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‘It’s coming home’: What is the origin of England’s World Cup slogan and what does it mean?

The catchphrase used by England fans, "It's Coming Home", has grown into a meme. But what is the origin of this extremely popular slogan?

Written by Karan Prashant Saxena |
Updated: July 7, 2018 1:40:30 pm
FIFA World Cup 2018 England fans with placards saying “It’s Coming Home” in Russia. (Reuters)

England manager Gareth Southgate’s navy blue waistcoat has caught the attention of footballing fans from across the globe in Russia. The official sponsor of the attire, M&S, reported a 35 per cent spike in the sales of the waistcoat since the start of the World Cup, dubbing it as the “Southgate effect”. But Chinese manufacturer Huawei went a step further. In a bid to promote their P20 Pro’s Zoom feature, the company shared a zoomed in photo of Southgate’s waistcoat with three simple words written on it- “It’s coming home”.

Within hours, the image went viral, with many wondering if the slogan was actually written on the waistcoat. Upon realising that it was just a promotional campaign, the fans reportedly started prompting M&S to actually design such an attire.

The slogan – “It’s Coming Home” – has become the defining rhetoric for England football for over two decades. Everytime there is a major tournament, the fans, critics, football pundits, across the country, start chanting “It’s Coming Home” and produce various renditions of it.

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With the Three Lions entering the World Cup quarterfinals in Russia, the fans, have more than ever, started believing that this could be the year when they could win the trophy. The catchy slogan has now been “meme-fied”, and no wonder fans were hopeful Southgate was actually wearing a suit with the slogan. They have also reworked Atomic Kitten’s 2001 hit “Whole Again” as a chant for the England boss in Russia, which includes the slogan as well. The lyrics go: “Looking back on when we first met; I cannot escape and I cannot forget; Southgate, you’re the one; you still turn me on, and football’s coming home again” (you may also hear “you can bring it home again”.)

But for something that has actually turned out to be such a popular slogan, the phrase “It’s Coming Home” had actually a very humble beginning.

The Origin

“It’s coming home” has emerged from the song “Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home)” which was the official anthem for England during the Euro Championships in 1996. The song, which was written by comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner and performed by The Lightning Seeds, was created to celebrate England hosting a tournament for the first time since 1966 World Cup.

With the country lifting their only World Cup trophy in 1966, the fans started believing that they could do the same at Euros 1996 at home. The dream was shattered as they went down to Germany, the eventual champions, on penalties in the semifinal. Any guesses who missed the decisive penalty for England against Germany at Wembley that night? The current England coach Gareth Southgate, himself. His soft attempt from the spot was saved by Germany goalkeeper Andreas Kopke.

But what survived from the tournament was the song and the catchy phrase – “It’s Coming Home”. At a 5 Live Show, Baddiel, who hosted a popular football show named “Fantasy Football” in 1996 with Skinner, described the reasons for the popularity of the song. “(It is something) that actually reflects what it’s like to be an England fan,” he was quoted as saying by the BBC. The duo further described it as a “bittersweet love song to the England team.”

“This is a song about how we’ve lost so often – and yet it’s a song we want to sing,” Baddiel further added.

The song was re-recorded during the 1998 World Cup in France, with a few updated lyrics. Another version of the song came out in 2010, which featured Robbie Williams (who coincidentally performed in the opening ceremony in Russia), Russell Brand and an opera singer.

Talking about why the chant has survived for decades, Baddiel, in an interview to BBC during Euros 2016, described it as the “best football anthem of all time”. “Three Lions killed off the football anthem quite conclusively. There were a few attempts after 1996 but no-one managed it. And that’s because it is the best football anthem of all time,” he said.

England will face Sweden in the quarterfinal clash on Saturday. If England led by Harry Kane makes it to the semifinals, the fans can expect more “it’s coming home” chants in Russia.

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