A good, solid centre back pairing is the bedrock of any decent team. And, getting away with fouls and handballs in the box is also a useful talent to have – just ask Nemanja Vidic or John Terry. Here we celebrate these towering bastions of defensive stability with our Top 10 centre back songs.
Keowner of a lonely heart – Yes. Martin Keown was one of the most feared stoppers of his generation, winning 3 league titles and 3 FA cups with Arsenal. Perhaps his most famous moment came against Man Utd at Old Trafford in 2003, when Ruud van Nistelrooy missed that penalty, resulting in this fracas. Prog rockers Yes reached #28 in November 1983 with arguably their best song.
Golden Brown – The Stranglers. Wes Brown spent 12 years and 232 games filling in for various superior alternatives at Man Utd before finally departing for Wearside to try and play a bit more regularly. He once had a special solo training session during an England call-up to work on his technique. Golden Brown was The Stranglers highest charting effort, peaking at #2 in January 1982.
Love is a Butterfield – Pat Benatar. Obviously he was usually a right-back, but still. Danny “I can’t believe it’s not” Butterfield spent 8 years at Crystal Palace, managing to squeeze in a few months on loan at Charlton in 2009 to oversee their relegation to the third tier. Pat Benatar reached #17 in March 1985 with her new wave call to arms.
My old man’s a Distin – Lonnie Donegan and his group. Sylvain Distin was one of the most consistent defenders in the Premier League throughout his 5 years and 206 games for pre-money Manchester City between 2002-2007, while he was ever present in the league for Everton in 2010-11. Lonnie Donegan’s skiffle song, now reworked by fans of many teams to sing about popular players, was a number 1 hit in March 1960.
Oops! I Dunne it again – Britney Spears. The Premier League’s all-time top own-goalscorer simply has a habit of being in the right place (for a striker) at the wrong time (for a defender), though let’s be fair to him – he has scored an equal amount at the right end as well – ten of each. Britney Spears may have been not that innocent when she reached #1 in May 2000 with this effort, but she did go that mental a few years ago.
Itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot Maldini – Bombalurina. Paolo Maldini is widely regarded as one of the greatest defenders of all time. He made 902 appearance for AC Milan in a 25 year career beginning in 1984, and also played 126 times for Italy over a 15 year period during that time. Timmy Mallett’s Bombalurina musical spin-off spent 3 weeks at #1 in 1990 with this aural travesty.
Samba di Janeiro – Bellini. Christopher Samba is quite literally the biggest bloke in the history of the world. A no-nonsense, no-finesse, old-school centre-half, the kind they don’t really make anymore. Bellini’s classic Eurotrance effort reached #7 in 1997.
(Don’t fear) the Rieper – Blue Oyster Cult. Marc Rieper is best remembered for his time at West Ham and Celtic (where he won the Scottish Premier Division title) in the mid-90s. A foot injury prevented him from playing again after 1998 and he finally called it a day in 2000. Blue Oyster Cult’s classic riff-laden song reached #16 in May 1978.
Stam by your man – Tammy Wynette. Jaap Stam was one of the most feared centre backs in the Premier League before he was mysteriously sold to Lazio in 2001. Fergie allegedly got rid after Stam made some rather candid observations about the club in his autobiography, in which he notoriously described Gary Neville as a “busy c**t.” Tammy Wynette warbled her way to #1 in 1975 with her country & western homage to fidelity.
(Feels like) Evans – Fiction Factory. There are a few ways to describe Jonny Evans, but perhaps the most polite way would be “Joker in the pack” after he became a byword for defensive frailty at Man Utd. Fiction Factory made #6 in January 1984 with their only top 40 hit. There are some really excellent haircuts on offer here.
“Right-backs, they never score | Right-backs, pass on the floor” is how the song goes. I can’t remember exactly what song it is, but that doesn’t matter, as we celebrate the Top 10 full-back songs.
