From 'Jules Rimet' to 'Nobby dancing': Three Lions lyrics explained

·News Editor
·4-min read

Unless you've lived under a rock all summer, it's the song you simply can't avoid.

With England progressing through Euro 2020 and football fever gripping the nation, cries of 'It's coming home' have echoed around streets, bars, fan parks and, well, everywhere for weeks.

The unmissable refrain is the chorus to Three Lions, the anthem originally released by Frank Skinner, David Baddiel and Lightning Seeds frontman Ian Broudie to coincide with Euro '96.

The song's central claim - that football is 'coming home' - is based on England inventing what we now know as 'The Beautiful Game'.

The concept of kicking a ball around existed in other countries like China and Greece as early as 206 BC, but it wasn't until 1863 that the rules for the sport were actually standardised by the Football Association in England.

'Football coming home' was also apt at Euro '96 as England hosted the tournament. It didn't quite fully 'come home' on that occasion, as England lost in the semi-finals to Germany, but the catchy novelty hit, with its fan-friendly chorus, captured the mood of the nation - and has since topped the charts a record four times.

Baddiel and Skinner's Euro 96 hit (seen here performing Three Lions in 2018 with Ian Broudie) topped the UK charts a record four times. (Getty)
Baddiel and Skinner's Euro 96 hit – seen here performing Three Lions in 2018 with Ian Broudie – has topped the UK charts a record four times. (Getty)

Baddiel and Skinner's lyrics bemoaning the hope and dejection of football will be all too familiar to most fans, but for those with only a passing interest in the game, some of the more niche references take a little more explaining.

Here's what they all mean.

'Three lions on a shirt, Jules Rimet still gleaming'

The song itself refers to the three lions which adorn the badge on England's crest.

Jules Rimet is a Frenchman who was the longest serving president of FIFA, football's governing body, having held the position from 1921 to 1954.

Jules Rimet (left) president of FIFA, presents the first World Cup trophy (the Jules Rimet Trophy) to Dr Paul Jude, the president of the Uruguayan Football Association, after Uruguay beat Argentina 4-2 in the first ever World Cup final in 1930. (Getty)
Jules Rimet (left) president of FIFA, presents the first World Cup trophy (the Jules Rimet Trophy) to Dr Paul Jude, the president of the Uruguayan Football Association, after Uruguay beat Argentina 4-2 in the first ever World Cup final in 1930. (Getty)
England celebrate lifting the 'gleaming Jules Rimet' in 1966, the only time they've won the World Cup. (Getty)
England celebrate lifting the 'gleaming Jules Rimet' in 1966, the only time they've won the World Cup. (Getty)

Under Rimet's leadership, FIFA came up with the idea for the World Cup, which was first held in 1930. The gold trophy was named after Rimet himself.

'Jules Rimet still gleaming' refers to England winning the World Cup in 1966 - the only time they've gone all the way in the competition.

'So many jokes, so many sneers... and all those oh-so-nears'

Since their one triumph in 1996, it's fair to say England haven't had a good relationship with major football tournaments, often exiting in controversial or embarrassing fashion.

There was the famous 'Hand of God' defeat to Argentina in 1986, featuring Diego Maradona's handball goal. Four years later, a semi-final defeat to Germany on penalties at Italia '90.

Two years after that, England lost 2-1 to Sweden at Euro '92, leading The Sun to use the headline, 'Swedes 2 Turnips 1' and cruelly depict then-manager Graham Taylor as a turnip.

'But I still see that tackle by Moore, and when Lineker scored...'

Before the song's second chorus, there are more positive words of encouragement and hope. 'That tackle by Moore' refers to Bobby Moore's crucial challenge on Jairzinho during England's game against Brazil at the 1970 World Cup.

England went on to lose the game 1-0, but the perfectly-timed tackle by Moore on one of the world's best players at the time lives on in fans' memories.

Bobby Moore's infamous tackle on Brazil's Jairzinho at the 1970 World Cup (YouTube)
Bobby Moore's infamous tackle on Brazil's Jairzinho at the 1970 World Cup (YouTube)

'When Lineker scored' is of course, a tribute to former striker-turned presenter Gary Lineker, who scored 48 times for his country. Lineker was top scorer at the 1986 World Cup with six (the first Englishman to ever win the Golden Boot), and scored a further four times in 1990.

'Bobby belting the ball... and Nobby dancing'

The 'Bobby' featured here is Bobby Charlton, considered one of the best England players of all time who was instrumental in the 1966 World Cup win. The 'belting' of the ball was Charlton's thunderous long-distance strike against Mexico in the group stage in '66, where England won 2-0 at Wembley.

All England fans remember the iconic sight of Bobby Moore holding the World Cup aloft at Wembley, but Nobby Stiles dancing a merry jig with the trophy was another timeless image from the occasion which also made its way into Baddiel and Skinner's hit.

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