Sing When You’re Winning 6: New Whitecaps song hopes to instill ‘Team Spirit’

Sing When You’re Winning 6: New Whitecaps song hopes to instill ‘Team Spirit’

Last time on our football related music feature “Sing When You’re Winning”, we took a look at that trusty old Vancouver Whitecaps anthem “White Is The Colour”. A song from the 70’s that is still played today.

So we thought we’d bring you right up to date this time with a new Caps composition that hopes to capture the imagination of football fans in Vancouver and instill some “Team Spirit”. Will it have the longevity of the 70’s classic?

Written and performed by local(ish) musicians, and fervent football fans, Alan Millens and Tim Readman, “Team Spirit” comes in at 3 minutes and 17 seconds long. It’s a catchy tune that like the best (and I also guess worst) football chants and songs sticks in your head for a bit after you hear it.

It’s about the Whitecaps. It’s about cheering on your team to glory. It’s about football.

You can listen to it below and download the track for free HERE.

We caught up with Millens and Readman to find out the background to the song and about their love for the Whitecaps and their shared passion for Newcastle United.

The tale of how the pair started working together is an unusual one, of which football plays a key role.

Both musicians were born in the North East of England. Millens moved to BC at an early age, settling in Nanaimo before heading over to study at UBC. Along the way he met his Swiss wife and moved to Zurich in 1987, where he still resides today, although he comes back over once or twice a year to catch up with family and friends.

Readman’s journey to Canada was later in his life. He “popped out for a paper one night in Fenham and somehow ended up here”, calling Vancouver his home for the past 25 years, where he is a regular on the folk music scene.

Alan Millens is a songwriter. He writes the words and gets other musicians to add the melody and instruments. Back in 2002 his Newcastle United themed song “Glory Football” was starting to take shape. He went on the Internet looking for a songwriting partner, and in particular a “Geordie Folk singer”. Up popped Tim Readman’s website and the rest is history.

“Coming across Tim’s website, with his combined Newcastle/Vancouver connection, was a stroke of fantastic luck. Or maybe it was just destiny.” says Millens, and the pair have now released three CDs of Newcastle United songs under the name The Exiles.

Millens describes the songs (45 and counting) as “for and about fans of Newcastle United around the world. It’s a veritable football folk opera!”

So with that background in football songs of a black and white persuasion, how did a Vancouver Whitecaps track come about? Millens explains.

“The idea for this song grew out of one of the songs we did for our third Newcastle United CD, released in December 2012.”

Readman takes up the story.

“We wrote a song called ‘Toon Spirit’ for that last CD. The sound engineer Bill Buckingham suggested changing the words to make it about the Whitecaps because he really liked the song and thought it would attract attention.

“We liked the idea so we went for it. We co-wrote the new words over the course of the following three weeks or so. We used the original backing tracks and I re-recorded the vocals in a couple of hours. We were in a rush to get it out before the MLS season started.”

It was great fun to work in references to BC Place and the Skytrain and give it a real Vancouver feel rather than a generic “We Will Rock You” type stadium chant.” adds Millens. “Tim and I are basically storytellers so most of what we do has a strong sense of time and location.”

For Millens, it wasn’t just a case of jumping on the Whitecaps bandwagon. He’s been a bonafide fan of the Caps going back to their NASL days.

“I recall seeing the Whitecaps play LA Aztecs during either the 1977 or 1978 season, a certain George Best being the main attraction on that day. That may well have been my first game.

“I was out of Canada for two years but I remember seeing the Whitecaps play at Empire Stadium in 1980, when Johan Cruyff and the Washington Diplomats came to town. The Caps had a very entertaining team during that era.

“My most memorable match though would have to be the opening night at BC Place in June 1983 when a certain Peter Beardsley scored both goals in a victory over Seattle in front of 55,000 fans. I still have the program and Vancouver Province report from that game. Fantastic memories. I stayed with the Caps during their days at Swangard until departing for Europe.”

And with the Swiss connection in Vancouver in recent seasons, he’s found it easier than expected to follow the Caps’ fortunes in MLS.

“When Hassli, Chiumiento and Rochat – all former FC Zurich players – made the move to Vancouver there was considerable coverage in the Swiss media.”

Readman has been a more recent convert.

“I have been a fan for the past few years. Started going to games three years ago when they were still at Empire Stadium and really enjoyed it. I have usually only got to three or four games a season up to now – mainly due to music commitments.”

And those music commitments have also hit his opportunities at watching his main footballing love of Newcastle United when he has gone back home.