Boyce of summer – Don Henley. Emmerson Boyce came to prominence in the 2004/05 season at right-back for Crystal Palace in the Premier League. After slumming it the following year in the championship, he moved to perennial top flight water-treaders Wigan Athletic. Eagles man Henley reached #12 with his most memorable solo effort.
Neville gonna give you up – Rick Astley. Before surprising everyone with his (relatively) erudite opinions and un-annoyingness as a pundit, Neville G was first choice right-back and trundler-in-chief at Man Utd for about 38 years. Rick Astley might not ever give you up, but he retired from music in 1993, aged 27, after selling 40 million albums. Get rickroll’d here.
Too man Dixon the dance floor – Flight of the conchords. Okay, band meeting: Tony, present; Steve, present; Nigel, present; and Lee, yes, present. The definitive Arsenal back four were all brought to the club by George Graham in 1987-88, catching people offside together for the following 10 years. Only two seasons of Flight were made, but “always leave them wanting more” is the saying, and that’s just what they did. See here.
Beglin – Frankie Valli. Jim Beglin’s career was shorter than it should have been. He won the double in 1986 with Liverpool, but after he broke his leg in a Merseyside derby in a challenge with Gary Stevens, he was never the same player. Now he is mostly heard alongside the insufferable Peter Drury on ITV, or on the excellent Pro Evolution Soccer (“Oh no!”). The song features in Act 2 of the hit West End musical Jersey Boys.
Fade to Blackmore – Metallica. After 8 years and a Cup Winners Cup medal at Man Utd, Clayton Boyo Blackmore had spells at Middlesbrough, Notts County and Bangor City (amongst others). Guitar World magazine ranked the song as having the 24th best guitar solo of all time. It’s pretty damn awesome. Metallica are notoriously laid-back in their attitude towards file sharing.
Breakin’ the Lawrenson – Judas Priest. Mark “Irish” Lawrenson was part of the all-conquering Liverpool team of the 1980’s. Though he was mainly a centre back, we’ve shoehorned him in here so we can mention his schizophrenic Radio/TV personality split. On the telly, he is blasé and annoying. On the radio, he is insightful and interesting. Sort it out, Lawro! Judas Priest were pioneers of the British heavy metal scene.
Bouma! Shake the room – Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. Freddy Bouma sandwiched 5 years at Aston Villa in between his PSV career. He was unfortunate to dislocate his ankle in an intertoto cup match in 2008, and was never really able to reclaim his place in the team after a long spell on the sidelines. Will Smith’s first UK #1, on the back of his very popular Bel-Air sitcom, started him off on the road to A-list superstardom.
Saux here we are – Bloc party. Living proof that going to university and reading The Guardian doesn’t make you more intelligent or interesting, Graeme Le Saux had a brief spell on the MOTD sofa before my online petition convinced the BBC to remove him. (Probably). Bloc party never quite managed to hit the heights of Silent Alarm in subsequent efforts.
Panucci Booty – Ultimate KAOS. Christian Panucci was a cultured Italian full-back who played for AC Milan, Real Madrid, Inter, Roma, Monaco, and managed to squeeze in a few games for Chelsea as well. Perhaps the definition of “meh” mid-90’s boy bands, Ultimate KAOS reached #17 in the chart with this effort.
More than a Phelan – Boston. Terry Phelan’s only major honour was winning the FA cup with Wimbledon in 1988, though the pinnacle of his career came in a 14-game loan spell with Crystal Palace, at The Home of Football, Selhurst Park. Boston’s epic 1976 song took Tom Scholz 5 years to compose. Though recently soiled by a Barclaycard ad campaign, it still remains one of the all time classic rock tunes.
Sex on Feuer – Kings of Leon. The 6’7 American Ian Feuer was a regular for Luton Town in the mid 90’s. Kings of Leon invented music a few years ago. Here they are turning it up to 11.
Reina keeps falling on my head – B.J. Thomas. Pepe Reina is Spain’s 3rd choice keeper, behind the quite overrated Iker Cassilas and Victor Valdes. Jamie Carragher’s lack of pace means he’s actually used to making saves, unlike the other two. The song peaked at #38 on the UK chart in February 1970.
