What does ‘football’s coming home’ mean? Origin of England football phrase - and lyrics to Three Lions song

There’s no sign of the chant dying, especially since Atomic Kitten released a Gareth Southgate remix ‘Football’s Coming Home Again’ ahead of the Euro 2020 semi-final

It’s the phrase that Scottish football fans are undoubtedly sick of hearing.

“It’s coming home” has been the familiar chant of England supporters since it was sung by the Lightning Seeds, Frank Skinner and David Baddiel in their “Three Lions” anthem for Euro ‘96.

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And the phrase is undergoing another surge in popularity after Atomic Kitten released a remix of their hit 2001 single “Whole Again” for Euro 2020, titled: “Southgate You’re the One”.

Three Lions found a new life in 2018 when England reached the semi-final of the World Cup in Russia (Getty Images)

England fans have inevitably gone crazy for the new tune, which was released this week, while most Scots will be gritting their teeth when it’s played.

But what does “football’s coming home” actually mean?

Here’s what you need to know about the origins of the phrase.

Did the phrase come from the Three Lions song?

The Three Lions song, written by comedians Baddiel and Skinner and performed with rock band the Lightning Seeds, is credited with fuelling the widespread use of the phrase.

It was penned in 1996 to be the official England song of the Euros tournament that year, and it went on to top the UK singles chart when it was initially released.

The anthem found a new life in 2018 when England reached the semi-final of the World Cup in Russia. Of course, it failed to “come home” when Gareth Southgate’s side finished fourth after a 2-0 loss to Belgium.

For that reason, the song is also seen as representing fans’ consistent optimism, despite England’s past failures at major tournaments.

But what does the phrase actually mean?

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What does ‘football’s coming home’ mean?

In the song, the words “it’s coming home” are repeated throughout.

It was first and foremost a reference to Euro ‘96 being held in England. Baddiel and Skinner were nodding to the fact that the major competition was being hosted in the country that supposedly invented the game.

Yet while it is widely believed that England is indeed the home of football, many fans of the game contest that - especially Scots.

Before the first football clubs emerged in England in the 19th century, there are records of people kicking around a pig’s bladder in villages hundreds of years before that.

And during the medieval period games were played in towns that involved rival squads violently playing against each other, known as “folkball”.

But people in Scotland may have been playing the modern ball game for 500 years after it started within the clan system.

Leading historian Ged O’Brien, who is the founder of the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park, has said “football is Scotland’s game”.

In an interview with the Scotsman, he claimed clan members played it in churchyards in the north of Scotland and then brought the game to Glasgow in the 1860s when they founded Queen’s Park Football Club, who played at Hampden Park.

The Scots then took the game to England and the rest of the world, according to Mr O’Brien.

Indeed, no matter what you think about football’s origins, there’s no arguing with the fact that “it’s coming home” refers to England bringing a trophy back to where many believe the game was born.

In this case, the chant refers to Southgate’s team winning the Euros trophy.

And as anticipation builds before Sunday’s (11 July) England v Italy final, the phrase is becoming a widespread internet meme.

What are the lyrics to the Three Lions song?

It’s been chanted so much this Euros that you are probably well aware of the lyrics to the famous song.

But for the uninitiated, they are:

It's coming home

It's coming home

It's coming

Football's coming home (x3)

Everyone seems to know the score

They've seen it all before

They just know

They're so sure

That England's gonna throw it away

Gonna blow it away

But I know they can play

'Cause I remember

Three Lions on a shirt

Jules Rimet still gleaming

Thirty years of hurt

Never stopped me dreaming

So many jokes, so many sneers

But all those oh-so-nears

Wear you down

Through the years

But I still see that tackle by Moore

And when Linekar scored

Bobby belting the ball

And Nobby Dancing…

Three Lions on a shirt

Jules Rimet still gleaming

Thirty years of hurt

Never stopped me dreaming

(What a save, Gordon Banks!

(Good old England, England that couldn't play football)

(England have got it in the bag)

I know that was then but it could be again

It's coming home

It's coming

Football's coming home (x3)

Three Lions on a shirt (it's coming home, it's coming)

Jules Rimet still gleaming (football's coming home, it's coming home)

Thirty years of hurt (it's coming home, it's coming)

Never stopped me dreaming (football's coming home)

Three Lions on a shirt (it's coming home, it's coming)

Jules Rimet still gleaming (football's coming home, it's coming home)

Thirty years of hurt (it's coming home, it's coming)

Never stopped me dreaming (football's coming home)

Three Lions on a shirt (it's coming home, it's coming)

Jules Rimet still gleaming (football's coming home, it's coming home)

Thirty years of hurt (it's coming home, it's coming)

Never stopped me dreaming (football's coming home)

Three Lions on a shirt.

What about the lyrics to the new Atomic Kitten song?

Since the Atomic Kitten song was released, its popularity seems to have overtaken that of the original Three Lions anthem.

The pop group released their remix with “a Euros 2020 twist” especially for England fans.

But the song had already become a crowd anthem at games before it dropped as a single, with fans replacing the lyrics with the new “football’s coming home” ones themselves.

The lyrics basically involve replacing any “whole again” lines with “football’s coming home again”.

And the new chorus is: “Looking back on when we first met/ I cannot escape and I cannot forget/ Southgate you’re the one/ You still turn me on/ Football’s coming home again.”

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