When England beat Ukraine 4-0 in their Euro 2020 quarter-final, it wasn’t just the goals, the images of manager Gareth Southgate and the praise for the players that were sweeping the internet.
Footage of Atomic Kitten’s Natasha Hamilton and Liz McClarnon performing the fan-made reworking of their 2001 hit Whole Again – now a declaration of love for the England boss/new national treasure – at Croydon’s Boxpark was also going viral, too.
While football fans refashioning pop songs into terrace chants is nothing new, this one has taken on a life of its own. In July 2021, you are probably never more than eight minutes away from hearing that football’s coming home, again.
Following the Croydon gig, phone calls were quickly made and bandmate Jenny Frost was brought back to re-record the song, which at the time of writing is currently sitting at number five in the Apple Music chart (Three Lions is number four, Vindaloo six and World In Motion just outside the top 10 at number 11).
They’ve done the obligatory England flag photo-shoot and belted out the “football’s coming home again” line to seemingly every news outlet in the country (including this one, because it’s impossible to interview Atomic Kitten now without asking them to go a cappella).
The adoption of Whole Again, the platinum-selling chart-topper that propelled the girl band to fame, actually first did the rounds during the World Cup in 2018, to a lesser extent; in 2021 it is now the unofficial soundtrack to England’s first final in an international men’s football tournament since they won it that time in 1966. Atomic Kitten are now a part of English football history. There are even rumours they will be performing at Wembley on the day itself. Keep your Nessun Dorma, Italy; we’re gonna sing about Gareth Southgate turning us on!
So, Atomic Kitten are coming home again. But is football? “Hell, yes!” says Hamilton, speaking to Sky News on Zoom. She’s joined by McClarnon, who affirms for the record that football is “definitely coming home on Sunday”. McClarnon is also on Zoom, but from a different location. Both are in car passenger seats; they’re even working during their travel time. Have they had much chance to sleep?
“It’s been absolutely chaotic,” says Hamilton. “It’s been brilliant, though. I think we did a 20-hour day the other day, so that was quite intense. We’ve been getting sleep but our working schedule has taken us right back, like, 20 years. [It’s] really intense but this is a special moment in time and this time next week it won’t be here. So we’re just making the most of it now.”
“We’re amazed by it,” says McClarnon. “Honestly… we wanted to be a part of it and we had loads of messages to say, ‘please release it, please release it’, after the Box Park video went viral, and we were just like, oh, okay… we’re all a bit shocked. We just thought we’d release it and a couple of people would buy it and it would be nice to do. It’s just a bit mad.”
Clearly, the fans have taken the song to their hearts, but Hamilton and McClarnon aren’t sure what the reaction is from the England camp. “I mean, they’ve probably heard it but I think they’re focusing on other things,” says McClarnon. “They might have something more important on their minds. I don’t know what that would be.”
Whole Again is a ballad, a song about pining for someone after a break-up. But now it has become Football’s Coming Home again, and an ode to the man in charge. “Looking back on when we first met, I cannot escape and I cannot forget,” fans now sing. “Southgate you’re the one, you still turn me on, football’s coming home again.”
This is the man who took England to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018, for the first time since Italia ’90, and inspired a soar in sales of waistcoats. Now he has gone one step further and is, according to a viral Twitter thread, the “ultimate middle-aged crush”.
Has Atomic Kitten’s love song struck an unlikely chord with football fans because we’re all longing for Gareth? “I don’t think there was much thought into the origins of the song,” says Hamilton. “I think it was more the fact that it was a really catchy song and it was such a successful song 20 years ago. It was number one for four weeks. It increased its sales every week over the four weeks, it was number one in 19 countries worldwide. You know, it’s a huge song. So it’s kind of in people’s minds. You only…”
“I didn’t think it would be in football fans’ minds, though,” McClarnon chimes in.
“No, but you only have to hear it once to know the melody,” says Hamilton. “It’s got that very catchy, simple melody. And it just kind of makes it the perfect song to chant along to… it just so happens that everyone’s saying that Southgate turns them on now.”
“We’re just pretending not to hear that bit every time we sing it,” laughs McClarnon.
Whole Again is undeniably a brilliant ear-worm of a pop song. According to the Official Charts, it ranks among the UK’s bestselling singles of all time with 1.03 million pure sales (CD and downloads) – making it the UK’s fourth best-selling girl band single ever behind Spice Girls’ Wannabe, 2 Become 1 and All Saints’ Never Ever.
“You know what?” says Hamilton. “I feel really proud that there is a girl band song that has crossed over to the football crowds. It’s usually really bloke-ish, most songs are male sang. So, yeah, I feel like we’re making history.”
They may be making history, but this isn’t Atomic Kitten’s first foray into the world of football. Searches on photo agency archives throw up pictures of the girls singing on the pitch at the Division 1 play-off final between Birmingham City and Norwich City in 2002, and meeting then England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson earlier that year. Coincidentally, they also performed the official England song in the 2001 Ricky Tomlinson film Mike Bassett: England manager.
“We were talking about this the other day,” says McClarnon. “I found a picture online of us and I was like, ‘that’s when we met Sven’. And you know what, we all have different memories of different things and some of us have blanked things out – not on purpose, just because there’s not much space to remember half the things that happened. And I think…”
“Why did we meet Sven?” asks Hamilton, quizzically. By the looks of things, he didn’t make much of an impact. (Sorry, Sven).
McClarnon tells her it was an “advertising thing” for a mobile phone provider. “Oh. I vaguely remember it, but…”
Maybe Southgate would be more memorable? “Yeah, he would now,” says McClarnon. “He’s the nation’s hero.”
Perhaps they can serenade him at Wembley on Sunday?
