England Football Songs – 2002: We’re On The Ball

Ant and Dec’s football song gets its first…and last…airing by choice.

When I started writing this series it was most definitely only with an eye on the songs which I feel still hold their creative weight after all this time. Upon closer inspection, I’ve realised that this actually stopped being the case after Three Lions, which wouldn’t have bode well for later songs.

Couple this with the fact that, even as far back as 2002 I had pretty much stopped giving a crap about the England side. I’m not sure whether it was their lack of desire, or the fact that since my team Leeds United were relegated around that time, I was unused to seeing anyone I actually liked wearing the shirt. In 2002 I was 17, and distinctly remember watching England vs Brazil in my college lecture theatre before the morning’s classes had even started. (The 2002 World Cup was held in Japan and South Korea, hence the weird time zone thing.)

The official England song in 2002 was ‘sung’ by soapstars-turned-popstars-turned-TV-presenters-turned-national-institutions Ant and Dec; Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, kings of cheesy 90s rubbish and now of prime-time TV.

Ant and Dec we're on the ball

Watch us rock the mic, watch us rock the mic, watch us rock the mic, NO

Their song is ‘We’re On The Ball’. Tell me how long you managed to get through.


I must admit, the tune’s pretty good. And they aren’t completely crap at singing – that’s what a career in the mid-90s gets you, much more so than these days of autotune. And the part where they pretend that John Motson is enjoying the song through his snippets of commentary actually made me chuckle. But then for some reason they think that a good coda to the song would just be to say the names of players involved in the run-up to a famous goal in a specific match against Germany – the last thing you really wanna do is piss them off or else they’d just – oh no, well done, you beat me to the joke about Germany knocking us out on penalties, boys. Oh, and singing the nickname ‘Goldenballs’ in a song to mention David Beckham offends me even more than just saying it in a normal manner.

Looking back on this song, released in 2002 obviously, has given me pause to reflect. Even 12 whole years ago…these two Geordies were bloody everywhere, and it hasn’t let up since. After moving on from hosting a Saturday morning kids’ TV and chart rundown shows in the same block, Ant and Dec made the move to primetime, hosting two series of Pop Idol and coming up with their Saturday Night Takeaway programme, which is about an hour of…who even knows. I was at my lady’s grandparents’ house the other week when it was on, and it was just the two of them giving out prizes and making weird faces at each other. Twelve years this has been on for now. Twelve years. Not every week, obviously, but for weeks at a time, every year, since 2002. And you’re not even safe from them in the TV ads, either.

Look, they’re an alright couple of lads, and they’ve done very well for themselves, but even so, football songs remain strictly not their forte.

Oh, and England fucked it up at the 2002 World Cup as usual. There we go. Sorted.

Next up, bring your jumpers and your deep foreboding sense of misery…for Embrace!

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