On The Ball, City

Norwich City have one of the oldest football club songs in the world, probably dating back to the early 1890's. It was already in existence before the club was formed, and had been a battle cry heard around the playing fields of other Norwich teams who preceded City, such as Caley's (the christmas cracker and chocolate makers who later became Mackintosh's and then Rowntree Mackintosh) and Norwich Teachers. In fact, it is thought the original version contained the lyric 'On the ball Teachers, never mind your features'.

With the advent and subsequent flourishing of the 'City' team after 1902, a few words had to be changed to adapt it to the new team. Ever since, it has held a lasting place in the history and culture of Norwich City FC and has been proudly and respectfully handed over from one generation to another. The chorus is still sung today. It is probable however that the tempo at which the song is sung has changed a few times over the years. The composer of On The Ball, City, Albert T. Smith, went on to become a Director of NCFC between 1905-1907.

Anyway, here it is in full. The lyrics I have quoted are the original ones and are largely kept to in the video. My thanks to the You Tube contributor who posted it :



Kick off, throw it in, have a little scrimmage,
Keep it low, a splendid rush, bravo, win or die;
On the ball, City, never mind the danger,
Steady on, now’s your chance,
Hurrah! We’ve scored a goal.

In the days to call, which we have left behind,
Our boyhood’s glorious game,
And our youthful vigour has declined
With its mirth and its lonesome end;
You will think of the time, the happy time,
Its memories fond recall
When in the bloom of our youthful prime
We’ve kept upon the ball

Kick off, throw it in, have a little scrimmage,
Keep it low, a splendid rush, bravo, win or die;
On the ball, City, never mind the danger,
Steady on, now’s your chance,
Hurrah! We’ve scored a goal.

Let all tonight then drink with me
To the football game we love,
And wish it may successful be
As other games of old,
And in one grand united toast
Join player, game and song
And fondly pledge your pride and toast
Success to the City club.

Kick off, throw it in, have a little scrimmage,
Keep it low, a splendid rush, bravo, win or die;
On the ball, City, never mind the danger,
Steady on, now’s your chance,
Hurrah! We’ve scored a goal.

[This item has been updated and was first published on Sing Up The River End on the 10th of April 2010]


You may wish to check out the comments underneath regarding the exact lyrics of the song..

6 comments:

R. Pechey said...

Not wishing to be overly pedantic I note that in the last chorus of "On the ball City" on your blog you have added in "it" between "kick" and "off". This is simply not correct, despite the fact that today's crowd sing it this way (incorrectly!). How did this evolution happen. "kick off" is more logical because that's how the game starts, not "kick it off"!

aitch said...

You are not being pedantic. It is important for me to get things right, unfortunately the 'it' in the last chorus is a daft mistake on my part(despite checking it on numerous occasions when I posted it two years ago in the knowledge it had to be absolutely spot on). All three choruses should of course be identical.

As for how the evolution of present day fans singing it incorrectly came about, it surely lies in the fact that it is passed on by groups of young men who have little knowledge, or indeed interest, in the history of the song. Whilst I would love to hear it sung properly and at the original speed, it is also fascinating to think how different generations have changed it. Unfortunately we will never know what versions existed in, say, 1935 when Carrow Road was opened.I do know that in the late sixties and early seventies (a time when going to a football match included for me personally, singing in the Barclay)nobody around me gave a monkey's about the correct lyrics. Like today, it was all a bit of a mess ! Perhaps the only thing that really matters is that it survives, irrespective of it's authenticity with the original .

I do wonder whether "throw it in" is also incorrect. The clip clearly says "throw in", but all the transcriptions I have ever seen have an "it" in the lyric as well.

I suggest nobody really knows for certain. It should also be remembered that the song originally belonged to other local clubs before NCFC ever came into being, so some early manipulation of words almost certainly took place. It makes for an interesting discussion !

I have now changed that last chorus.........thank you.

Michael D said...

In terms of the rhythm and pacing of the verse it has to be 'kick off, throw in'. You wouldn't write 'kick off' in the first action, and then suddenly add an 'it' in the second action. I am sure the orignal author would have written kick off, throw in. As you say that is definitely the wording in the song on the U-tube clip, and with the rhythm of the words in the song, it certainly suggests this is more likely the original wording.

aitch said...

Yes Michael, though I am no musician, I tend to agree. For the sake of balance and rhythm, it surely has to be either both "it" in or both "it" out, and I would personally go for the latter. But as I say, all written versions of the lyrics I have seen include an "it" in the throw in.

What to do now ??

I will leave the post as it is for the time being, but hopefully we may get a few more contributions from readers. I did read somewhere on the net that somebody was going to make an attempt to get current fans to start singing the song at the old speed. I guess that would be the time for the exact words to be agreed on !

richpech said...

I have many publications going back to the 50's including Ted Bell's original 58/59 "Canary Crusade" but the earliest I have with the OTBC words is Ted's "On the Ball City" book which excludes the "it".

aitch said...

The version now recorded on here is the one from Ted Bell's book On The Ball City. I am not aware of any Norwich City books that pre date his work, other than handbooks and programmes of course, so I am pretty sure his will be the earliest text in common circulation.