Harold Spiro – Football and Music Songwriting Legend

Usually with a biography there’s a photograph of the subject to accompany the article, but sadly I’m unable to locate one. The image you see above is a Top Of The Pops performance by a group of the probably one song you will know by him.

And that him was Harold Spiro.

As you may have guessed from the T shirts in the pic, it is the song written about one of the greatest left-back Spurs ever had – Cyril Knowles.

» A quick history of Harold Jacob Spiro before we dive into his football and music…

He was born in London’s East End in 1925 and his Uncle took him to the Music Hall. It was here that he first met and had a lifelong friendship with another F&M songwriting legend: Tony Hiller. More about him in in this post.

After the 2nd World War he was demobbed and Spiro knew that he wanted to get into the music industry. He worked at his Dad’s shop and studied part-time. His musical ambitions were not immediately realized, but eventually he went into the music business full time and got his first publishing deal via his old friend Tony Hiller.

Collaborating with his wife’s cousin Phil Wainman (who went on to work with The Sweet, Bay City Rollers, Boomtown Rats and more) they created a transatlantic hit for The Yardbirds. After that he met his longtime songwriting partner Valerie Avon who together wrote many hits for Cliff Richard, Georgie Fame, Tina Charles and Olivia Newton-John (the UK entry for the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest). Spiro himself, like Valerie Avon, was also a singer. But song writing. That’s where the money is made.

The other love that Harold Spiro had was with football. He was a season ticket holder at Tottenham. He was there at the time when they won the very first UEFA Cup and the following tune which was released just before their appearance -and win- in the 1973 League Cup Final:

» Cockerel Chorus – Nice One Cyril

Side notes: The operatic singer at the beginning of the song was in fact Harold Spiro himself. The most famous line “Nice one, Cyril” actually came from a 1973 advert for Wonderbread, the Tottenham fans began chanting this at Cyril Knowles. Spiro and Helen Clarke (co-writer) received an Ivor Novello Award for Best Novel or Unusual Song in 1974.

Another side note and I bet you didn’t know this – There’s a reggae version:

One last sidenote before we leave this – There was another single released under the Cockerel Chorus name. It again featured a Harold Spiro operatic opening. This other song is err… different. It’s called Only A 1000 A Day and listening to the lyrics (ignore the slides on the vid) I assume that it’s about eating… I’ll leave you to work that one out.

Sunderland won a historic FA Cup Final in 1973 and guess who was on hand to write a tune. Hey, he was a jobbing songwriter, no club loyalties when it comes to the music. This was under the name “Northest” who Couldn’t Get A Ticket For The Game.

Sunderland 1973 FA Cup Final

» Northest – Ticket For The Game

This was, in my opinion, one of the best football songs created. Very obscure so this might be the first time you’ve come across it.

We jump forward to 1975 now and another Spiro penned football song. This time for Fulham.

This single is the rarest of rare things and I only know about it thanks to Discogs (pictured to the right). Sadly no audio, just that scan.

This release was to coincide with Fulham FC getting to the the 1975 FA Cup Final. To date this was their only appearance, trivia fans. The name of the artists this was released under is impossible to search now, as is the title: Cottage Pie – The Boys In White.

– The side note on this is that there was another competing single released. Having two FA Cup Final songs back then was like the above, a rare thing. The other tune was from Tony Rees & The Cottagers who re-worded the biggest tune of the mid-70’s – Y Viva Espana – to give us El Viva El Fulham.

The year 1978 was an interesting one for Harold. He went back to Spurs to sing about a couple of new Tottenham favourites – Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles:
Ardiles and Villa

The artist on this single was “Amigos O’Lane”, though I suspect it was a certain H. Spiro on vocals.

» Amigos O’Lane – (Tribute To) Ardiles and Villa

The B Side is a comedy dig at referees and borrows the tune from the Battle Hymn of the Republic (aka “Glory, glory, hallelujah”)

» Amigos O’Lane – The Yellow Card Song

QPR - Down At The Bush » I want to insert in here another Harold Spiro composition which I suspect may have been released in this year, but sadly the Discogs entry for this one does not mention the date.

This time it was for Q.P.R. (click on the thumbnail to the left) with the players themselves singing “Down At The Bush” and “We’re Going Up”. Not even the great Cherry Red Records has this one.

I could use the B side title as a clue as to when it was recorded, but they’ve been up and down the leagues so many times it’s impossible to pin down.

If you’ve got this or the above Fulham single in your collection let me know.

Arsenal 1978 SquadRight then to the next tune and this time it’s the Arsenal and their 1978 FA Cup Final with a vintage Spiro composition. The usual brass accompaniment and standard singalong from the team who in this final err… lost. To Ipswich Town.

