Mathew Mackie

About Mathew Mackie

Mathew Mackie is a writer and Editor-in-Chief of TBS. He can be contacted at [email protected]

Will Grigg’s on fire – The chant that unified a continent, and flamed history

Approx Reading Time-10Will Grigg was knocked out of Euro 2016 this morning, but the chant that bears his name has a life of its own.


It was the chant heard ‘round the footballing world. Pastiche, nod of the head, cold-blooded murder (whichever way you want to call it) of a long forgotten mid-’90s Euro dance banger that held an entire nation of naïve no-hopers all the way to the last 16 of a tournament that they’ve never been to before. Northern Ireland, winners. Whoever wrote the song, winners. But, Will Grigg on fire?

Perhaps not.

The eponymous hero, the man who terrified defences in a wave of self-combustion, dipped out of the tournament without playing a solitary minute. On the surface, if it was a fire, perhaps Will was back-burning. A fire to stop the fire. Perhaps it was a chant taken out of context, transposed from the club world to Europe’s greatest showcase, or the manager deliberately didn’t play Mr Grigg in order to not wreak vast mental anguish on citizens of the continent. Or maybe, just maybe, they were drunk.

Maybe all three.

However, on a deeper subtextual level, the phenomena of Will Grigg being on fire is something unique in world history. He achieved lasting fame, by doing absolutely nothing.

Ordinarily, to earn such a lasting chant (read: historic relevance) one must be good, and if so, one must earn the performance to earn said chant. Two world wars and one world cup, a treasured chant that the English fans have hurled at ze Germans since 1966, explains itself, as does Glasgow Celtic’s chant about themselves, to Depeche Mode’s Just Can’t Get Enough, which takes inspiration from the fact that upon seeing Celtic, you take leave of your senses, or in layman’s, just can’t get enough (do do do do do dooo).

Conversely, to be remembered in a negative fashion, one must still earn it. Sporting history is rich in such matters, from the uniform chant of You’re sh*t and you know you are, to the sledging of Liverpool’s infamously inept defender Djimi Traoré to the tune of the Jackson 5, colloquially known as Blame it on Traoré.

The closest thing to Will Grigg might be our own Steven Bradbury; the leviathan, who remained upright, but fell arse-backwards into gold. One thing links Traoré and Bradbury, and separates them from Grigg: for whatever their slings or arrows, they’ve earned them.

Will Grigg will forever be the hero of Euro 2016, but he did so in cheating history. The term “the end of history” circles in my brain, followed by the impulse “don’t write that,” but it’s out there. Strangely, and I don’t want to start something here, but as someone who has the vapours of Irish blood somewhere in this fleshy windbag I call a figure, I’m going to; the Irish (Republic of) have even appropriated the chant, to fit their own modestly talented striker, Shane Long. It seems, he too is en Fuego. But the troubles have not reignited with this appropriation of the culture. Everyone seems cool with it. Could we have saved such bloodshed in those awful days with the knowledge of this mangled chorus? Will we see an Irish Back to the Future YouTube homage to that effect?

Why not? For what works in the cauldron of international sporting strife could surely work in the cauldron of international strife. Perhaps we can ask Mr Grigg to transpose his chant to the current situation in Europe.

Britain’s on fire/Your banker is terrified.

Moving away from the pitches of realpolitik, however, the lasting effects of the chant leap long over the green borders of Eire. The Will Grigg chant is currently in the Top 10 of the iTunes UK chart, and even goosed a cover from a great artist (of the game), Eric Cantona:

However, with the exit of the Nothern Irish this morning, surely the chant will go with them. Or perhaps not. Will it still be sung in a funereal dirge, to honour the passing of Mr Grigg, or will it continue as the unofficial anthem of the tournament, stitching together a ramshackle collective of festive drunkards in their rainbows of allegaince?

So, it goes. The Euro 2016 may have been stripped of relevance, but not her heart. For Will Grigg will always be on fire, and thusly Will will remain a great misquote of history, next to Bogie in Casablanca. 

Play it again, Will.

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