Football club anthems and what makes those tunes personal to a club is a side issue in football, however it does impact on a supporter’s experience on matchday.
During the Championship seasons, Aston Villa adopted ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, the Oasis classic from the 1990s, and it has been played at Villa Park after the team have won.
The fans then greet the players in full voice as they approach the Holte End to receive their adulation.
But why that song and how has it stuck? After all, Liam and Noel Gallagher, who penned it, are huge Manchester City fans and I often think, I wonder what they would make of the Villa fans belting out their tune?
The adoption started at an away match against Reading in 2016. Villa had not won away for well over a year and a last minute penalty from Jordan Ayew ended that run to give us a 2-1 victory. ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ was played in the Madejski Stadium whilst the large contingent of away fans were waiting to leave and a vociferous rendition ensued.
This is not really a surprise as anyone who has been to a disco, wedding party or karaoke night over the past 20 years will testify, it is a crowd pleasing anthem. Even the most staunch Oasis naysayer can be seen, can in hand, singing away with arms swaying at the end of the night when this track inevitably comes on. It is a catchy tune and everyone knows the words.
What appeared to strike a chord with Villa fans in particular was the sentiment of the chorus. The idea of leaving the past behind and not continuing to feel animosity towards what has gone before, in Villa’s case atrocious mismanagement and catastrophic neglect of our great club. I’m not sure who Sally is in this scenario, or what she is waiting for, but then I’m not entirely convinced that Noel Gallagher knew either.
Clearly the club felt that it was worth latching onto this as it was pumped out on social media following the Reading match and was played at Villa Park on full time thereafter for fans to sing along to. The owner at the time, Dr Tony Xia was presumably very keen for the message of ‘moving forward’ to be perpetuated and this song was possibly a part of that party line.
Although there was perhaps a manufactured element to this, traditionally these football anthems are organic. The classic example is ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, now synonymous with Liverpool. Liverpool fans also used to sing other Rock n Roll classics from that era, most particularly by local heroes The Beatles.
Often there is no particular reason as to why these tunes become adopted anthems. I’m often confused as to Crystal Palace fans singing ‘Glad All Over’ and I recently heard the Ajax faithful singing along to Bob Marley classic ‘Three Little Birds’.
The fans of those clubs would possibly have those answers, but in reality it does not really matter. The fact is that those records mean something to that group of people, so any meaning behind it kind of becomes irrelevant. It is just part of the matchday atmosphere at those grounds.
I’ve heard and read many Villa fans discussing this, either asking ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ to be dropped, or changed to a different track. Some believe it should be left behind, consigned to history with Xia, Wyness, Di Matteo and Steve Bruce. I guess others just don’t like the song, or the band. I’ve also heard it mentioned that our anthem should have local roots, maybe Ocean Colour Scene?
My feeling is that some things grow organically, whether it is a chant from the stands or in this case a club anthem. Nobody at Villa decided that this would happen, it was started at an away match. Whilst the club picked up on it and continued it, so did the fans and two-and-a-half years on, it become the traditional greeting to a Villa home win.
In my opinion it should continue, if nothing else as a reminder of where we have been and the battle we have won to get back to where we should be. Over time, a different anthem may naturally emerge and take over, however it should be an organic process and not manufactured or inflicted on us.
I will be hoping that we hear those sampled ’Imagine’ chords ringing out on our new public address system after many Premier League victories during the coming season.