11 of the worst ever England football songs, ranked: from Ant and Dec to Chico

Ant and Dec briefly resurrected their music career to release ‘We’re on the Ball’ for Euro 2002  (PA)
Ant and Dec briefly resurrected their music career to release ‘We’re on the Ball’ for Euro 2002 (PA)

England has a proud tradition of rousing football anthems – and a rather less proud history of coming up with some absolutely nightmarish novelty tracks.

Not every song released to mark an international tournament can be a euphoric banger like New Order’s “World In Motion” or a singalong classic like “Three Lions”. And for every vaguely credible effort, you’ll find several naff cover versions stuffed with slapdash references to Eng-er-land, or songs that are so awful, they’re more likely to fill the squad with a deep existential sadness rather than spur them on to glory.

As Euro 2024 kicks off in Germany, these are some tracks that you might want to avoid if you’re making a pre-match playlist…

11. ‘We’re On the Ball’ by Ant and Dec (2002)

Ant and Dec’s track was given the FA’s seal of approval (PA)
Ant and Dec’s track was given the FA’s seal of approval (PA)

The artists formerly known as PJ and Duncan briefly resurrected their music career to bring us the England team’s official World Cup anthem for Korea/Japan 2002. The Geordie duo do their very best speak-singing as they attempt to pull off dodgy lyrics (“the cup of Eastern promise in the land of the rising sun”) and cram as many references to Emile Heskey as possible into a three-minute track.

The finished product manages to be both incredibly inane and horribly catchy: after revisiting this for the first time in more than two decades, I’m now genuinely worried that the commentary-style post-chorus section (Ant or Dec yelling “Rio to Scholesy, Scholsey Gerrard!”) has become deeply embedded into the furthest recesses of my brain. Listen at your own peril.

10. ‘England Crazy’ by Rider and Terry Venables (2002)

Years after his tenure as England manager, Terry Venables took on a very different duty: providing crooner-ish vocals on “England Crazy”, a collaboration with the pop band Rider. It was far from the first time that El Tel had sung his heart out in the name of football: he’d famously featured on Tottenham’s FA Cup final songs in his playing days (plus, he was known to love singing Frank Sinatra covers).

The overall feel is akin to something that might have cropped up during Big Band week on The X Factor – there’s nothing wrong with it, exactly, but it’s not exactly the stuff that sets a football crowdalight. It eventually charted at number 46, but that didn’t put off Venables. A few years later, after his stint helping out Steve McClaren during England’s doomed Euro 2008 qualification campaign, he released a cover of Elvis Presley’s “If I Can Dream”. This time, though, he brought out the big guns: backing vocals from Ian Wright and Harry Redknapp.

9. ‘Shout’ by Dizzee Rascal and James Corden (2010)

A cover of Tears For Fears’ “Shout” that is somehow a cover of Blackstreet’s No Diggity at the same time, with that great ye olde English terrace chant “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough” thrown in for good measure post-chorus? There is certainly a lot (in fact, you might argue, far too much) going on in Dizzee Rascal and James Corden’s 2010 effort.

Dizzee was then riding high off the ubiquity of crossover hits like “Dance Wiv Me” and “Bonkers”. Corden was still best known as Gavin & Stacey’s football-mad Smithy, the sort of character who greets his best mate by launching into an impromptu rendition of John Barnes’ “World In Motion” rap. It was, inevitably, Simon Cowell and his record label, Syco, who had the brainwave to bring them together.

“Shout” made it to number one, but it hasn’t aged well, with its lacklustre lyrics – references to “1966, Bobby Moore and that” and hectoring calls for the squad to “leave the WAGs alone” – and Corden shouting “oi!” over and over. Still, it can surely claim to be the only UK chart topper that name checks Aaron Lennon.

8. ‘Sing 4 England’ by Chris Kamara (2012)

Chris Kamara is a likeable chap, but that likability is doing some really heavy lifting in this underwhelming effort, which was released to mark Euro 2012. Kammy plods through some highly uninspired lyrics (“This is our time to prove them wrong / We’ll win if we stand strong”) before making an inevitable reference to his “unbelievable, Jeff!” catchphrase as he heads into one of about four shouty attempts at a chorus. It’s not the worst song on this list, but there’s a reason why this one has been all but forgotten.

7. ‘Greatest Day’ by Gary Barlow (2014)

After the dark days of South Africa 2010 – and its equally dreadful musical accompaniments – you can see why the FA might want to play it safe with England’s official song for the next World Cup. So who should they turn to but one Gary Barlow, the magnolia paint of British pop?

Barlow, fresh from providing the official Diamond Jubilee song by royal appointment a few years earlier, didn’t bother writing another stirring but polite anthem to mark the occasion. Instead, he phoned up ex-footballers (Gary Lineker, Michael Owen) and pop stars (Kimberley from Girls Aloud, Pixie Lott) and invited them to sing on a cover version of… a Take That song from 2008? Very thrifty of him.

The song debuted during the BBC’s Sport Relief charity telethon that March, but just a few months later, the track was “quietly dropped” as the FA’s preferred anthem. It didn’t even make it onto Wayne Rooney’s official tournament playlist.