“I miss the North East a lot and go back home whenever I can. Unfortunately I can only afford to go there if I also play gigs, so I find it nigh on impossible to make it to a game. One time I was home I was all set to see us away to Boro but ended up having to go to play in Oldham instead…and we won 1-0 to make missing it worse.”

Readman was born and raised in the heart of Sunderland supporting territory. His hometown mates rag on him endlessly for being a Maggy, whilst his Magpie friends rib him about really being a Mackem.

The reason for his strange allegiance is a great story.

“I grew up in a house full of Sunderland supporters. My St. Paul-like epiphany came after I was knocked clean off a barrier at Roker Park by a typically wayward shot from George Mulhall which hit me square in the forehead. My head, body and pride were severely wounded. I always hated going there because they always played badly and lost. That was in 1965. I never returned and turned my allegiances to the Magpies.”

Millens though is black and white, born and bred.

“My history with Newcastle United is all about family tradition over four generations. I was born near Newcastle in 1952 and grew up in Canada, devouring newspaper stories about United which relatives in England sent over regularly.

“While on a return visit in 1962 I saw my first ever match at St James’ Park. I was hooked and lived off that memory for years. It was a huge day for me in May 1970 when Newcastle came to Caledonia Park in Nanaimo to play a team of Vancouver Island Selects and won 3-0.

“I spent several months visiting relatives during the 1972-73 season and saw ‘Supermac’ and co play a number of times. The advent of global television coverage made following the team a whole lot easier. My most recent visit to St James’ Park was February 24th this year, a 4-2 win over Southampton on what was officially declared ‘French Day’ to celebrate the arrival of several signings from the French league. The lyrics for our French Day song have already been written.”

It was a strange season for Newcastle last term, promising so much, then threatening to fall apart with the ultimate disaster of relegation again. They survived by just five points in the end.

Both musicians have much higher hopes for the Whitecaps chances for the rest of the season.

“It’s great to see them off to such a promising start. This could be a breakout season.” is the view of Millens. A view which Readman shares.

“The team has been strengthened and has made a great start. If they keep the ball on the ground and continue to keep the ball well we could surprise a few folks this year.”

And they hope that success can be aided by their Whitecaps song “Team Spirit”

The guys have knocked up a quick video for the song, but there may be plans to record a new version involving fans. The idea for the initial video is to lay down a supporters’ “game face” challenge. The target? “20,000 painted faces at BC Place by end of season!”

As long as they look a little better than the effort in the video!

If the Whitecaps themselves can get on board, it could make for a striking visual around BC Place for say the last regular home game of the season and be a nice season ender to go with the now traditional fancy dress that we introduced into the Southsiders back in the D2 days.

For now, here’s the song for your listening pleasure and as always with our “Sing When You’re Winning” feature, the full lyrics are reproduced below, so you can all show your “Team Spirit” and sing along…

[Whistle]

Come on everybody, get your game face on
We’re going to help the Whitecaps get the job done
Strong in defence, steel in midfield
Strikers scoring goals, we’ll get the three points sealed

Now it’s time to kick it, turn on the style
Give Vancouver a reason to smile
We’re ready for the chase, we’ll get up for the race
Cos we want to have a party down at BC Place

Come on we can do it, get on a winning streak
Climbing up the table, week after week

Come on everybody, get your game face on
We’re going to help the Whitecaps get the job done
Strong in defence, steel in midfield
Strikers scoring goals, we’ll get the three points sealed

You can feel it in the sunshine, you can feel it in the rain
You can feel it on the buses and on the skytrain
Can we really win it, we say you bet
Come and help the Whitecaps put the ball in the net

Come on we can do it, get on a winning streak
Climbing up the table, week after week

You can feel it in the streets, you can feel it in the bars
You can feel it when you’re walking, when you’re driving in your car
You can feel it in the streets, you can feel it in the bars
You can feel it when you’re walking, when you’re driving in your car

And it feels like (whoo)
Team spirit to me
You know it feels like (whoo)
Team spirit to me
And it feels like (whoo)
Team spirit to me
You know it feels like (whoo)
Team spirit to me

You can feel it on the mountains and down by the sea
When the Southsiders sing us on to victory
We all feel it inside, blue and white pride
This is the power of the Whitecaps tide

Come on we can do it, get on a winning streak
Climbing up the table, week after week

Come on everybody, get your game face on
We’re going to help the Whitecaps get the job done
Come on everybody, get your game face on
We’re going to help the Whitecaps get the job done

And it feels like (whoo)
Team spirit to me
You know it feels like (whoo)
Team spirit to me
And it feels like (whoo)
Team spirit to me
You know it feels like (whoo)
Team spirit to me

[Repeat twice to fade]

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