes the immortal lines: “There’s always room for two, so try in all you do / to see the other fellow’s point of view.” This, I suspect, might be a tall order every
time there is a disputed penalty...
Some songs have rousing choruses, just the ticket for a footie match - John Brown’s Body (“Glory, glory, hallelujah!)
Clementine, All Nice Girls Love a Sailor and She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain. There are a couple I’ve never heard of, notably Riding on a Rainbow. I thought that might just be a song for our modern times but the words are all about children
dancing through daisy fields with rose-buds in their hair, before riding on a rainbow to a new land far away. No community singing would be the same, of course, without Auld Lang Syne and the National Anthem. I am a little surprised at the omission of Abide
with Me, which I always thought was the ultimate football anthem, the one we all sang gustily on Cup Final day in front of our small TV screen with my footie-mad Dad.
The twelfth of the twenty songs purports to be The Football Chorus, with such memorable lines as “On the ball England / Scotland (choose as appropriate), take it down. Don’t stop for half-backs, you can waltz them round. On the wing; down
the w8ng; send it forward with a swing, On the ball England / Scotland (as above), take it down!”
It’s truly stirring stuff, don’t you agree?
I suggest to Mr B that maybe we should try a bit of community singing before tonight’s match? The Youngest of the Darling Daughters will be here so, if he doesn’t fancy it, then I can sing along with her? Mr B looks at me, askance.
“Please don’t!” he says.
Or words to that effect...