“We don’t know what we’re doing on Sunday yet, there’s a lot of conversations,” is all Hamilton will say. “Lots of offers to sing in lots of different places.”
Before they go, I ask for the obligatory sing-along, although Zoom doesn’t work too well for harmonising. “We attempted it on Zoom a while ago and it was completely out of time so I will let Tash sing the top line,” says McClarnon, before Hamilton gives the camera the famous line, followed by a cheer.
They may have sung it before, but this is the first time from a car, so an exclusive, of sorts.
Finally, before they go, their message to Southgate and the England team.
“Our message so far is that you’ve done us proud already,” says McClarnon. “Just want one little step more. But we are so grateful and proud already.”
“Super grateful, super proud,” says Hamilton. “And we’re behind you all the way.”
Football’s Coming Home Again, by Atomic Kitten, is out now
Harry and Meghan’s documentary series trailer released by Netflix
The trailer for Harry and Meghan’s new documentary series has been released.
The one-minute preview, released by Netflix, features previously unseen black and white photographs of the couple set to music.
They are heard being asked “Why did you want to make this documentary?” to which Harry replies: “No one sees what’s happening behind closed doors.”
He adds: “I had to do everything I could to protect my family” before Meghan is seen wiping away tears.
The trailer ends with Meghan saying: “When the stakes are this high, doesn’t it make more sense to hear our story from us?”
Images of William and Kate with Harry and Meghan at the Commonwealth Day service in 2020, the Sussexes’ final public appearance as senior working royals, feature among the images.
There are also joyful pictures of the couple kissing while Meghan sits on a kitchen counter, as newlyweds dancing at their wedding, cuddling in a photobooth, and Meghan cradling her baby bump.
But the duchess is also pictured in sadder moments, wiping away tears and sitting with her hands covering her face.
Netflix describes the documentary, titled Harry & Meghan, as a “global event” and says it is “coming soon” – reports say it will land on 8 December.
It says the show “explores the clandestine days of their early courtship and the challenges that led to them feeling forced to step back from their full-time roles in the institution”.
It features commentary from friends, family and royal historians.
It adds: “The series does more than illuminate one couple’s love story, it paints a picture of our world and how we treat each other.”
The director, Liz Garbus, is a two-time Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning director.
Harry and Meghan signed lucrative deals – thought to be worth well over £100m- with Netflix and Spotify after quitting the monarchy and moving to the US.
Squid Game actor O Yeong-su to stand trial on indecent assault charges in South Korea
The Squid Game actor O Yeong-su will stand trial on charges of indecent assault after a woman accused him of inappropriately touching her.
The trial of the Golden Globe winner, 78, was set for February at the district court in the South Korean city of Seongnam last week.
Specific details about the case could not be confirmed at this stage, Kim Myeong-un, an official in the district prosecutors’ office, said.
O allegedly made unwanted physical contact with the woman, who has not been identified, at a meeting five years ago.
He denies any wrongdoing and has claimed he only held the woman’s hands to “show her the way” as they walked around a lake, according to a local television channel.
O said he had offered the woman an apology, not because he accepted the accusations against him were valid, but because the woman allegedly told him she “wouldn’t raise an issue” about the incident if he did, according to JTBC.
O became the first South Korean actor to win a Golden Globe in January after he was named the best supporting actor for his role in Squid Game.
The violent Netflix drama follows a group of severely indebted adults competing in a series of deadly children’s games for a share of a cash prize.
O was also nominated for an Emmy for his performance as Oh Il-nam, a mysterious elderly contestant who joined the games after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
O has not yet commented publicly on the allegations.
Jake Flint: US country star, 37, dies just hours after getting married
US country music star Jake Flint has died unexpectedly at the age of 37, just hours after getting married.
The Oklahoma-based singer/songwriter died in his sleep after he tied the knot with wife Brenda on Saturday.
His heartbroken bride posted on Facebook: “We should be going through wedding photos but instead, I have to pick out clothes to bury my husband in.
“People aren’t meant to feel this much pain.
“My heart is gone and I just really need him to come back.
“I can’t take much more. I need him here.”
She also shared a picture of the couple dancing after their nuptials on Facebook, writing “I don’t understand.”
Mr Flint’s publicist, Clif Doyal, said the musician died in his sleep in the early hours of the morning on Sunday, 27 November.
“Flint had exchanged wedding vows with Brenda Wilson on Saturday. He was 37.
“No official cause of death has been determined.”
In a statement shared by Mr Doyal, Mr Flint’s family said they were “broken” over the “tragic loss” of their beloved son, brother, uncle and partner, known to them as Jacob.
“He valued his family, friendships and living life to the fullest, which was evident in his songwriting.
“Every person who knew him has a story of his wit, charm, talent and compassion.
“We are so grateful for the outpouring of support and the many beautiful tributes that have been shared about the impact Jacob had on many lives.
“While we grieve what we know could have been, we are grateful that his talent and love live on in his songs.”
A service for Mr Flint will take place on Monday at Cedar Point Church in Claremore, Oklahoma.
Instead of flowers, the family have requested donations to the Red Dirt Relief Fund, an organisation which provides emergency assistance funding grants to musicians in need.
A fundraising campaign has also been launched to raise money for the family of Mr Flint, described as a “great man in our music community.”
The musician was in the middle of a multi-state tour and had been scheduled to perform in Claremore on Friday.
His former manager, Brenda Cline, said she “loved him much like a son”, hailing him as the “funniest, most hilarious, hardest working, dedicated artist I have ever worked with in my career.”
“Jake has a million friends and I’m not sure how everyone will cope with this tragic loss,” she wrote on Facebook.
“This is going to be incredibly difficult for so many. We love you Jake and in our hearts forever.”
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