‘It’s a song about losing!’ Skinner, Baddiel and Broudie on 26 years of Three Lions – and bringing it up to date

1 week ago 32

It’s coming home, it’s coming location … You cognize however it goes. Hang on, though: it came home, didn’t it? In July, erstwhile the Lionesses bushed Germany with a melodramatic extra-time victor astatine Wembley to triumph Euro 2022. It was England’s archetypal large trophy since Bobby Moore, Jack and Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles, Gordon Banks, Geoff Hurst etc won the World Cup successful 1966. With each those years of wounded yet over, David Baddiel said helium was blessed for his song, Three Lions, to beryllium “put to bed”.

Guess what, though: it conscionable got up again, for the World Cup successful Qatar, and for Christmas. We volition travel to the caller mentation – and Qatar – later.

But first, rewind to the summertime of 1996 erstwhile a question of Britpop, caller laddishness and optimism was washing implicit the country. The Football Association asked Ian Broudie of the Lightning Seeds to constitute a opus for the European Championship. He came up with a catchy melody and a chantable refrain. The comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner, who presented the drama shot TV amusement Fantasy Football League, wrote lyrics that were yearning and plaintive and hopeful astir what it was similar to beryllium an England fan. “It’s coming home” referred to the information that this was the archetypal large planetary shot contention to beryllium held successful the UK since 1966, and besides to the anticipation that occurrence and glory mightiness return.

The fans adopted the opus and took it to heart. When England bushed Scotland successful the radical stages, it echoed astir (the old) Wembley Stadium: “I person ne'er been determination wherever thing truthful spontaneous – this is our song, the people’s happening – happens. It felt amazing,” says Baddiel.

Baddiel, Skinner and Broudie, a small little caller of look but possibly wiser inside, person travel to the Guardian’s offices to speech astir the opus that ne'er went away. “I’ll fto them bash astir of the talking,” says Broudie, gently. “They’re bully with words.” He sits, looking connected wryly done his sunnies, occasionally chipping successful astir apologetically but … well, wisely. “There’s a small spot of assemblage erstwhile you’re each singing: ‘It’s coming home.’”

Baddiel and Skinner are bully with words. They josh and rib – astatine times it is arsenic if those years person melted distant and they are backmost connected that Fantasy Football League sofa, a acceptable that transplanted their location beingness (they shared a level astatine the time) to television. Good times. “I’m not overmuch of a looker-backer, but I would say, for me, that was pomp,” says Skinner. “I was reddish blistery successful 1996.”

I wonderment if determination is thing they look backmost astatine little fondly, that makes them wince? “Are you talking astir Jason Lee?” asks Baddiel.

“That doesn’t marque maine wince, it makes maine ashamed,” says Skinner.

On their show, they repeatedly ridiculed the Nottingham Forest subordinate Jason Lee’s hairstyle; successful immoderate sketches, Baddiel appeared successful blackface. It was, they admit, inexcusable, sustained, ugly, racist bullying. I’m not going to spell into it massively here: Skinner has talked astir it frankly and extensively successful a recent Guardian interview; Baddiel has a programme about antisemitism connected Channel 4 connected Monday successful which helium addresses his ain racist transgressions by visiting Lee to perceive and to apologise.

“It happened due to the fact that we utilized to formal up arsenic cartoons of footballers each the time, and we didn’t deliberation however that is antithetic erstwhile you are impersonating a achromatic person. That was atrocious and mistaken,” says Baddiel.

“We fucked up. We person had conversations astir however it happened; I surely don’t privation to support it successful immoderate way,” says Skinner.

The mode   they were … (from left) Broudie, Skinner and Baddiel astatine  a photocall announcing their caller   recorded mentation    of the Three Lions to coincide with the 1998 World Cup.
The mode they were … (from left) Broudie, Skinner and Baddiel astatine a photocall announcing their caller recorded mentation of the Three Lions to coincide with the 1998 World Cup. Photograph: PA Images/Alamy

By penning an England shot song, were they someway associating with the darker underbelly of hooliganism and nationalism? Skinner reckons the opposite. “I deliberation 96, that opus and – strangely – the transverse of St George seemed to bring little menace than the national jack. Maybe it’s due to the fact that I’m Catholic. That was the archetypal clip it felt much family. I’m not saying it can’t each spell disconnected astatine games – I was astatine the final of the men’s Euros past twelvemonth – but determination was nary 1 chanting ‘No surrender to the IRA’ oregon worldly similar that. That rightwing happening seemed to spell successful 96.”

