Green and White Army reclaims ‘new England anthem’ Sweet Caroline

“Where it began, I can’t begin to knowing,” goes the opening line of the Neil Diamond classic Sweet Caroline, but the Northern Ireland fans are on hand to help solve the mystery.

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 5:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 7:40 pm
The Green and White Army has staked its claim to Sweet Caroline as a long-established Northern Ireland anthem. Picture Press Eye.

Faced with England’s ‘discovery’ of the 1969 hit as a football anthem as recently as last week, local supporters are keen to remind the world that the song has been a Windsor Park favourite for 20 years.

NI fans were left bewildered when the song was unveiled as a new phenomenon following England’s Euro tie with Germany last Tuesday.

Video clips are now circulating online – hailing the song as a rousing, rallying call for the English who, unlike the Northern Ireland fans, tend not to give their 100% support when things aren’t going their way.

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A Daily Telegraph report of the development described Sweet Caroline as “the soundtrack to England’s march to the brink of European Championship glory,” and explains how its introduction was a stroke of genius from the Wembley stadium DJ who added it to the playlist.

“After playing it pre-match last Tuesday and seeing both sets of fans joining in, Mr Perry knew he had a hit on his hands. And when he gave it a second airing after the game, an England anthem was born,” the report said.

The shock revelation has not gone down well on this side of the Irish Sea.

Gary McAllister, chairman of the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs, said: “During the Germany game when they started playing it I just thought, ‘what are they doing?’ They have their own songs.

Gary McAllister, chairman of the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs. Picture: Brian Little/PressEye

“I don’t know how any England supporter can say they didn’t know it was a Northern Ireland song. I would have thought that the sound of Sweet Caroline was still ringing in their ears from September 2005 because it was extremely loud that night.”

Mr McAllister said the song has been a Northern Ireland anthem “as far back as the early 2000s,” and added: “My abiding memory of Sweet Caroline is when we beat Sweden to go top of our Euro 2008 qualifying group. That was the first time in my lifetime that Northern Ireland had been top of a qualifying group, and were singing along at the final whistle and thinking ‘it might not get any better than this’ so we just enjoyed the moment.”

As Mr McAllister highlighted ‘Will Grigg’s on Fire’ as another song that will always be synonymous with the Green and White Army – so popular that opposing fans at Euro 2016 sang along.

He added: “We are quite well regarded for the atmosphere we create so I wouldn’t criticise anyone for trying to emulate us, but at the end of the day Sweet Caroline is our song.”

The English rendition also provoked a social media backlash in Northern Ireland.”

Immediately following England’s 2-0 victory, one local fan said: “The absolute cringe of this. Stealing Northern Ireland’s anthem. Do England actually have any song that is their own?”

Another said: “Heard it being played before and after the match, just thought No it’s ours, they’ve stolen it. Never be the same again, ruined. They’ve no imagination – get your own songs.”

Commenting on how long it is likely to be before the Green and White Army will light up a major championship finals again, Mr McAllister said: “You always have to hope and you always have to believe.”

He added: “At one time the thought of qualifying for a tournament was a very distant dream for Northern Ireland fans, but we’ve shown that we can achieve it. particularly with the Euros being an expanded tournament.

“The next one is in Germany in 2024 and I think, if the draw is favourable to us, there’s no reason why we can’t to dream again.”

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