Football: Silly Cup songs and why everyone is putting their shirts and scarves on Stevenage

MIKE ROWBOTTOM ON the fa cup and the fame factor
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FA Cup runs are a bit like family Christmases - certain traditions must be observed.

And this week Stevenage Borough, the non-Leaguers who meet Newcastle in tomorrow's fourth round, have served up traditional Cup fare with all the trimmings. (Sorry, I forgot to honour another little Cup tradition there - Mighty Newcastle).

The inhabitants of the Hertfordshire New Town have reacted with time- honoured fervour to the progress of their representatives, who have already disposed of two Nationwide League sides, Cambridge United and Swindon Town, en route to tomorrow's momentous collision.

The number of home mascots who will accompany Boro Bear around the ground on the day of the big match has had to be pegged to four. Meanwhile the club's merchandising operation has gone bonkers.

"If it's red and white and it says Stevenage Borough it's selling itself at the moment," said the club's dazed commercial manager, Clive Abrey. "It has been unbelievable.''

Scarves? Two years' supply gone in three weeks. Barmy Army versus Toon Army sweatshirts? Couldn't get enough on the stalls.

And the man who makes the replica team shirts ran out of material. Before he did, at least two dozen had gone north east to satisfy the demands of Sunderland and Middlesbrough fans, for reasons one can only speculate over...

In years to come, those fans will re-discover their unprepossessing white- with-funny-red-diagonal-stripe purchases, and wonder: Why did I bother?

They too are part of the great tradition, spiritually akin to the Crystal Palace fans who lumbered themselves with fedoras which replicated those worn by their flamboyant manager Malcolm Allison during the 1976 Cup run to the semi-finals. Or the Brighton fans who, in misguided tribute, purchased versions of the white disco-dancing shoes favoured by their twinkle-toed manager Jimmy Melia as the Seagulls made their way to the 1983 FA Cup final.

But if these strange quirks represent the crackling, roast potatoes and brussels sprouts of the Cup-run repast, there is no mistaking the traditional turkey - the club song.

You don't expect much of a football song. Not melody. Not wit. Not even sense. But you do expect rhyme.

"Blue is the colour, football is the game, we're all together, and winning is our aim." It's a midfield workhorse, it gets up and down. As does this: "Good old Arsenal, we're proud to sing that name. While we sing this song we'll win the game.''

Well, perhaps that one shouldn't be dignified with the title of workhorse. You can't deny, though, that it rhymes. So fine, we know where we stand.

Three Lions confused the issue for a while, being a song which combined a recognisable tune with something scarily close to real feeling. But in the footballing canon, it stood out like Alberto Tarantini at Birmingham City.

In the country of the footballing anthem, one-eyed orthodoxy is all. And the ditty currently being played on every local radio station within a 100 mile radius of Stevenage fits nicely into the landscape - give or take a little local variation.

"We're so proud to be the crowd, Who are going to shout it loud, Stevenage... Stevenage... Stevenage, we're loud and proud." Never mind the Three Lions, feel those three rhymes.

It's very much the anthem in form. But then...perplexingly...this: "Newcastle or Swindon Town, No one's going to shout us down, Boro, Boro, Boing-boing- boing, You're the boys that's always going to make us sing.''

As Hamlet once lamented, what a falling off was there. Why, I wondered, couldn't it have been `bing-bing-bing'? Same difference - still meaningless - but a rhyme with sing?

I turned for explanation to the man responsible for the words and music of Hertforshire's fastest moving new entry, the Stevenage Borough announcer, Andrew Green.

And the answer was that when Stevenage are on the attack, their supporters like to sing - to the tune of Guantanamera, naturally - "Boing in a minute, we're going to boing in a minute..." Or sometimes, for no apparent reason, they just like to go: "Boing boing Boro.''

Where does the chant come from? Someone at the club thought it had something to do with West Bromwich Albion. What does it mean, exactly? No one knows. Ah, the inane mystery of it all...

When Mr Green is not transmitting his voice across Broadhall Way he is an independent radio producer who has also presented Radio Three's In Tune programme, featuring everything from Mozart and Beethoven to Benjamin Britten and Vaughan Williams.

It would be nice to think some of the classical influences had carried over into his most recent enterprise - and it would also be quite wrong.

How long, I asked, had the whole thing taken him to compose? "About half an hour," he said.