The Last Defender: The terrors of goal music

Matt Stead

Sometimes it’s not hate that divides us; it’s love. Loving different things has the potential to cause as much trouble between two people as mutual loathing. You love Marvel? Well I love DC; let’s burn the internet to the ground. You love that idea of god? Well I love this idea of god; let’s have a religious war, you heathen. You love touching people who share your gender? Well I very firmly don’t; let’s have centuries of oppression, and don’t read anything into my saying ‘very firmly’. Divided by love and united by hate.

The entire basis of this column is for me to get on my big high horse and talk about how I think getting angry about football is silly, because fundamentally we all love the same thing. Drawing battle lines about something so superficial as which particular club we support is ridiculous. You love Manchester City? Well I love Celtic. Let’s fight and throw beefburgers at police horses.

But I am a massive hypocrite: for all I express bewilderment at such shocking over-investment of emotion in football, I have had so many drunken arguments about music with friends and colleagues that I’ve had to swear off booze for life. My cod-psychological understanding is that it’s a self-image issue: there is very little in this world that creates such a deeply entrenched sense of identity as music and football can.

When you take these two things in tandem, it’s a wonder we can put music and football together without instigating a full-blown riot. While the responses to a talkSPORT tweet are about as far from a forum for reasonable discourse as it’s possible to get, I feel as though the commenters on this news that Burnley would stop playing goal music are a pretty reasonable barometer of sentiment towards music in football grounds.

The objection seems to be that fans should be counted upon to create their own atmosphere, but I don’t see the harm in nudging people into action. Everton pipe in ‘Theme from Z Cars’, they don’t just rely on their fans to start spontaneously humming it at the same time – although I’m starting to think maybe they should.

I had hoped to point to long-standing Voice of Anfield, pre-match DJ and Harold Bishop-a-like George Sephton to support my position here, but it seems like he’s as much of a musical Mussolini as I am. “The constant theme I get in letters and emails is that people enjoy coming to Anfield because they don’t get the dross that they get thrust down their ears for 90 minutes before games at other stadiums,” he told the BBC in 2011, failing to grasp in his self-congratulation that one man’s dross is another man’s banger. Anyone whose heard George’s choice of record at Anfield can tell you that what he means by “dross” is, for the most part, ‘anything released since about 1971’.

Do you remember 1999? Not so long ago, was it? Well, in just as much time from now, there will be 30-year-old men and women for whom Seven Nation Army is an old standard, just like how You’ll Never Walk Alone or Marching On Together were new once too. That’s the problem with traditions: they’re not traditions until they are.

Not every bit of pre-match music or goal celebration will stick, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. If we lose the part music plays for a few hours a week in bringing the terraces together in love, love will tear us apart again.


Steven Chicken