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Top of the Pops

A Brief History of Footballers in Pop Music

What did the best players of the '80s and '90s do when they got bored? Forged brief and strange pop music careers, of course.

by Tom Usher
04 February 2016, 4:45am

When you're playing a computer game, does it ever feel so easy that you become bored and start doing weird shit until you find yourself awake at 3am respectfully driving around the streets of Grand Theft Auto, trying your hardest to be the best damn cab driver the city has ever seen?

I can imagine that this is how a lot of successful footballers must feel. By the time they've reached their mid-twenties – a time when most of us are struggling to not spend our whole salary in the first weekend of the month – they have conquered the world. They've reached peak physical fitness, landed a model wife, got millions in the bank, and almost as many fans nationwide. They are the real-life equivalent of the jaded, cab-driving GTA player.

But do not yet weep that tear for these ennui-ridden souls. Hark! The lure of a pop career calls like an angel of redemption, freeing them from their success-laden purgatory forever!

In the late '80s and throughout the '90s we were inundated with top attacking talent from up and down the country lending their vocal stylings to frankly terrible songs for pretty much no apparent reason. Can Wayne Rooney really call himself a legend without trying his hand at blessing the mic? Not on our watch! On that note, we've trawled some of the best songs footballers have belted out, complete with blurry VHS-quality video.

GLENN HODDLE & CHRIS WADDLE – IT'S GOODBYE

Everything about this is so 80s it physically hurts my knee ligaments. Seriously, I just tried to stand up and this video may have torn my ACL. I can't be certain but I'm pretty sure the piping hot power ballad stylings of Glenn and Chris have put me out for the season.

If you're too lazy to watch the whole thing but were still curious: yes, they both keep doing that exact same hip-swaying-with-arms-flailing-and-intermittent-finger-clicking dance move in the middle of the room for the entirety of the three minutes 55 seconds. To be honest though, I think Glenn is more into it than Chris.

Glenn and Chris – who only seem to have come together because their surnames rhyme and both have an insatiable thirst for a permed mullet – have over 200 career goals between them, and yet in this video can't seem to find two girls to go out with. The whole premise lies in one girl flitting between the cultured left feet of both men in various locations like a pub, just outside a pub, and I think what looks to me like the dining section of a pub. Thus, and it can only ever be thus, she blows her chances with the best two left-sided midfielders the England national team has ever seen in one fell swoop. It's goodbye from Glenn and Chris, you flighty minx!

ANDY COLE – OUTSTANDING

Andy Cole: 55 goals in 70 appearances for Newcastle United. 93 in 195 for Manchester United. Erm... 6 in 13 for Burnley. 271 in total. Say what you like about the man, his goal-scoring record certainly is exceptional. First-rate. Extraordinary, even. Above and beyond, you might say. And there you would stop, because no other word or phrase could realistically be used to describe how good Andy Cole's goal-scoring record was. But wait! The man himself is on hand to wax lyrical about this very topic! So, what have you got to say for yourself, Andy?

"Tell the world my name, Andy Cole / I blaze the scene, score the goal."

Okay, yes, that seems like a very accurate description of events. But wait there's more:

"Can I KICK it?!/ Yes you can!"

Seems like Andy has his personal pronouns a little mixed up here. He asks if he himself can kick it, but then goes on to refer to himself in the third person, as if encouraging himself out loud to the listener. I don't personally have a problem with it though. And then, the finale:

"I reminisce back to the school yard / I used to work hard, I used to play hard,

Got my kicks from hitting the net not from drugs, you bet we're outstanding"

OUTSTANDING! That was the word I was missing earlier. Actually this finishes with quite a poignant and touching trip down memory lane with Andy detailing his frustrations at growing up in a bad neighbourhood where his only means of buying shoes was either to deal drugs or score goals. I think we should all be grateful he chose the latter.

KEVIN KEEGAN – HEAD OVER HEELS IN LOVE

Kevin Keegan's life seems to play out like a minor tragedy. Not a full-on, George Best-style 'get through two livers only to still drink yourself to death surrounded by beautiful, weeping wives' tragedy; more like a soft, gentle tragedy that plays out in a carpeted room, overlooking a placid garden.

