Every right-thinking football fan knows that post-goal celebration music is a pox upon the modern game. Cheesy musical numbers like ‘Tom Hark’ and ‘Chelsea Dagger’ now blare out of PA systems across the leagues replacing the atmosphere generated by fans celebrating. Deafening music played before matches and at half time also make talking to your fellow fans a struggle to be heard.
The following tale was originally printed in the issue 65 of Port Vale fanzine ‘The Vale Park Beano’. It tells of Port Vale’s first foray into the world of post-goal music and should have served as a warning to clubs in the future.
As the 1997/98 season got under way, Vale were enjoying yet another successful season in Division One under manager John Rudge. Players such as Martin Foyle, Ian Bogie, Tony Nalor, Dean Glover, Lee Mills and Neil Aspin were the equal of any in that division playing regularly in front of crowds of seven to eight thousand and sometimes many more at Vale Park.
The season got under way with a few setbacks as well as a few notable triumphs including an emphatic 3 - 1 victory over Sunderland, a well fought 1 - 1 draw at Molineux and a well deserved 2 - 1 win over Stockport County. Things in general were going well but Rudgie thought there was something missing, something perhaps lacking in atmosphere, something that would lift the players to even greater heights.
In the close season John Rudge had spent a few days on holiday in Holland and naturally he’d taken in a few games of football whilst he was there. At one particular game he noticed that that after a home goal a piece of South American music was played which the supporters semmed to love dancing and singing along to. He watched in amazement as the spectators jumped out of their seats as soon as the music started and in no time it was as if a carnival was taking place inside the football stadium…The home team scored a goal in the second half and upon hearing the music again Rudgie found himself singing it to himself over and over again. At the end of the game he asked the person sitting next to him what the music was called and was told it was ‘La Cucuracha’, a traditional Mexican song that had been recorded by dozens of artists and groups over the years.
Three months or so later on October 21st Vale had thrashed Huddersfield 4 - 1 at Vale Park and after the fourth goal went in Rudgie had an idea. ‘Why don’t we play La Cucaracha after every Vale goal?’…At the time there was no ‘Glad All Over’ (current post-goal music at Vale Park) or any music at all played after a home goal, so it was quite an innovative idea that he took to Bill Bell (former Vale chairman), who bemusedly went along with it.
Rudge bought a copy of the record, along with a huge Mexican hat and couldn’t wait to tell the media….Radio Stoke soon started playing La Cucuracha telling the listeners this was the catchy tune that would soon be heard after every Port Vale goal. The Sentinel (local paper in Stoke-on-Trent) printed a picture of Rudge in his Mexican hat and even the Vale Park Beano covered the story, christening the music ‘Rudgie’s Rumba’.
After all the publicity Vale fans could hardly wait to join in with the post match celebrations and at last The Sentinel disclosed, ‘starting with the Reading game on November 1st, every Vale goal at Vale Park will be greeted by the sounds of South American music over the loudspeaker system.’
On that Saturday nearly 7,000 eager Vale fans made their way to God’s Little Acre, many of them sporting Mexican hats bought especially for the occasion. Some had painted South American style moustaches on their faces and others had managed to get hold of some castanets.
Reading weren’t having a good season and to add to their woes their regular goalkeeper injured a knee whilst warming up. A shame for the lad but a chance for ‘La Cucuracha’ to be played a few times, we thought. How wrong we were! The stand in goalie played the game of his life and the full time whislt blew at 0 - 0. What a let down, after all the hype and excitement the piece of music we so wanted to hear hadn’t been heard. The Vale faithful had no choice but to trudge home with their Mexican hats and castanets looking forward to the next home game.
A couple of weeks later West Brom were the visitors and Rudge once again urged us to take our Mexican hats to the game…Over 11,000 turned up for the game and eventually in the 48th minute Lee Mills headed home from a Jan Jansson corner. The Baggies, who had been driving us crackers with their ‘boing boing’ chants were silenced as we waited for Rudgie’s Rumba to start. We waited, and waited, but there was only silence. Someone, we later found out, simply forgot to press a button and although those in the control room had the pleasure of enjoying ‘La Cucuracha’, the 11,124 spectators in the ground hear nowt. Never mind, Sheffield United were due at Vale Park the following week so we put our celebrations on hold.
8,017 spectators, some with their now familiar Mexican hats, made their way to the ground only to witness yet another goalless draw and another afternoon bereft of Rudgie’s rumbe or South American style celebrations. It was now becoming a wee bit ominous, some dared to suggest the idea was a bad omen and should be dropped. Nevertheless most of us looked forward to the next home game on December 6th against Birmingham City and a chance to carnival to the terraces.
The Brummies had only won once in their last 15 outings so we were convinced we would soon eb dancing the Mexican Hat Dance as we sung along to ‘La Cucuracha’ in celebration. Hoever, it wasn’t to be as Tony Cottee scored one of the softest goals ever seen at Vale Park as we were defeated without scoring.
A couple of weeks later we managed to score against Ipswich and once again a cock up in the control room meant the wretched music wasn’t played. Ipswich, the visitors, went on to beat us anyway.
Then we lost without scoring to Wolves on December 28th and the handful of Vale fans who had continued to wear their Mexican hats set fire to them on Lorne Street to keep warm.
That was the last we heard of that hapless piece of music. It was never mentioned again and some blame our deplorable results at that time on ‘La Cucuracha’.
Most clubs then began to play music after scoring a goal, ‘Tom Hark’ and ‘Glad All Over’ being favoured at many grounds, and seeing as ‘Glad All Over’ worked well for both Blackpool and Crystal Palace, we adopted the Dave Clark 5 hit as our own.
It might have seemed a good idea t the time but due to unforseen circumstances the idea of playing ‘La Cucuracha’ at Vale Park was one of the biggest cock-ups of the 20th century.