Sing your hearts out for the lads

AS the half-time score at Sheffield Wednesday reached 2-0 in Sunderland's favour last month, ecstatic fans seized the opportunity of paying a musical tribute to manager Roy Keane.

AS the half-time score at Sheffield Wednesday reached 2-0 in Sunderland's favour last month, ecstatic fans seized the opportunity of paying a musical tribute to manager Roy Keane.

The sound of thousands of Mackems chanting Na-na na-na Keano to the interval tune of Hey Jude by The Beatles soon filled Hillsborough Stadium – and so another football chant was born.

"Songs should be sung and club colours, banners and flags encouraged at matches," believes Tom Lynn, a writer for Sunderland fanzine A Love Supreme.

"Down with the trend to sanitise football and up with noise, colour and passion."

Sunderland supporters have long been known for their passionate support of the team, and the term 'Roker Roar' was coined decades before singing on the terraces became popular.

Indeed, the cheers of the Roker Park crowd could be heard for miles around in the days when Raich Carter, Len Shackleton, Charlie Buchan and Bobby Gurney brought success to the club.

The trend for singing songs in praise of players and teams, or as a form of abuse to the opposition, only began in earnest in the mid-1960s, when the worlds of music and football merged.

"The Kop at Liverpool sang football's real anthem, when the Merseybeat sound spawned the Gerry and the Pacemakers anthem You'll Never Walk Alone," said Tom.

"Sung by its 28,000 inhabitants during the golden days of the Bill Shankly revolution, the trend for football chants was born."

All the major clubs soon followed suite, with 'Georgie Best, Superstar, how many goals have you scored so far?' – sung to the tune of Jesus Christ Superstar – appearing at Manchester United.

This was almost immediately, and predictably, changed to "Georgie Best, Superstar, walks like a woman and wears a bra" by opposition fans.

Fans in the Fulwell End at Roker Park were not slow to follow Liverpool's lead either, with the legendary Charlie Hurley among the first Sunderland players to be honoured with his own chant.

SAFC fans could be heard belting out "Who's the greatest centre half the world has ever seen, who's the greatest centre half the world has ever seen, who's the greatest centre half the world has ever seen, Charlie Hurley is his name" – to the tune of John Brown's Body.

The 1973 FA Cup run naturally spawned several chants too, including "We are the Sunderland Boys", taken from the chorus of Hot Love by T.Rex, as well as "We had joy, We had fun, We had Leeds United on the run", from Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks.

Team captain Bobby Kerr, dubbed the Little General by manager Bob Stokoe for his leadership and tactical know-how, had his own chant as well, which he still remembers with fondness.

"The fans used to chant 'He's here, He's there, He's every ****ing where, He's Bobby Kerr'," said Bobby. "We had a great rapport with the crowd and the Roker Roar was a real roar back then, it was worth a goal start.

"It is a bit quieter nowadays, especially at home matches, but you have to give fans something to shout about. If we can get six points from the next two games, anything could happen – and that would definitely be something to shout about!"

As the 1970s progressed, however, the innocent good humour of the first terrace songs took on a more sinister air.

"Football hooliganism, which began in the late 1960s, had become part and parcel of many a Saturday at the match by then," said Tom.

"Songs suggesting opposing fans would be going home in a certain type of ambulance, that it was time for you to run and that the opposition was going to get their heads kicked in were in stark contrast to lyrics from cartoons and innocent pop tunes.

"Generally though, the football chant survived the negativity that became associated with these those trouble-infested days and the ingenuity continued unabated. The funny, offbeat and spur of the moment chants stick with you.

"I remember Monty's testimonial at Roker Park against the Mags circa late 70s and a scruffy mongrel dog ran on the pitch. The Fulwell End immediately sang 'Will you get MacDonald off the pitch!' in reference to Malcolm MacDonald."

The football chant of "Here We Go" went on to become associated with the 1984 miners' strike and today, some 20 years on, it is not unheard of for Sunderland fans to chant "scabs" at Nottingham Forest fans, as miners in that area returned to work early.

