England’s forward Harry Kane (R) shoots and scores a penalty kick past Denmark’s goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (Back) during the UEFA EURO 2020 semi-final football match between England and Denmark at Wembley Stadium in London on July 7, 2021. (Photo by Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP)
England’s run to the Euro 2020 final is sweeping the nation into a frenzy ahead of Sunday’s clash with Italy, but over 60,000 fans at Wembley will be rocking to unfamiliar football anthem.
Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” has become the crowd and squad’s favourite of England’s first-ever run to a European Championship final.
“You can’t beat a bit of Sweet Caroline,” England manager Gareth Southgate said after a 40,000 strong Karaoke session celebrated victory over Germany in the last 16.
“It’s just a really joyous song, I think, that brings people together.”
The song “Three Lions”, commonly known by its lyrics “football’s coming home” has been the soundtrack to England success, and more commonly failure, for 25 years.
Recorded by comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner along with rock band The Lightning Seeds for Euro 96, it chronicles England’s series of heartbreaks in “30 years of hurt” since winning the 1966 World Cup.
That barren run has now extended to 55 years, but the “football’s coming home” mantra any time England win a match at a major tournament has become a target for opposition players and fans to take aim at a perceived English arrogance by claiming football as their own.
It is almost as long ago that “Sweet Caroline” first hit the charts in 1969.
Yet, despite constant reminders that this England squad is too young to be traumatised by tournament failures of the past, they are well aware of the lyrics they have belted out along with their adoring public.
“I thought Sweet Caroline went slightly better than Three Lions in the post-match sing-song,” Skinner said after the Germany clash.
“I felt like we’d beat Germany and lost to Neil Diamond in extra time.”
Diamond himself has even noticed the buzz.
“What a thrill it was to hear everybody singing Sweet Caroline at Wembley,” he told The Telegraph.
He has plenty of reason to smile with his song propelled up to second in the UK download charts on the back of Euro 2020 fever.
The band of the Coldstream Guards were even invited into the grounds of Clarence House by Prince Charles to play the tune ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final win over Denmark.
The communal outpouring of joy in the stands is not just reflected by the decades of waiting for England to reach a major final, but on the back of a series of strict lockdowns over the past 18 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Large scale football crowds were locked out of stadiums in England over a year before test events began in April on the back of a successful vaccine rollout.
Wembley Stadium DJ Tony Perry told TalkSport about his decision to put the track into his post-match playlist.
“The match director said in my in-ear, ‘The world’s been closed for 18 months… let ’em have it’.
“Even the German fans were belting it out in the end. It’s a song that all fans can enjoy.”
Whether or not the European Championship has a new home in England, the Three Lions and their fans have rarely had it so good.