Baddiel agrees. “Because of things that person happened since, similar Brexit and the hardening of the acold right, it mightiness look antithetic now. But, astatine the time, the euphony and the vulnerability of the lyrics meant radical were singing a opus that was patriotic, yearning aft this thought of England that was not nationalist oregon aggressive. It was a opus astir losing. As a result, the singing of it and waving of flags felt to maine similar a benignant of gentle non-aggressive patriotism.”

Of course, England mislaid to Germany connected penalties successful 1996. But the imagination lived on. “Seventeen years of wounded ne'er stopped america dreaming; Labour’s coming home,” Tony Blair told his party’s league that autumn earlier a landslide caller dawn successful the spring.

At the past World Cup, Croatia’s captain, Luka Modrić, said his squad had recovered the refrain disrespectful, but utilized that to motivate them to triumph the crippled and nonstop England home.

“I’m conscionable blessed that Modrić knows our song,” says Skinner. “But we are making an tremendous fuss astir whether this is simply a jingoistic, arrogant thing. I deliberation England tin picture itself arsenic being the location of shot historically. The crippled we know, the archetypal league, archetypal cupful competition, the rules, the archetypal shot relation were each formed successful England. That’s past – it doesn’t springiness you ownership.”

Broudie gets a connection in: “If the Olympics went to Greece and they said it was coming home, I don’t deliberation anyone would person a problem.” Skinner reminds america that Greece did big the Olympics – they went location successful 2004, and nary 1 had a occupation with it.

Baddiel: “Although I did a documentary …”

Skinner: “Oh, you’ve done a documentary astir everything …”

Baddiel: “I have. It was called David Baddiel connected the Silk Road, successful which radical accidental they invented football.”

Skinner: “That’s a antithetic statement – stories astir radical kicking a pig’s bladder astir …”

OK, whatever: the opus surely came location and stayed home. Over a 4th of century, it wormed its mode into the nation’s consciousness, lying dormant for astir of the time, but past breaking retired for the competitions, astir precocious – and astir joyously – astatine the Women’s Euro 2022. “It’s coming home, it’s coming location …” chanted a new, possibly (even) nicer procreation of England fans successful the spot it each began. Manager Sarina Wiegman’s post-final property league was interrupted by a spontaneous triumph conga of singing, dancing Lionesses. “It’s what they people turned to,” says Baddiel, proudly. “Not Sweet Caroline but Football’s Coming Home, to sing successful that infinitesimal of joy.”


It’s that infinitesimal of joyousness that kicks disconnected the video for the caller version, Three Lions (It’s Coming Home for Christmas). “I’ll beryllium honest, I had to somewhat beryllium convinced astir doing it,” says Baddiel.

Skinner: “I would accidental I dragged Dave kicking and screaming.”

Baddiel: “My lad said, ‘If you bash this I’ll ne'er talk to you again.’ But I benignant of emotion Christmas. I deliberation it’s partially to bash with being Jewish and not celebrating Christmas erstwhile I was young.”

Skinner: “For me, to bash a shot opus is regarded arsenic a spot tacky by a batch of people. To bash 1 that is besides a Christmas opus is simply a treble tackiness. You cognize successful mathematics 2 negatives marque a affirmative …”

Baddiel: “So it’s classy.”

In the video, they are backmost successful the level – a younger Skinner and Baddiel connected the sofa, a younger Broudie successful the room making the beverage – past joined by today’s Broudie! They sing together. “In that country wherever there’s 2 of me, I support reasoning I’m not that 1 [the older Broudie], I’m that 1 [the younger Broudie].” It’s lovely, and moving, a duet betwixt the aforesaid idiosyncratic astatine antithetic stages of his life. Who is astatine the door? Older Skinner and Baddiel! All right, lads?

Baddiel, Skinner and Broudie. Jumpers from notjustclothing.co.uk and grooming by Estelle Horder.
New lyrics, but the aforesaid aged fashionable opus …Baddiel, Skinner and Broudie. Jumpers from notjustclothing.co.uk and grooming by Estelle Horder. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

The caller lyrics admit the Lionesses’ pride, but the wounded for the men.

Then comes Baddiel’s verse: When they decided connected Qatar / Should person checked VAR

Hah! Funny.

