Back to January 2014 when Danny Last and I decided to see whether the words really do live up to scrutiny as we decide what the best football song ever is.
“And we danced all night to the best song ever.
We knew every line. Now I can’t remember
How it goes but I know that I won’t forget her
‘Cause we danced all night to the best song ever.”
No, I haven’t gone all One Direction on you, my opening lines are simple an aide memoire to a top night out and a heated discussion on what the Best Song Ever in the footballing world. For those who haven’t yet read the story behind the weekend (yes, I know we are all busy) then let me set the scene. After an afternoon of football in New York, Rotherham, we had made our way down the A6178 to Sheffield (not Sheffield Pennsylvania, Alabama or Missouri mind). An evening on Kelham Island beckoned with a host of football’s finest from Twitter. Our main objective of the evening? Well apart from trying a bucket load of local ales, it was to decide whether The Greasy Chip Butty song is the best football song ever, and what other pretenders to the thrown there were.
The genius of the song, adapted from John Denver’s Annie Song (rumour has it when Denver died, the Yorkshire version was played at his funeral) is the simplicity of the words, deconstructed in true Masterchef style below by Danny, Blades fan Ian Rands and myself.
You Fill Up My Senses
Well, for senses, read stomach, our special beer stomachs. Kelham Island is a former industrial area in Sheffield that is now best known for its brilliant pubs. First up was the Fat Cat, a tiny pub adjoining the Kelham Island Brewery which had the smallest bar I had ever seen, with 4 (FOUR!) bar staff multi-tasking to keep us in beer of the year, Pale Rider, Kelham Island Bitter and my personal favourite (read “I had at least three of them”) a Chocolate Digestive Ale. Oh, and a pork pie…and some Jalapeno pretzel pieces. Senses filled up. I know I am biased but Bubbles surely has to be up there? Under the lights at The Boleyn Ground, with the South Bank in full voice? Who needs Opera when you had that.
Like a Gallon of Magnet
Note to Danny Last – it is MAGNET not MAGNERS. Stop two, no more than a stumble away was the Kelham Island Tavern where we met Eddie the Shoe. Those who travel in horse racing circles need no introduction to Eddie, who had kindly provided a tip earlier in the week that provided the financial assistance for my round of Deception. Eddie is a big Fulham fan – at 7 foot something there is no other word for him. An hour later we had just about consumed the gallon (8 pints for those who didn’t do O-Level Maths) and onwards we went. You’ll Never Walk Alone? Spine-tingling from The Kop but is it too long?
Like a Packet of Woodbines
Tricky one this as neither of us smoke. Where is Cynical Dave when you need him. But as we headed up the hill to the Shakespeare we were puffing for air like a pair of very unfit, middle age men that we were. A couple of Aecht Schlenker Rauchiber Marzen’s later, with its distinct aroma of smoked sausages and bacon, and an aftertaste of banana (tastes better than it sounds). Talk was now getting serious. Danny’s adamant that Sussex by the Sea is a contender. The panel aren’t so sure as he can’t remember anything past the third line of the song.
Like a Good Pinch of Snuff
The younger generation today would look at you very strangely if you said “I’m going out to enjoy some snuff”, as its meaning has taken on a whole new, dark web vibe, but back in the day we all enjoyed a bit of ground tobacco that you shoved up your nose, didn’t we? Gave you strange hallucinations apparently, which was similar to our next stop at DaDa’s. It was if we had walked into a set of Ashes to Ashes albeit with beer prices from the year 2525 (80’s based music joke there). I had some very dark, very thick and very sickly Thornbridge Wild Raven. A continental chap suggests that Barca, Barca, Barca sung by 100,000 fans in the Camp Nou has to be on our list, but we can’t take him seriously as he is wearing a scarf inside a room that is hotter than Greece.
Like a Night Out in Sheffield
We have one more stop. One more song for debate and could there be any better place or any better beer than we have for our final destination. A pint of Thornbridge Jaipur in the Cutters Arms, a bar opened in honour of Sheffield FC, the founding fathers of football as we know it today. Yes it may have been midnight, yes it may have taken us a good few pints and lively debate but we had an answer. Without a doubt the best song ever was The Greasy Chip Butty song, anthem of the Blades. And what was the luck that they were playing on the following day? Unbelievable Jeff. It was as if the whole weekend had been planned in minute detail.
Sunday morning and any plans of a leisurely stroll around the city were dashed by sheeting rain. Sheeting turned to monsoon over breakfast and by 11am it was biblical. We had headed south to visit the real home of footballing merchandise, Goal Soul, in their fantastic shop. Three limited edition T-Shirts later and we were back in a pub close to Bramall Lane, hearing news that the game could be in doubt. A brief flicker of concern passed across Danny’s brow before we were given the news that despite the conditions, the game would at least start. There was even time to do a quick interview on the Barry Glendenning and Max Rushden show for Talksport, from a phone box outside a take away, where off course we’d ordered the Greasy Chip Butty (the owner took offence at first, rebuking me for suggesting his chips were greasy).
Sheffield United 1 Fulham 1 – Bramall Lane – Sunday 26th January 2014
I’m going to make myself very unpopular by saying that Sheffield United has always been a favourite away trip for me. Actually, Wednesday fans, I’d put a trip to Hillsborough near the top of my list too. But I have always had a soft spot for Bramall Lane. I used to be a regular visitor here for work purposes and was always given a warm welcome, and even today the facilities could grace the Premier League without every looking out-of-place.
Did we enjoy our afternoon? Too right. It was a classic cup tie where league positions went out of the window. The final twenty minutes where the United team never gave up running at the Fulham defence despite the leaden conditions under foot were edge of the seat stuff and the Blades fans can be mighty proud of their side, and have every confidence that they could go to Craven Cottage next week and still get a result. Fulham had nearly 75% of the possession and 31 shots compared to 13 from the home side but nobody who saw the game would have been surprised if United had won.
The weather at kick off was damp to say the least but as the teams lined up for kick off the opening cords of Annie’s Song started up and we were lost in a ten thousand-strong choir encouraging us to fill up our senses. Chris Porter took his chance in the first half just as the rain stopped and the bright sunshine came out to give the home fans hope that they would be in the draw for the last 16 of the cup and could put aside their league woes for a few weeks. Half time and all was well with the world in Yorkshire.
The turning point came just after the break when Sheffield’s captain Doyle was sent off for an off-the-ball incident. Despite a quick change in formation, Fulham took some time to realise they could start passing the ball forward – although with Messers Wilkins and Curbishley now part of the coaching set up, the words “forward” and “passing” are as alien as Mr. Spock. Darren Bent and Adal Taarabt were introduced to little effect apart from to amuse the home fans with a couple of astonishing misses. Sandra knows best after all it seems.
Alas it was Rodallega who broke the Blades when he fired home near the end. They should have gone on to win the game when Senderos saw his header hit the bar but Sheffield United hung on to live another day and make sure their number was in the draw for Round Five.
We faced a 200 mile trip home in more rain, emotionally drained by the occasion. We couldn’t help hum THAT song all the way home. Sheffield – Come Fill Me Again….OOOOHH!