"I'm leaving you, Kevin," his wife would say, sipping a freshly brewed tea that the two-time European Footballer Of The Year had just made her. "My bags are packed, I've met somebody else. It's for good this time."

READ MORE: A Brief History of Sportsmen in Hospital Beds

A tear gently rolls down the cheek of King Kev, OBE. "Okay love. Do you want another cuppa before you go?" The door slams. Poor Kev, the world is just too cruel a place for someone like you.

That's why I feel a tinge of sadness permeates this whole video. Behind the jaunty folk strumming and Kev's forced smile, there lies a mild tragedy. You can see it in his eyes. He's fallen in love again. He knows what's next. Yes, he has the voice and in this video also the resplendent aura of an angel, but maybe this particular angel has been hurt one too many times to ever trust in love ever again.

PAUL GASCOIGNE – GEORDIE BOYS [GAZZA RAP]

HERE WE GO! Gazza's here with the boys to get the party started! Yeah! Howay the lads!

What I like about this video is the fact that it pre-dates Geordie Shore by about 25 years, yet from the looks of things nothing at all has changed. There's still huge amounts of alcohol that needs to be guzzled; there are still girls that need to have their day ruined by an annoyingly persistent meathead shouting at them from a car window; those same meatheads are still adorned in hairstyles so current they look out of fashion as soon as the barber's blade leaves their temple; they still flex their muscles at any given opportunity and dance around and make an idiot out of themselves, loudly.

If anything Gazza was a forward-thinking pioneer, kind of like a Futurologist for Newcastle lad culture, and he made this song a pumping '90s house hymn for those lads from time immemorial.

IAN WRIGHT – DO THE RIGHT THING

As an Arsenal fan, I have to confess that I grew up idolizing Ian Wright. I still remember when he returned to Highbury to play against us for West Ham and after the game the whole crowd got together and chanted "Wrighty's still a Gooner, Wrighty's still a Gooner". I think I cried, I dunno, I was quite young. Even when he started punditry and was obviously being jostled into making inflammatory remarks by media execs desperate for a reaction, I stuck by him.

Now he's come full circle in his punditry: he's more comfortable on telly and makes more considered remarks. He's ingrained in stone as an Arsenal legend. Nothing could knock my unshakeable faith in him. Then I saw this video. And let me tell you, even as a life-long Wrighty and Arsenal fan, I have to be completely honest and say – I LOVE IT!

Who knew Ian Wright had such a wonderful pair of pipes? The beat? A genuinely sick early '90s house style that was very popular at the time and still resonates today. Even his fashion sense is on point; you could catch any number of 'Wavey Garms' kids rocking the kind of look Wrighty pulls off here. I'm going out on a limb here and saying this is easily the best song by a football player, definitely in this list, but potentially ever. Top of the fucking pops.

BASILE BOLI & CHRIS WADDLE – WE'VE GOT A FEELING

This is Chris Waddle's second entry on the list, which made me bitterly resent him at first. Why don't you just keep to playing football, Chris? Why don't you just stick to producing mercurial brilliance down the left wing of our hearts and minds, instead of tarnishing your prodigal yet lovable style with yet more cheap '80s pop?

But then this video crashed into my consciousness and I forgot all of that. Made with his one-time Marseille teammate Basile Boli, it's kind of hard to explain as a video concept. All you should know is that it's brilliant – maybe too brilliant for our time.

It starts with Basile talking to Chris as he struts around in black and white in front of the Houses of Parliament. Then Chris becomes a terrifying man/machine hybrid as his head and arms pop out of a TV. It proceeds to get more and more Lynchian as they become chanting heads floating on clouds while zebras, giraffes and again the Houses of Parliament fly past behind them. At one point Chris' bowler hatted head is trapped under a huge pile of fruit, while Basile's face appears in the corner seemingly shouting encouragement for his teammate to be crushed under the weight of thousands upon thousands of high-fructose snacks. Basile is now dressed as the Queen's guard. More zebras, a pair of red lips.

What does it all mean? No one can ever truly know. But to be honest I really like this song. The bassline kind of bangs. I could see myself actually dancing to this in a non-ironic way, which as an Englishman is incredibly tough to do.

@williamwasteman