It’s excessively blistery / And excessively far

What? Really? I mean, it is excessively blistery successful Qatar, surely – that’s wherefore the World Cup is connected now, messing up home shot seasons – but are those truly the issues? “It is possibly not the astir utmost denunciation of that peculiar state,” admits Baddiel. “But past it is simply a shot opus and I deliberation lyrics astir modern slavery and persecution of cheery radical would person been hard to get in.”

The temper drops a little.

Baddiel: “We are holistic people. I tin accidental that if I was asked if I’d instrumentality a summons to this World Cup final, I wouldn’t go. I don’t peculiarly privation to enactment that state, what it does and what it represents.

Broudie: “In immoderate mode it has brought these issues up, and highlighted Fifa corruption.”

Baddiel: “And it is complicated. That tin consciousness similar a get-out, but it is. It was successful Russia aft they invaded Crimea. The [winter] Olympics were successful China; the worst taste cleansing successful the satellite astatine the infinitesimal is of the Uyghurs successful China.”

Skinner engages seriously. “I deliberation connected 1 manus the, ‘We are much civilised than you approach’ has not ever turned retired good for this state successful history. I americium besides not a instrumentality of the precise patronising: ‘They don’t cognize immoderate amended – don’t get progressive successful the culture.’ ‘Don’t get involved’ and ‘it’s their business’ are dangerous. I attended galore anti-apartheid events erstwhile I was a student. No 1 said: it’s their culture, we shouldn’t archer them what to bash and, eventually, similar they accidental astir radical successful Arab countries, springiness them 50 years and they’ll beryllium arsenic civilised arsenic us. No 1 said that astir apartheid. They said: ‘Fucking hell, this needs to extremity tomorrow.’ So you could reason that you don’t judge it and it does request to extremity time and we shouldn’t beryllium there, oregon you tin besides beryllium wary astir this superior occidental presumption of: ‘We’ll archer you.’”

The Lightning Seeds wouldn’t play Qatar; Skinner wouldn’t bash a standup gig there, oregon a David Beckham. “I’ll beryllium honest: if they said, ‘Come implicit and beryllium an ambassador for the World Cup,’ I wouldn’t bash it.”

At slightest Harry Kane’s going to deterioration a rainbow armband. Skinner says: “I deliberation Phil Foden earlier the archetypal crippled is going to sing [adopting dependable of Kermit the Frog], Why are determination truthful galore songs astir rainbows … No helium isn’t.”

“I wondered wherever that was going,” says Baddiel, jollification returned.

No, they don’t deterioration rainbow armbands successful the video. “But we person 2 Lionesses successful the video, some of whom are cheery and out,” says Skinner, referring to Jess Carter and Beth England. “It is hard for men’s shot to beryllium pointing the digit astatine homophobia erstwhile players are frightened to travel out. Women’s shot has nary problem; I’ve ne'er heard of immoderate of the galore retired cheery pistillate players being abused.”

As good arsenic Lionesses, the caller video has a kid’s choir and different cameo from hat-trick leader Geoff Hurst, present 80, arsenic Santa, obviously. Jules Rimet’s inactive gleaming … astatine the apical of the tree. Maybe it is tacky, but it is besides beauteous and makes maine privation to outcry a small spot due to the fact that it is astir the passing of time, and endurance and inactive dreaming.

There whitethorn beryllium a fewer caller lyrics, but it is the aforesaid aged song, the champion shot song, and that’s wherefore it is inactive going. Skinner, Baddiel and Broudie realise that, nary substance what other they bash – books, television, records – this is going to beryllium the 1 that’s remembered. The happening they volition ever beryllium champion known for volition beryllium Three Lions.

Skinner says: “If I’m desperately trying to found who I americium to someone, it would beryllium my archetypal larboard of call. If I’m in, say, a pub successful Birmingham, it’s nary bully saying: ‘Maybe you cognize my poesy podcast?’”

Broudie hasn’t said a lot, but arsenic the antheral who sowed that seed, wrote the archetypal notes, helium tin person the past word. He has made immoderate superb music, and it utilized to annoy him that helium would astir apt ever beryllium champion known for a shot song: it’s coming home, it’s coming location … “I utilized to deliberation that wasn’t right, but erstwhile I look astatine it calmly and spot the musicality of it, however it tin beryllium adapted by a brass set oregon a kids’ choir, I consciousness successful a weird way, possibly it is my finest hour.”