Scotland's Euro 2024 songsmiths must get cracking - let's have a (good) tune for Germany

Impact can be muted on the pitch – but let’s make a summer hit off it

The death the other day of Christian, Scots showbiz redoubtable, had me revving up YouTube for the Top of the Pops performance of “We Have a Dream”, the official World Cup song for our brave boys’ tilt at Espana 82.

It was just as I remembered it: Christian in his kilt maintaining a steady swaying beat while the players maintained an unsteady out-of-time lurch, among them John Robertson and John Wark in tartan bunnets and Steve Archibald and Asa Hartford waving a Lion Rampant. And here we should pause for a moment to reflect: whit a team we had back then!

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Reports of Christian’s passing – he was onstage at Fauldhouse MIners’ Welfare Club just 48 hours before, blowing up an amplifier, a trouper to the end – included his revelation that the guys had been drinking all day leading up to TOTP. Whit a bunch of bevvy-merchants! We’ll never see their likes again. But will we ever hear again a tournament-bound tartan squad warbling a choon officially penned for them as they strike out for the promised land of qualifying from blinkin’ group-stage?

Scottish singer and pantomime star Chris McClure, known by his stage name Christian, has died aged 80.Scottish singer and pantomime star Chris McClure, known by his stage name Christian, has died aged 80.
Scottish singer and pantomime star Chris McClure, known by his stage name Christian, has died aged 80.

Was there a song for the last Euros? Admit it, you can’t remember either. I checked and a ditty called “A Long Time Coming” popped up. Never heard it, and nearly never did, with the young composers, brothers Conor and Tommy Reilly, forgetting that BBC Scotland had commissioned them and so having to bash out something over a weekend. It’s – classic Scottish commendation – not bad. Power-pop in the fine traditions of Teenage Fanclub, and I particularly like the couplet: “All those times it nearly happened/Italy, Paris, James McFadden.” Shame, then, it didn’t get more airplay.

There were no players from Euro 2020 involved and the practice of football teams being hustled into recording studios, with the least melodious voices plonked nearest the microphones, seems over. I guess the modern player thinks it all a bit silly. That he couldn’t do it without first downing a few drinks, which footballers could get away with in 1982 but not now they’re all impeccable role-model athletes.

That’s a shame because Scotland has always been at the forefront of football songs, even when our players haven’t been at the forefront of tournaments. The very first was “World Cup Willie”, written and sung for England in 1966 by Glasgow-born king of skiffle Lonnie Donegan. Scots well remember how that tournament panned out. And, regarding the final’s 101st minute, they might think that songs from much later such as “Have I Crossed the Line?” (Tatu), “Don’t Cross That Line” (Picco), “We Never Cross the Line” (from Shane Warne: the Musical) and “Never Cross That Line” (The Guy Who Sings Songs About Cities & Towns) spoke of a terrible, tormenting truth.

I don’t think Bobby Moore & Co were roped into a rendition of “World Cup Willie” but four years later before jetting off to Mexico to defend the trophy the team donned dinner suits for Top of the Pops and the stirring “Back Home” – composers Phil Coulter and another son of Glasgow, Bill Martin.

I interviewed Martin shortly before he died in 2020 – a gruff Govan character, no respecter of reputations and a hoot. He insisted “Back Home” was properly the first of its kind and said of “World Cup Willie”: “That was a piece of rubbish! And Lonnie didn’t like to let on that he came from Glasgow. He cultivated a cockney image.”

“Back Home” was written in just half an hour – pretty standard for the skilled craftsmen behind “Puppet on a String”, the UK’s first triumph at the Eurovision Song Contest, and the Bay City Rollers’ stack-heeled stompers. Could they get the England team to sing it? Martin: “I went to see Sir Alf [Ramsey] who by the way was a real cockney and learned to talk posh. He was horrified. ‘My boys are elite sportsmen, not performing seals - how dare you!’ I knew he had a sibling who was a big drinker so I said: ‘Well, your brother thought it was a great idea in the pub last night … ’”

The song was a smash, shifting 100,000 copies a day. Martin wanted England to win the World Cup, adding: “I may be Scottish but this was business.” West Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller, though, ensured Ramsey’s men would soon be reunited with “the folks back home”. Martin had been fantasising about the song staying top of the Hit Parade for the rest of 1970 and knighthoods for him and Coulter. “But after England lost we couldn’t even give away the records as ashtrays.”

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Yes, pop can be brutal, as Andy Cameron discovered in 1978. His “Ally’s Tartan Army” climbed to No 6 in the charts before the team left for Argentina. Then, right after the loss to Peru the comic took the stage at Bannockburn’s Tartan Arms. “This voice rang out: ‘Wee man, tell all the jokes you want but if you sing that f****n’ song you’re right oot the windae.’ Cameron, as he told me, got caught up in the World Cup post-mortem. “A bloke in [Glasgow’s] Argyle Street shouted: ‘Why did Derek Johnstone no’ get a game?’ ‘How would I know,’ I said. ‘You should: you sang that f****n’ song!’”

Our football minstrels can’t win. Instead of comedy for France 98, Del Amitri went with a heartfelt ballad, but “Don’t Come Home Too Soon” still heaped ridicule on singer Justin Currie. Was it really that bad? The YouTube comments suggest not. The video, watched again, Colin Hendry dribbling through Prestwick Airport, makes me smile. So come on, songsmiths, get composing.



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