Cechin’ it out – Lil Chris. The Chelsea and Czech no.1 (pictured) still wears a protective helmet (pictured) after being kneed in the head by Stephen Hunt in October 2006. Lil’ Chris went on to dominate the charts for years after his 2006 hit, which reached #3 in the chart.
Vorm to be wild – Steppenwolf. Vorm is a Premier League newboy with Premier League newboys Swansea City. He played 136 league games for FC Utrecht before moving this summer. Steppenwolf’s classic track only reached #30 on its initial release in 1969.
Lonely is the Knight – David Hasselhoff. No musical countdown is complete without a reference to the musical genius of David Hasselhoff, and no list of random goalkeepers is complete without a mention of Alan “Superb” Knight, who made 683 league appearances for Portsmouth in a 22-year career. This is the only song in the countdown that inadvertently references a fictional character once played the singer. The shirt/permed mullet combo on show here single handedly united East and West Germany in 1990.
Higuitita – ABBA. Colombian nutcase Rene Higuita is most famous for that scorpion kick, and this bit of maverick Goalkeeper/Sweeper hybrid lunacy at Italia ’90. Pop titans ABBA made #2 in 1979 with this song, which roughly translates as “Insane Colombian Custodian”.
Doctor Jones – Aqua. Paul Jones, Welsh former international keeper, once played a match with the sponsors logo written in biro on a piece of paper and stuck to his jersey with a safety pin. Seriously. Aqua have sold over 33 million albums and singles worldwide, which means humanity is ultimately doomed.
Suckling Hot – Pato Banton ft. Rankin Roger. Perry Suckling was the man between the sticks when Liverpool edged out Crystal Palace 9-0 at Anfield in 1989, though was mysteriously replaced by the first ever million-pound keeper Nigel Martyn soon after. Pato Banton and Ranking (?) Roger reached #15 in April 1995 with this sadly overlooked soup-based number.
Lukica, my reflection – Sisters of Mercy. Gaffe-prone John Lukic won the league with Arsenal in 1989, and then Leeds Utd in 1992. A Villa supporting friend once told me he was “too tall” to be a goalkeeper, a statement I still don’t fully understand. Industrial Metallists Sisters of Mercy reached #20 in 1988 with this suitably moody track.
Sealeyed with a kiss – Jason Donovan. Les Sealey played 459 league games in a 20 year career, before he tragically died of a heart-attack, aged 43 in 2001. He made his debut for West Ham as an outfield player due to an injury crisis. Jason Donovan has one more solo #1 single than Bob the Builder.
Emile Heskey – That feeling of betrayal when the ball drops to Emile Heskey in the penalty area, and just for a second, you truly believe…over the bar, and Heskey falls over. Ouch.
Phil Neville – A friend of mine once opined that Phil Neville was the better footballer versus his brother Gary. Then Euro 2000 happened and no-one ever thought that again. 59 caps and that was the only thing he achieved. That and getting 59 caps. Good God.
David James – safe hands. No, that was David Seaman, sorry. Hard to pick from his back catalogue of errors, though the Euro 2004 group stage game vs France sticks out – deliberately unsighting himself behind the wall for Zidane’s free-kick equaliser, then conceding the penalty for the French winner. Catastrophic.
Shaun Wright-Phillips – specifically on the left wing at WC2010. Crippling one-footedness meant he refused to go down the outside, so he either played a short ball back inside or lost it. What were you thinking of, Fabio? WHAT WERE YOU THINKING OF?
Andrew Cole – his 1 goal from 1 yard against footballing powerhouse Albania was the highlight of his 15-cap career. How the tears would flow after he missed yet another “sighter”.
Honourable mentions: Lee Bowyer (attitude, personality, face), Jermain Defoe (just f***ing pass it!), Frank Lampard (WC2006: Shots – 21, On target – 0, Off target – 21), Jermaine Jenas (existential anguish)