Paul Tierney and other sport-inspired songs

Paul Howarth

After a poignant football ballad, a readers’ discography

Last week, I wrote a piece on The Ballad of Paul Tierney, a poignant song based on the journeyman career of the one-time Manchester United player. If you haven’t yet heard the track – and I heartily recommend you do – you can listen to it here.

I asked for suggestions of other songs that have been inspired by sport and was inundated by literally several responses.

Ross Barr was good enough to remind me of Football Crazy by Robin Hall and Jimmy MacGregor. It’s a tune I remember from the playground but I’d never taken the trouble to listen to the lyrics. Something of a novelty record, it concerns a Scottish fella (Jock, of course) who’s mad about ‘fitba’ and features an extraordinary line about kicking his wife out of bed and shouting “It’s a goal!” A little unreconstructed, then.

Perhaps I should’ve asked for other songs inspired by sports people.

Fortunately, some of you kindly read my subconscious mind and came up with some belters. Martyn Platts points us in the direction of Bradman by Australian folkie Paul Kelly. Coming in at an epic seven minutes and something, it’s a misty-eyed (and, of course, wholly impartial) tribute to The Don, covering his rise through club cricket via Bodyline to his position as the best batsman of all time. Kelly himself sounds like a sort of Aussie Bob Dylan – now, be honest, you didn’t think you’d come across that today, did you?

Meanwhile, James Bowden returns to football to give us this bizarre number: Ich Roque by Sportfreunde Stiller. It’s written for Paraguayan striker Roque Santa Cruz, ex-Blackburn, Manchester City and – at the time – Bayern Munich striker. As James helpfully points out, the title means ‘I Rock!’

There was a time when the beautiful game wasn’t awash with money, greed and narcissism and it’s to this period that Harvey Andrews turned when he wrote He Played For England.  Thanks very much for this suggestion to Joan Varc (possibly a pseudonym), who tells us the singer gave a rendition of the song at Derek Dougan’s retirement “to universal bafflement”.  Joan, if you or anyone else has a link to the song itself, let us have it. For now, we’ll have to make do with with lyrics.

Now, I must say that Walt Dunphy is a man after my own musical heart. Walt’s offerings included Half Man Half Biscuit’s uniquely odd All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit and the ever-popular F**kin’ ‘Ell It’s Fred Titmus. I often wondered whether the England and Middlesex off-spinner ever heard the track before his death and, if he did, whether he approved. No is almost certainly the answer on both counts.

Can I add one of my own to finish? Philadelphia Freedom, which Elton John was moved to write for his friend Billie-Jean King.  People should write songs about Billie-Jean King. A woman who blazed a trail for millions and whose influence can be felt way beyond the confines of sport.

Thanks again for all the contributions and do keep them coming. I feel a compilation album coming on in time for Christmas…

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  • Bollins

    Half Man Half Biscuit also did “(My Baby Got The) Yips”, which I doubt has many rivals in a competition about the best songs about golf in general and putting in particular.

  • paul_howarth

    ‘I wrote to The Bear. But he didn’t care. ‘Cos he’s not a Care Bear. So I wrote to The Shark…’ and on and on with the most sublimely barmy lyrics. Brilliant stuff.

  • Bollins

    Do you think “Magic Stick” by Lil Kim is about snooker too?

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