Euro 2020: For England fans, good times never seemed so good
A 52-year-old Neil Diamond song written for his then wife has become the new celebratory anthem at Wembley.
Sweet Caroline blared out over the Wembley speakers after England’s 2-0 win over Germany in the round-of-16 game on June 29 and fans around the country sung it to celebrate Saturday’s quarter-final victory over Ukraine.
And after Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over Denmark that sent them to the final, the victorious England players joined the crowd in a raucous rendition of Neil Diamond’s 1969 ballad.
The players linked arms and jumped up and down as England’s fans belted out the song from the stands.
It was a roar of euphoria that was 55 years in the making. The England football team is back in the final of a major tournament for the first time since 1966. Amid the euphoria, it was easy to forget that there is still the small matter of beating Italy on Sunday evening.
Wembley DJ Tony Parry decided to play Sweet Caroline on a whim after the win over Germany. He told TalkSport: “I was going to play Vindaloo (the Fat Les track), but went with my gut.
“Even the German fans were belting it out in the end. It’s a song that all fans can enjoy.
“The match director said in my in-ear: ‘The world’s been closed for 18 months… let ’em have it’.”
Harry Kane was left speechless by the chants after the Germany win, while Gareth Southgate told the post-match news conference: “You can’t beat a bit of Sweet Caroline!”
The song, as revealed by Neil Diamond in a 2014 interview, was written about his second wife, Marcia Murphey, to whom he was married from 1969 to 1994.
The singer-songwriter said he needed a three-syllable name as he couldn’t fit Marcia into a rhyme and picked the name Caroline. In a previous interview though, Diamond had said the inspiration was Caroline Kennedy, the 11-year-old daughter of President John F. Kennedy.
So how did a song that wasn’t written for any sporting event suddenly become so popular with sports fans?
For starters, it is a fun song to belt out in a group, with fans adding “so good, so good, so good” to the middle of the chorus.
It may also have something to do with the lyrics: “Who’d have believed you’d come along’”… “Good times never seemed so good”.
These could well be lines written for a Gareth Southgate or a Harry Kane as England start believing that finally “it’s coming home”.
Northern Ireland’s ‘Green and White Army’ have been singing Sweet Caroline for several years, including famously after David Healy’s stunning strike powered them to a 1-0 victory over Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England in a World Cup qualifier at Belfast in 2005.
Aston Villa supporters too have been singing it as have been Reading followers.
Across the world, the Boston Red Sox have been playing the song at every single home game since the late nineties. The story goes that an employee at the stadium played the number to mark the birth of the daughter of her friends who were lifelong Red Sox fans. The baby was named Caroline.
Last year, the singer tweaked the lyrics of the song to promote washing of hands and physical distancing as part of the Covid fight.