Euro 2000: England v Scotland: Time to commission a new England anthem

Click to follow
The Independent Online
"FLOWER OF Scotland" will ring around Wembley again this evening, a stirring anthem about the Scots' pride in their country. It will be followed by "God Save the Queen", a stirring anthem about English pride in a woman of German ancestry who, due to her uncle's affair with an American divorcee, is the Queen of England. And of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and various other countries, including Australia.

Just as it was at Hampden Park on Saturday, it will be ritually booed by the Scots, who are just as much the subjects of Queen Elizabeth II as the English. Does this mean the Scots are republican? Or do they see the National Anthem as having been appropriated by the English, as the Union Jack was in the 80s? The latter has now been superseded on the terraces of Wembley by the Flag of St George, a specifically English flag. Is it now time England, like the Scots and Welsh (who sing "Land of my Fathers" at internationals), also had a separate anthem?

When the question was put to Kevin Keegan after training this week it brought an abrupt end to the press conference such was his shock. While he is wise enough to know any comment on such a subject is asking for trouble it was also clear that he is a royalist as well as a patriot and regarded the idea as sacrilege. This, however, is missing the point. Keegan has spent all week talking about establishing a feeling of Club England. Surely this would be helped in the long term by adopting a song about England. In the three verses of the National Anthem (origin unknown, probably 18th century) there is not one mention of England. Indeed, the song is pan-national enough for it to also serve as the national anthem of the Caribbean island of Montserrat, a British Overseas Territory.

By contrast William Blake's "Jerusalem" includes specific mention of "England's mountains green", "England's pleasant pastures" and "England's green and pleasant land". As an alternative, "Jerusalem" may be a bit slow for some tastes, though "God Save the Queen" is hardly up-tempo. "I Vow To Thee My Country", "There'll Always be an England" and "Land of Hope and Glory" have also been suggested, though the latter is identified with the British Empire rather than England. More modern alternatives are "Three Lions" or "Vindaloo", but the best solution might be to write a new song - "Flower of Scotland" is less than 30 years old. Something that incorporates the traditions of old England, from Shakespeare to warm beer; its modern multiculturalism, from Bradford curries to Linford Christie; and its natural beauty, from the Pennines to the New Forest. The Football Association could commission songs from the likes of Billy Bragg, Elvis Costello, Ian Broudie, Noel Gallagher, Jarvis Cocker and Elton John and put them to the public vote.

This is not intended to be an anti-royal idea. Republicanism is still a minority preference, and though athletes and supporters with such views might have mixed feelings, "God Save the Queen" would still be apt when it comes to representing Great Britain in the Olympics.

The change could even be beneficial to the crown. Having "God Save the Queen" so clearly identified with England cannot be good for the monarchy's status in Scotland or Wales. What, one wonders, did the Duke of Edinburgh think of the Tartan Army's jeers?

The Independent invites readers' responses to this article, by letter, fax on 0171 293 2894 or e-mail at sport@independent.co.uk.

Comments