Birmingham's teams may be unrepresented in the England World Cup squad, but at least we have a couple of contenders for terrace anthems, writes Stefan Kucharczyk
A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. So might Winston Churchill have quipped about an occurrence far more beguiling than malevolent Soviet scheming. I speak, of course, about football singles. Who buys them? What are they good for?
With the World Cup upon us and with the nation geared up for football fever, legions of hopeful song writers are lining up for an assault on the senses.
Let me start by saying that this is a musical genre that confounds me. Whilst 14 year-old boys, a smattering of terrace diehards and barbecue-fuelled summer revellers indulge, the rest of us mortals cringe away from it all and try and focus on England gallantly falling upon their swords like the jolly good eggs we are.
Seemingly, these are pleasures enjoyed by few.
My first harmful encounter involved watching Chris Waddle's mullet swaying gracefully on the video for New Order's World In Motion which grooved England all the way to the semis in Italia '90. Since then, this personal disposition has stuck. Like napalm.
Why it is that football alone qualifies for an official sound-track? Why not golf or tennis? I wait with deep anticipation for Tim Henman's official Wimbledon 2006 song. Eye of the Tiger for Tiger Tim, perhaps? Pam Ayers on the harmonica? I digress.
Whilst World In Motion struck the number one spot in June 1990, success has also been enjoyed by later reincarnations of the genre.
Firm terrace favourites, the Lightning Seeds' Three Lions and Fat Les' Vindaloo racked up massive popularity thanks to being both enormously catchy and yet simple enough to be sung by fans during pre-, in- and post-match drinking marathons.
True to form, 2006 has its own batch of hopefuls jostling for space on the terraces of the continent, not least of all Birmingham's very own challengers, Eternal Celebration and Striker who are both aiming for success this summer.
Sing and Shout for England, written by Birmingham song-writer and Villa fan, Doug O'Brien - alias The Eternal Celebration - and Substitute from local outfit Striker, fronted by the lascivious Lara, are both expected to shine this summer by Barry Tomes, head of city music label, Gotham Records.
A key collaborator on the records, Barry is confident that both singles, and England, have a formula for success.
"We're hoping England go all the way this time. For the past 40 years we have had to listen to people go on about when we last won the World Cup. It's time to put that to bed and have some new celebrations."
Both songs have been promoted at home and abroad, and have found support via the internet, where both singles have been available to download from music website, artsnose.com. Notably, the records also enjoyed acclaim at British Music Week in Berlin last May and have even grabbed airtime on Radio One.
"In Germany we had a massive response to both the singles," noted Barry.
"We have had offers to put the tracks onto German World Cup compilations. We have also had about 800 downloads through the website."
"The power of the internet for promoting talented artists is awesome. Just look at Nizlopi and The Artic Monkeys: only a year ago they could only be found on the internet. Both have since had number one hits and top sell-ing albums. We are hoping for third time lucky for Sing And Shout For England."
The songs themselves are the usual mix of enthusiastic, yet low-budget disco pop and grammatically suspect lyrics conjuring images of patriotic fervour drenched in blood, sweat and tears.
Whose fluids, however, I am not quite sure - German security police probably. In other words: it is the perfect mix.
However, with Embrace's 'official' squad song, World At Your Feet a much-tipped (though thoroughly dreary) favourite, and with crooner Tony Christie and even the Crazy Frog having a go, competition for our local artists is likely to be stiff.
More of a threat, I feel, is John Barnes' rumoured second coming as musical wizard.
After his much maligned rap interlude on Liverpool's FA cup single the Anfield Rap in 1988, the TV presenter is rumoured to be linked with a charity rap single mooted for the tournament.
No news yet, but watch this space.
So, football singles. Are we any the wiser? Whether Sing and Shout for England or Striker will storm the charts, or if Embrace can win the day, or if David Beckham gets his hands on a shiny, little nugget that I hear is up for grabs, the only guarantee is heaving bargain-bins, groaning at their poorly soldered joints in Woolworth stores all over the land come August.
If you are still in any doubt who to root for, back the local outsiders.
Sing and Shout for England and Substitute can be heard at www.artsnose.com