6. ‘Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home)’ by The Squad (2010)

What’s “Three Lions” doing on a list of the worst ever football songs, you ask? Surely everyone can agree that it’s an all-timer? My answer is this: that all versions of “Three Lions” were not made equal, and that this naff 2010 re-record is the evil twin to the euphoric original. Imagine accidentally cuing up this version on Spotify by mistake pre-match: truly the poorest possible omen for England.

That year (seriously, what was in the water then?) David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and Ian Brodie were joined by Robbie Williams and – brace yourselves – Russell Brand to give their classic a refresh, ie make it exponentially worse. It kicks off with an OTT orchestral flourish and an intro sung by soprano Olivia Safe – unnecessary, but forgivable – before Brand gives the verse his then-trademark booky-wook Mockney mauling (“England’s gonna frow it away”). Worst of all, though? The grandiose motivational speech from commentator John Motson at the end.

5. ‘Come on England’ by 4-4-2 (2004)

Here’s another one for the “half-arsed cover version” bin. Novelty act 4-2-2 took “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners, swapped “Eileen” for “England” in the chorus, threw in some cringey lyrics that would be deemed insultingly simple even for a nursery rhyme (“one goal, two goals, three goals, four goals, five!”) and considered the job done. Inexplicably, this one somehow managed to chart at number two, an outcome we can only put down to Euros fever.

4. ‘Rasputin’ by Ricky Wilson and Freddie Flintoff

FIFA’s decision to let Russia host the 2018 World Cup was a controversial one. So what better way to sensitively mark this fraught occasion than by (checks notes) releasing a footy-themed cover of a Boney M song about the creepy monk who ingratiated himself with Russia’s royal family shortly before the country’s revolution? For reasons unknown, Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson teamed up with former cricketer Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff to release a version of “Rasputin” that pulls off the impressive feat of managing to be even weirder than the original.

The verse and most of the chorus was re-tooled to celebrate Harry Kane (“England’s got a goal machine”), but the references to Rasputin remained. No wonder Flintoff looks like he’s involved in a hostage situation in the video, glumly speak-singing like someone who’s just started to deeply regret their ambitious choice of karaoke song.

3. ‘England on the Way’ by Neil Morrissey (2010)

Was the year 2010 the absolute nadir of football songs? The evidence definitely points to that conclusion. “England on the Way” feels like a concept dreamt up in a pub garden after one too many pints and a dash of sunstroke: why not turn “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” into a football anthem? But while most people would agree to never speak of this terrible idea again, Neil Morrissey and England’s Pride (his backing band and co-conspirators in this godawful venture) decided to bring it to life then release it to the general public.

Morrissey (who, lest we forget, had previously lent his voice to not one but two number one singles in his capacity as Bob the Builder) sounds like a dad doing karaoke at a summer barbecue that got a bit out of hand as he does his roll call of players: “Rio, Ashley and big John Terry”.

Somehow, the accompanying music video makes the whole endeavour more tragic. Morrissey and his band perform on a rooftop decked out in flags that looked as thought someone had picked up from a supermarket clearance bin. They’re accompanied by a gang of models wearing St George’s Cross hot pants (on which the camera never misses an opportunity to linger) and doing some of the most rudimentary choreography ever committed to film.

2. ‘It’s England Time’ by Chico (2010)

In the summer of 2010, Chico Slimani had a premonition of a glorious victory. The X Factor runner-up had a vision in which Fabio Capello’s England squad won the Jules Rimet trophy – and then, in a yet more fanciful twist, the commentators namechecked his 2006 novelty single “It’s Chico Time”. Spurred on to make that prophecy a reality, he got to work recording a new, football themed version of his song, then waited outside the BBC Radio One studio to ambush breakfast host Chris Moyles with the CD.

The track was creatively titled “It’s England Time”, and the mildly disconcerting lyrics saw Chico break out his rhyming dictionary to describe the squad as “erotic, exotic, hypnotic”, before imploring: “Pass to Rooney / Come on England, play that footy”. The video features a chaotic array of celebrities, as if the singer somehow came across a This Morning producer’s address book and started making calls: everyone from Christopher Biggins to a cheerfully dancing Alison Hammond makes an appearance.

But even this wasn’t enough to give the team a boost: Stevie G and the boys famously crashed and burned in the knockout stages, losing 4 - 1 to Germany. It wasn’t “England Time” after all.

1. ‘Sven, Sven, Sven’ by Bell & Spurling (2001)


The fact that Jimmy Saville gets a namecheck within the first few lines says pretty much all you need to know about just how terribly this woeful novelty track has aged. Rushed out to celebrate England’s 5-1 victory against Germany in the World Cup qualifiers, it’s impossible to listen to Bell & Spurling’s ode to Sven Goran Eriksson without being convulsed in a full-body cringe.

The so-called comedy musical duo start off by trying to wring as much lyrical material from Eriksson’s nationality as possible (“He’s a lovely geezer / But don’t forget he’s from Sweden!”) before slagging off David Seaman’s ponytail (“What a wally David looks / His hair will have to go”) and then rhyming Gerrard with “well hard”. And if you thought that was bad? The final line suggests that England should try and win in 2002 so that Katie Price will “get them out for the lads”.