World in Motion – England’s finest hour?

In the wake of England’s worst World Cup performance since 1958, there’s probably a lot of dejected fans out there in need of cheering up – not least this pub landlord, who might feel a little silly as he stuffs his bunting back in the attic.


A win against Costa Rica could restore English smiles, but after the last two games the result is by no means a foregone conclusion.

It’s rumoured that young Southampton full-back Luke Shaw will start alongside the likes of Everton starlet Ross Barkley – either blooding a new golden generation [sic] or inuring them to painful humiliation as early as possible, depending on your perspective.

Since we can’t rely on the football to generate any positivity among the English fanbase, let’s look back at the country’s finest footballing moment. 1966? Nah. 1990 – the year World in Motion was released.

How it happened

The history of World Cup-affiliated singles is not a glorious one. (Baddiel and Skinner’s Three Lions was decent, but it was for the Euros). There’s not enough space on all of the internet to mention the failures, although We’re On The Ball by Ant & Dec is a particularly egregious example of the genre. So where did World in Motion, a genuinely cracking pop song, emerge from? New Order, singles Obviously, New Order are the first reason for its success. Although it’s hard to draw a line between Joy Division, the chilly post-punk of Movement and Substance, and the sunny synth-led pop that emerged from the band in the 90s, that’s the way Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner wanted to go.

By the end of the 1980s the group were drawing on an eclectic range of influences, including acid house and the Balearic sounds emerging from Ibiza’s club scene. This move towards a more upbeat approach is evident on World in Motion.

Professional Cockney Keith Allen also deserves some credit for co-writing the track (although he’s blotted his copybook with a few other efforts, including the inexplicably popular Fat Les collaboration Vindaloo). World in Motion Finally, the England squad’s contribution was also a relatively impressive one. John Barnes’ rap isn’t universally praised, but it’s a good effort to my mind – even if it was composed after “a few glasses of wine”. At any rate, it’s better than Ghana star Asamoah Gyan’s hip-hop cameo!

Just the facts

  • Despite the lasting influence they had on the pop landscape, World in Motion was New Order’s only number one single.
  • Peter Beardsley and Paul Gascoigne were considered for the rapping section before Barnes got the nod.
  • Kenneth Wolstenholme’s famous commentary from the ‘66 World Cup is sampled, but it isn’t the original – he re-recorded his lines for the producers.
  • 1990, when England made the semi-finals, remains the team’s most successful outing of recent years.

Fearghus Roulston

Fearghus was tempted into training as a journalist after an injudicious exposure to the Tintin books at an early age. He worked in several content marketing and writing jobs before starting at Clowdy, where he deals with blogging, social media and other non-Tintin or international espionage-related activities.