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The actual history behind ‘it’s coming home’ and what it means


When historians look back at the summer of 2018 they’ll sum it up in just three words. Three words that have been screamed in bars in Leeds, howled on the streets of south London, whistled at work. Three words that linger in the muggy summer air: It's. Coming. Home.

Even if you haven't been swept up in the excitement of the greatest World Cup in living memory (in which case I'm truly sorry) you still won't have failed to notice the way that these three words have completely taken over the cultural conversation. It's near impossible to scroll through Facebook or Twitter without seeing a movie clip that's had "IT'S COMING HOME" jammed into the audio track.

But what's the history behind the chant, and why can't we all stop singing it?

It's the first line from the song 'Three Lions' which was made for the 1996 European Championships

In 1996 Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seed's released "Three Lions" to tie in with the European Championships of that year, which were being held in England. Three Lions became the defining anthem of the tournament, reaching number one in the charts.

At the time "Football's coming home" literally meant that – a major international football competition being held in the country who first drew up the rules of football in 1863.

Euro 1996 saw one of England’s rare decent performances in a major tournament, with England reaching the semi-finals on home soil before losing on penalties to Germany. This manner of defeat has become all too common for England with six major tournament knock-outs coming from the cruel embrace of the penalty spot.

The man that missed the penalty that sent England out in '96? Gareth Southgate, the current England manager.

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They think they know the score, they've seen it all before

As a song, Three Lions perfectly encapsulates the England fan’s experience – hardened by years of trauma and defeat but still holding that flicker of hope that maybe, just maybe, we might actually win it. More easily chantable than World in Motion and less obnoxious than the beery Vindaloo, Three Lions is the ultimate football song. After the penalties against Colombia, streams of Three Lions went absolutely through the roof.

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I played it at least 1,203 times myself

But it's about more than just football!

However, in 2018 "it's coming home" is about more than just a line from a song, no matter how much of a banger it is. After all, barely anyone's actually bothering to sing the chorus – why? Maybe its because right now, in July 2018, "It's coming home" speaks to something deeper in the national psyche.

For a start, there's the poetic vagueness of the line that makes it infinitely plastic and memeable.

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The phrasing also sort of implies that what's coming home is not just football but other things. Could it be happiness? Hope? Success? The endless possibilities of a future in which, this time, things could actually turn out alright?

Therefore with “it’s coming home” there’s this combination of the ironic and the deeply sincere. Much like last year’s defining chant of “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn” you can get involved regardless of whether you actually believe the core message – even if you don't think we're actually gonna win you can still have a giggle at videos like this:

The political angle

Look, regardless of whatever shit your uncle Kev chats about getting arrested for flying an England flag, there has always been a bit of concern around the England team and and the far-right nationalist tendencies amongst England fans and football culture in general.

But now, something seems to have changed. The far-right tendencies are much weaker, the team is the most ethnically diverse we've ever put out, absolutely sees Gareth Southgate as the most genuinely decent and likeable man ever. Suddenly, loving England is fine. Corbyn (who said the pro-England media coverage of Euro 1996 was like Nazi propaganda) has changed his tune so much that he's even called for a Bank Holiday if we win the bloody thing. In a country that seems more divided than ever, maybe football coming home is (along with Love Island) one of the only things we can all truly get behind.

It's Coming Home is where the heart is

So this it – our moment to enjoy what is inarguably the best summer of all time, ever. You can't help but get swept up in the euphoria of it all, the comical expressions of joy and optimism by a nation notorious for its rain and general misery. Who knows if on Saturday we'll climb one step closer to actually fulfilling that impossible dream. Until then all we have is hope.

It's. Coming. Home.