Other chants to stand the test of time include "From the Banks of the River Wear to the Shores of Sicily, Keep the Red Flag Flying High" and "Hello Hello We Are the Sunderland Boys", not forgetting "We All Live in a Gary Rowell World" – sung to the tune of Yellow Submarine.

Gary, who hails from Seaham and scored 102 goals in 293 games for Sunderland between 1975 and 1984, said:"I still hear it being sung every now and again, which is hugely flattering although weird, as I haven't played for 20-odd years.

"It is a massive compliment actually, especially from Sunderland fans, as I've been one all my life."

There can be few Sunderland people who haven't heard of "Cheer Up Peter Reid" and "Niall Quinn's Disco Pants" either, and Murton-born former defender Richard "Dickie" Ord was also honoured with his own chant too in the 1990s.

Fans would belt out 'Who needs Eric Cantona when we've got Dickie Ord?' during matches – and it was even recorded as a song by fanzine A Love Supreme.

"It was a bit of a mickey-take at first," recalls Dickie. "Then, when I started playing well, the whole ground used to sing it. It gave me a real buzz. It helped to boost your confidence, which meant you played better.

"I definitely think singing adds to the atmosphere of a game. Sunderland's away fans are absolutely superb at the moment, but home matches are a little quiet. I'd like it if more people started singing again."

The call for more singing is backed by football fan Tom Lynn, who believes the atmosphere of the "prawn sarnie" brigade should become a thing of the past – as quickly as possible.

"A new chant for David Connolly, which was aired at Sunderland's game at Leicester on New Year's Day, as well as the Keano one, prove footy songs are alive and well. Better atmospheres need to be encouraged, we need to put the feeling back into football," he said.

"Sunderland fans have been metaphorically battered from pillar to post over the last three or four seasons, prior to Roy Keane coming, and a lot of people got disillusioned.

"But the feel-good factor is now coming back and, if the team continues to improve, we'll all have something to sing about."

* Read Tom Lynn's original article, An Unofficial History of SAFC Footy, in this month's edition of A Love Supreme. The fanzine is on sale now priced 2.

Memorable Sunderland chants

In the sixties, when George Kinnell wasn't impressing fans much after his transfer from Aberdeen:

We paid twenty grand for Kinnell,For Kinnell, for Kinnell, for Kinnell...

Disco Pants:

Niall Quinn's Disco Pants are the best They go up from his **** to his chest They're better than Adam and the Ants Niall Quinn's Disco Pants

The Gavin McCann song – to the tune of the Addams family:

He passes and he tackles He harries and harasses He gets up people's asses He's better than Roy Keane Gavin McCann de de Gavin McCann de de Gavin McCann Gavin McCann Gavin McCann

Kevin Phillips:

Super, SuperKev Super, SuperKev Super, SuperKev Super Kevin Phillips.

Sunderland anthem:

And It's Sunderland, Sunderland AFC, We're by far, The greatest team, The World has ever seen

Cheer up Peter Reid - To the tune of Daydream Believer: Oh I could fly without wingsOn the back of Reidy's kingsAt three o'clock I'm happy as can be'Cos the good times they are hereAnd the Premiership is nearSo watch out world as all of Roker singsChorusCheer up Peter ReidOh what can it meanTo a Sunderland supporterTo be top of the LeagueWe once thought of youAs a Scouser dressed in blueNow you're red and white through and throughWe had all dreamt of the dayWhen a saviour would come our wayAnd now we know our dreams are coming true.

Sun'lun till I die:

We're on the Top of the league looking Down on the others And the only explanation I can see Is that one Peter Reid Is all that we need Cos he took us to the top of the league I'm Sunderland 'til I die I'm Sunderland 'til I die I know I am I'm sure I am I'm Sunderland 'til I die.

And then there was this one, sung to the tune of Yellow Submarine by Newcastle fans:In the town, called Sunderland,There lived a man with a monkey's heid,And they called him Peter Reid,He peels bananas with his feet,Peter Reid peels bananas with his feet,Bananas with his feet, Bananas with his feet...