Footballers are synonymous with bad taste in music. Ask the average footballer about music and they’ll share with you their interest in drab R&B and commercial dance tunes. It now seems that dire is spelled D-R-A-K-E.
There are pioneers attempting to change the landscape in terms of footballers musical tastes, even if it is Joey Barton who is spearheading it with his endless profession of love for all things Morrissey. You always have a couple of indie-heads at every club but wherever you find footballers playing any music, it's generally still a sad, predictable, middle of the road state of affairs.
Phil Collins and Lionel Ritchie were the sounds I mostly associate with my time spent on Sunderland’s first team coach as a youngster. You might have got a bit of Simple Minds thrown in there too but the old school team bus activities of card playing or reading books were normally carried out whilst humming along to the tune of “Dancing On The Ceiling”.
Those safe choices of artist were purely made to please the majority as the pressure of being DJ for the day came with a heavy burden. Select the wrong album and the criticism you received would wash over you like a tidal wave of abuse. In those days it took balls to walk up to the front of the bus and stick your CD on. Now, of course, the average team bus is silent but for the tapping coming from everyone’s iPad screens .
However, the music played on the team bus was of little significance as opposed to what was listened to in the dressing room, pre-match. Music's importance in the team's preparation can become key in making the difference between a good and bad performance, particularly to those players who become somewhat tetchy before games.
Music's importance in the team's preparation can become key in making the difference between a good and bad performance
The nervous energy that surrounds some players means that any small irritation, such as the wrong type of music being played, can be blown up into as big a deal to them as whatever the team tactics are for the day. To some it’s a need for relaxation, for others it’s a case of trying to motivate themselves to a point of frenzy normally only seen in Tazmanian Devil cartoons.
The responsibility of being in charge of what is now the team iPod, is a great one and usually taken on by the team’s designated musical maestro. Behind the captaincy, it’s next size in line to where the greatest individual pressure lies.
One of the big factors in what music is blasting out before the game is the age old friend of the footballer: superstition. We love the comfort and familiarity of routine and if we listen to a particular song or set of tunes before a winning match, then we have to have the same ones on next time. A kind of musical version of the traditional lucky underpants.
In teams I’ve played with in the past, successful seasons have come with their own soundtrack. For example, during Sunderland’s 1995/96 Championship winning season, striker Craig Russell had to make sure “What’s The Story, Morning Glory?” by Oasis was turned up to full volume before each game so as to relax the players and signal the start of that day’s quest for another three points.
In those days, the crazy gang of Wimbledon were the kings of the pre-match knees-up. In they would stride with a veritable mobile disco in tow and plant two huge speakers outside their dressing room, wedge the door wide open, and turn their dance music up to a Spinal-Tapping eleven on their volume knobs. You certainly knew who you were playing against when they were in town.
North of the border in Aberdeen, a season which ended in European qualification was aided by our own hip-hop/rap/R&B mix CD entitled “Trumphus 2001”. It was entitled so because of a quote from our then manager, the eccentric Ebbe Skovdahl, when describing our young defender Kevin McNaughton as “the trumphus in my pack of cards”. He meant trump card, of course but he was famous for his ridiculous sayings and metaphors. You could write a book on his “Skovdahlisms”, of which there were many.
Our narrow failure to win the Supaliga title was accompanied by the greatest hits of Sweden’s finest Europop hip-hop reggae export, Dr. Alban
More bizarrely, during my year with Odense in Denmark, our narrow failure to win the Supaliga title was accompanied by the greatest hits of Sweden’s finest Europop hip-hop reggae export, Dr. Alban. “No Coke”, somewhat disconcertingly, ended up becoming a firm favourite of mine.
In the Barnsley dressing room, myself and Jim O’Brien have attempted to appease the masses with some of our own favourites mixed in with some crowd pleasers and created a playlist that is played before every game. The most crucial of these tunes being The Seeker by The Who as that’s the one we play just prior to going out for kick off.
So, not just out of personal interest but also to give fans an insight into what goes on in their team’s dressing room, I’ve decided to find out what music other teams around Britain are listening to as they get themselves up for the fight. I’ve attempted to collect the ten most popular tunes from as many clubs as I can and in the following days and weeks, I will reveal the results.
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