How did Sweet Caroline become a favourite among England football fans?

Credit: PA

Good times never felt so good as England booked an historic place in the Euro 2020 finals after their 2-1 defeat of Denmark on Wednesday night at Wembley.

The victory was soundtracked by Sweet Caroline, with the Neil Diamond classic looking like it could top Football's Coming Home as the Three Lions' anthem of the tournament.

The triumphant England players joined in as the home crowd in the stands at Wembley roared out the tune in celebration after the final whistle on Wednesday. The chorus could also be heard from every pub and viewing point across the country.

So how did we get here?

Where it began

England supporters seem to have adopted the anthem from club football. Aston Villa fans latched onto the song in their Championship game against Stoke City in January 2019 and it's stuck ever since.

Football journalist Lucas Pereira says the song was solidified as a Villa anthem when played during the Championship playoff semi-final against West Brom a few months later.

Villa won on penalties and Neil Diamond's singalong classic was serenaded through the streets of Birmingham for hours after the final whistle blew.

The song is also a classic at England cricket matches so may have been introduced to the football pitch via the cricket field.

In the US, baseball giants The Red Sox play Sweet Caroline at every single game.

England v Italy: What you need to know about the Euro 2020 final

When is the final happening?

The Euro 2020 final kicks off at 8pm on Sunday 11 July at Wembley Stadium.

Can I get a ticket?

While the capacity for the final, along with both semi-finals which have all been at Wembley, has been increased to more than 60,000, it seems there is little hope of securing a ticket if you do not already have one. As it stands, there are no tickets on sale on the Uefa website for the final. Most ticket sales took place in 2019, long before the matches in each stage of the knockout stage of the competition were known. If the situation changes, however, and more tickets do become available, fans would likely need to stump up hundreds – if not thousands – of pounds to secure a seat.

Where can I watch the game on TV or online?

The game will be broadcast on ITV, with its coverage starting from 6.30pm on Sunday. It will also be available to stream online on the ITV Hub (for viewers in the UK only).

What if I'm watching it at a pub?

Pubs in England will be allowed to stay open later on Sunday, in case the final goes to penalties, Downing Street has said.

The government has granted pubs special permission to open until 11.15pm - 15 minutes after normal closing time on Sunday.

Folklore has it that in 1997 a girl called Caroline was born in Boston. Her parents, avid Red Sox fans, were mates with the woman who was employed to pick the songs played at the baseball team's stadium. To mark the birth, she played Sweet Caroline - and it stuck.

The song could have been given a boost this year by a 2020 campaign that saw a global singalong of the classic - with Neil Diamond fans reaching out from across the world.

It's going strong

As spring became the summer, and spurred on by more than a year of Covid lockdown life, England fans have been belting out Sweet Caroline during the Euro 2020 tournament.

England triumphed against Germany in the final 16 at Wembley to a chorus of "bah, bah, bah" as fans roared the chorus.

And just as the final whistle blew on that historic match, Google searches for Sweet Caroline shot up in England.

Pubs, fanzones and schools around the country are singing out Sweet Caroline

The chants continued to grow strong even after the players had left the pitch and captain Harry Kane's interview with ITV Sport was practically drowned out by the singing.

Goalscorer Kane appeared emotional as he spoke post-match.

Pausing to listen to the crowd, he said: "Yeah, it's special. I'm speechless, I don't know what to say.

"Amazing day, amazing game."

And the boss is a fan of the anthem too.

Gareth Southgate recently said in an interview: "You can't beat a bit of Neil Diamond to celebrate something.

"I like the fact it's stood the test of time, really, through different generations... It's a tune that brings everyone together."

And it seems the Royals are fans too.

Renditions of Three Lions and Sweet Caroline were blared out from the gardens of Clarence House ahead of England’s Euro 2020 semi-final clash against Denmark.

The Prince of Wales invited the Band of the Coldstream Guards to play instrumental versions of the rousing football anthems at his London residence on Tuesday.

Sweet Caroline performed by a brass band, at Prince Charles's request

England v Italy kicks off at 8pm on Sunday, July 11. Coverage starts on ITV from 6.30pm - it will also be available to stream live on the ITV Hub.