If German football fans started singing a song which included the lyrics ‘football’s coming home’ prior to a major international tournament, we’d probably call them arrogant – so why’s it ok for us England fans to do it?
The song became the soundtrack to England’s Euro 96 campaign before being slightly rejigged two years later ahead of the 1998 World Cup.
Comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner – presenters of popular 90s football show ‘Fantasy Football League’ – teamed up with Liverpool based rock band The Lightning Seeds to produce the track, and it didn’t take long for it to capture the hearts of the English public.
‘Three Lions’ rocketed to the number one spot in the UK charts where it remained for two weeks, before doing likewise two years later during France 98.
Such was the track’s success, following England’s first win of the tournament against Scotland at Wembley, ‘Three Lions’ was bellowed down the PA system at full-time – despite requests from the FA not to do so as they felt it would whip the crowd into a frenzy and raise tensions even further (they were right) – with all in attendance singing along like it was karaoke night at the local pub.
But what is it about the song that made it – in fact, makes it – so endearing?
First of all, it was a celebration of the fact England had finally been granted the opportunity to host a major international tournament for the first time since 1966. At last, after 30 years we were finally welcoming our national game home – but that doesn’t explain why it’s so popular still to this day?
The argument that the song’s all about England finally securing another international tournament is weak at best (you only have to listen to the lyrics to know that much). The real reason behind the song is England are finally going to win another tournament – not host one.
And yet, it’s used as a way of almost laughing at ourselves. Seldom will you catch an England fan say ‘football’s coming home’ without a beaming smile on their face and usually a pint in their hand.
The truth is we know football’s not coming home and we know we’ll ultimately be let down, but why not kid ourselves and have a bit of fun in the meantime?
Singing ‘Three Lions’ before and during international tournaments has become a way for fans of the England national team to laugh at ourselves, while deep down harbouring the tiniest hope that it might actually come true – we can’t tell anyone we think that though otherwise it won’t happen, but they’re thinking it too.
It seems almost ridiculous to suggest a song can express a personality trait of a whole fan base but that’s exactly what ‘Three Lions’ does, and that’s why it’s become so famous and so adored in England.
And it wasn’t just the English fans that took ‘Three Lions’ to their heart at Euro 96. Alan Shearer has since revealed that Paul Gascoigne – one of the stars of the tournament – would wake the entire England team up every morning by blasting the track out of his hotel window before playing it on repeat as the team coach approached Wembley. What a man.
You don’t even have to have been alive to know how England’s Euro 96 campaign ended.
Obviously it all ended in tears as Terry Venables’ side were dumped out at the semi-final stage by Germany on penalties in a scenario not too dissimilar to one referenced on ‘Three Lions’ back in the 1990 World Cup.
As if we thought we actually had a chance.
But in a weird way, the day England do win a major international tournament again will spell the end of ‘Three Lions’ and that’ll be a horrible thing to have to admit. Imagine Germany fans singing those lyrics having won a World Cup in 2014 – it just wouldn’t work.
It’s the hurt, it’s the pain, it’s the optimism, it brings absolutely every single England fan together and as much as being rubbish sucks, at least we can laugh at ourselves and have a decent singalong while we’re doing it.