Good times never seemed so good! How Sweet Caroline became the sound of sporting success

Good times never seemed so good! How Sweet Caroline became the sound of sporting success

England players Millie Bright, Ellen White, Rachel Daly, Chloe Kelly and Demi Stokes celebrate after the final whistle at Wembley.

Neil Diamond’s 1969 single rang out as the Lionesses won Euro 2022 on Sunday, and has been playing at sporting fixtures for more than a decade. But why?

Name: Sweet Caroline.

Age: 53.

Appearance: Everywhere.

Name one place. Well, Wembley, for starters. It’s the song of the England women’s Euro 2022 triumph. Lioness Chloe Kelly broke off a post-match interview to join a team singalong, and Radio 1 have been playing it every hour to celebrate.

Name another. It was also played at Boris and Carrie Johnson’s wedding party at the weekend. And Emma Raducanu joined in with fans singing it after her US Open win last year.

How did it start? Where it began, I can’t begin to knowing.

You could Google it, though. No, those are the opening lyrics.

OK, but I meant: by what route did Sweet Caroline become such an all-round sporting-and-nuptial anthem? Neil Diamond released it as a standalone single in May 1969, but it proved so overwhelmingly popular that it was hastily added to later pressings of the album he’d put out a month earlier.

Is it about football? No. Diamond claimed it was inspired by a magazine cover featuring John F Kennedy’s young daughter, Caroline, on a horse.

Is it about three-day eventing? It’s a love song, apparently about Diamond’s then-wife Marcia, only her name didn’t have the right number of syllables.

So what is the football connection? The song has long featured at sporting events – the Boston Red Sox have played it at every home game since 2002. It also became popular at Northern Ireland football matches, rugby league games, cricket matches, and among Chelsea and Aston Villa fans.

And then? Then Wembley DJ Tony Parry played it when England’s men beat Germany during Euro 2020.

Why Sweet Caroline? “I was going to play Vindaloo, but went with my gut,” he said. Sweet Caroline went to No 20, and England were bested by Italy in the final.

So it’s a song about losing? Not any more. As the soundtrack to the Lionesses’ amazing Euro 2022 run and their victory over Germany in the final on Sunday, it’s now about winning.

What about this Johnson wedding party? Boris and Carrie reportedly danced to Sweet Caroline before 150 guests in the grounds of the Daylesford Estate; she in a hired gown, he presumably looking like a haystack in a suit.

And has it been heard anywhere else recently? Rod Stewart sang the Neil Diamond hit at the platinum jubilee concert, apparently at the Queen’s request.

What is it about this song? Like all good anthems it has a simple melody, words that everybody knows and a certain raw emotional power you won’t find in, say, I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.

Do say: “Good times never seemed so good.”

Don’t say: “Actually, I remember good times seeming considerably better than this.”