It wasn’t the first football record by a long way, but “Back Home” ticks all the genre’s traditional boxes. Rousing tune graspable by fans between 8 and 80 – yes. Heavy involvement by actual players – yes. Doughty message of hope – oh yes.
This last was a slight twist on the football songs of the 60s, generally knocked out around Cup Final time (though the Cup Final song’s 70s and 80s heyday postdates “Back Home”). In a Cup Final the odds of victory are greater so the tone of the song can be more triumphant, presenting the team as an unstoppable machine destined to win. At the start of a World Cup campaign – even this World Cup campaign, which England began as defending champions and with a squad apparently thought superior to the ’66 team – hubris is to be avoided, so the team songs tend to be a little more humble, stressing effort not achievement. “Back Home”, with its emphasis on heroic and selfless scrapping, certainly fits this bill.
The song’s particular pivot though is the gap, and the link, between the team and the fans watching in England. This neatly touches on something exciting about the 1970 world cup. The England team had travelled to South America before, but only in the pre-Telstar days of radio broadcast. Now the “folks back home” would watch colour pictures, beamed live from the other side of the world (well, Mexico), at a time when the booming travel industry was bringing exotic locations tantalisingly closer. For good measure, the 1970 squad’s Mexican adventure fell foul of some familiar foes of Brits abroad – dodgy tummies and run-ins with local law enforcement – but some of what makes “Back Home” charming is the vicarious thrill of travel.