The single winning goal was scored by Roger Osborne and according to that Wikipedia entry:
“…His celebration upon scoring the winning goal caused him to faint and be substituted with only ten minutes of the match remaining.”   Sadly that was to be the highlight of his career.

Incidentally if you want, you can buy some artwork made from that single.

» Arsenal 1978 Squad – Roll Out The Red Carpet

“Love the Arsenal #%*$ the rest…”
» Arsenal 1978 Squad – Kings Of London

Before we get to the next Spiro penned FA Cup Final song (done in 1985) I want to throw out another football chant which like the Nice One Cyril line has become bigger than itself:

“Here we go, here we go, here we go…”

He didn’t come up with the tune, but Harold Spiro was the one that first add words. Via wikipedia:

“Here We Go” is the archetypal football chant, composed of the words “here we go” sung over and over again to the tune of Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever”. The words were written by Harold Spiro and first recorded by Hoagy And The Terrace Choir which was released on State Records in 1976 and the song is published by State Music Ltd. Used at the time of the miners’ strike as a rallying call, the song is often interpreted to precede a battle of some kind – in popular thought it is the chant of an aggressive football firm or gang; yet, unlike many football chants, it contains no explicitly offensive lyrics and is known widely. It was described by Auberon Waugh as the national anthem of the working classes. It is also an integral component of “The Music Man”, alongside “The Dam Busters March” and the theme tune to Match of the Day.


The wiki entry there says ’78 but Discogs has evidence saying 1984. But that could be a reissue. In either way if you clicked on that link you’ll see that one of the most famous chants/song was actually a B side. The A side was a very decent football tune too.

» Hoagy And The Terrace Choir – The Last Football Song

I mentioned above that… Did I mention above ? I might have forgot, mentioning it now: Harold Spiro when he did sing recorded under the name of Hoagy, so what you are hearing there is the man himself.

» Hoagy And The Terrace Choir – Here We Go

By the looks of it no football club took to recording that A side which is why I assume Spiro took to releasing it.   That B side though:

(A “live” performance by the Everton 1985 FA Cup Final team on Wogan)

» Everton FC – Here We Go

The B side of this single was co-written with Tony Hiller (mentioned above, more about him soon) and lyrically it a great song, sadly ruined by singing footballers though.

» Everton FC – Home And Dry

Wrapping this up now and saving the best to last.

Firstly (via his Wikipedia entry) what he did later in his life:

After his success in the 1970s and early 1980s, Spiro became a financial consultant with the insurance company, Sun Alliance. He later moved home to Westgate-on-Sea, and bought a holiday home in Cyprus. He worked with Cypriot writers and musicians, and appeared on Cyprus television. One of the last songs he ever wrote was dedicated to peace and unity there, entitled, “Only One Sky”.

Harold Spiro died on 11th December 1996 in Cyprus, where he was buried.

But a little thing like passing away wasn’t going to stop him and six years after he left us, Harold Spiro had his biggest hit.

The song in question had previously been released way back in 1970. The subject was the England team and their appearance – and defence of their title at the World Cup finals in Mexico.

I have mentioned occasionally on this site about the England 1970 World Cup team going into the studio to record an album – “The World Beater Sing The World Beaters” which consisted of the England players covering the biggest hits of the day. Eventually I will get around to posting the whole thing. If you want to hear some tracks have a look at the England tag.

But the Harold Spiro composition though was not part of that. Which is why you haven’t heard about it. You might not have actually been born when this was released, let’s not dwell on that and get to the actual thing.

Where were we ? Got myself lost a bit… England song, originally done in 1970 and forgotten. Suddenly remembered again because of these two light entertainers:

PJ and Duncan

According to his Wiki entry it was thanks to his son Russell, a director at a music publishing company who was behind the idea. Well done to him.

The lyrics mention various players, which was obviously updated for 2002. The original song began:

Bobby to Terry, Terry to Alan, Alan to Martin, Martin to Frank, Franky to Jackie, Jacky to Geoffrey, Geoffrey to Bobby and WHAM !

We’re on the ball, we’re on the ball, we’re on the ball…

So here it is then. Harold Spiro’s biggest hit:

» The Supporters – We’re On The Ball

Incidentally back in 2010 when Chris emailed me with half remembered lyrics. This was before Discogs. He was looking for help to find it and in his search accidentally found a version of the song – released in 1971 – with lyrics changed to the Arsenal team.
» Go here to see/hear all about that.

That is it then. Thank you very much for sticking around until the final whistle.

Sorry what was that…? You want to hear the inferior 2002 version ?
Ah since we might as well be completists:

» Ant & Dec – We’re On The Ball (Video Mix)

Hope you are happy now.

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