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You’re gonna sing when you’re reading

Arsenal fan compiles new history of chants from the Highbury terraces to the Emirates seats

22 November, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

Matthew Bazell with his book We’ve Only Got One Song

A FOOTBALL fan is publishing a compendium of the songs sung by Arsenal supporters over the years.

We’ve Only Got One Song lists famous football chants dating back 127 years, followed by a brief blurb explaining the history of each one.

Matthew Bazell, who co-authored the book with Mark Andrews, said: “Football songs are traditionally corrupted church hymns, seaside songs and popular chart songs. Every song now seems to be Sloop John B. You can see the cultural change.”

He added: “Songs just randomly come from the crowd. Most get made up in pubs and social environments and get taken to the stadium.”

The book documents 425 chants dating back to 1892, when the first Gooners chanted: “Ta ra ra boom de ay, the Arsenal’s won today” – this is the earliest song reported in newspapers and was sung as Arsenal won 3-2 at Chatham.

“Mark is very knowledgeable about the pre-Highbury years,” said Mr Bazell.

Mr Bazell, 42, has lived in Finsbury Park all his life. We’ve Only Got One Song, a play on a chant about former Gunners defender Alex Song, is his fourth book.

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“The crowds at football have gone, the passion has gone,” he said. “The celebration has gone. Since the Premier League, ticket prices have rocketed. It never used to be called ‘Highbury the library’ before then. Higher ticket prices have priced out regular people.”

Mr Bazell said that the atmosphere at football matches was also being ruined by technology as “people stand there with phones out”.

Mr Bazell’s father took him to his first game in 1986 – Arsenal v Everton. “I remember playing football with my dad and brother in Finsbury Park in 1987 and we could hear the crowds from Highbury. It felt like we were in the stadium.”

He added: “Some people stopped going be­cause we haven’t been playing so well. The atmosphere has gone stale. But I also think a more affluent crowd are attracted to the area. As the area becomes richer the fan base becomes richer. I think it has happened to all clubs.”

Mr Bazell said: “The terraces started to go in 1992. That’s when the North Bank terrace got knocked down. That’s when it became ‘the library’ – after that.”

The last match Mr Bazell went to was Arsenal v Valencia in May this year. They were defeated 2-4. “30,000 people left the match before the end. It was disgraceful,” he said. “There’s a chasm between that and what I grew up with. There used to be an exciting atmosphere but now there is a lack of enjoyment. You couldn’t get a more static, quiet crowd. It’s painful. There’s something really horrible about sitting in silence with 60,000 people. It’s as if they’re in the theatre.”

Signed copies of We’ve Only Got One Song will be available to buy at the Gunners Pub in Blackstock Road on Saturday at 5pm after the Arsenal v Southampton match. “Followed by a karaoke singalong,” said Mr Bazell.

It will be available in bookshops and online from November 28.


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