Those cheeky Germans: they can sing in English!

From a distance, you wouldn't have known they were German. Football fans these days dress and act and chant much the same, influenced by the same influences, fashioned by the same fashions. But as I walked passed them, waiting good-naturedly in a long queue to get into Highbury, I could hear them talking to each other in German. So that was a clue.

Two mounted policemen were moving up and down the queue, keeping an eye on them, just in case there was trouble - although, these days, pitched battles between rival fans are rare. Fans are too busy on their mobile phones, or stuffing their faces with prawn sandwiches. The new ones tend to be rich wimps who would run a mile from a rumble, while geezers have on expensive gear and don't want to get blood-stained innit.

A small group of German fans stepped out of the queue to examine the police horses, close up. One of them began to laugh, poking the horse, shouting up to the policeman: "Nicht BSE?" Then they killed themselves at their own wit.

Inside, during the whole 90 minutes, the Bayern Munich fans were brilliant, the best away supporters I've witnessed this season. And that includes Newcastle's, traditionally our most exuberant. At kick-off, they all frantically waved balloons in the air, and they kept up their chanting and clapping throughout the match.

Early in the game, when Arsenal went 2-0 up, they were singing the tunes we all know, the ones we hear all over Europe - but with German words. In the second half, when Effenberg (who had done bugger all and looked half asleep) came to life and Bayern stormed forward, their fans started singing - in English.

At first, I thought I'd misheard. Where I sit in the West Stand, towards the Clock End, I am quite near the away fans, so I listened carefully and, yes, they were singing in English. They were belting out England's "Three Lions" song, the one that goes "Coming home, coming home". Instead of singing that England's football was coming home, they were singing "German football's coming home". Cheeky sods.

When Bayern drew level, they burst into "You only sing when you're winning". Then, when it looked as if they might even win, they started chanting, "You're shit and you know you are", laughing and cheering themselves.

It was interesting for several reasons. We know that the Dutch and Scandinavian fans all speak perfect English, but I had assumed that German fans were as useless at other languages as English fans are. It also showed the influence of British television. They must be watching our games on satellite to have picked up our chants. Correctly, too. They knew the precise moment in a game to pile on the abuse. And they were well up on irony, English-style.

I'll miss the European games, now that there's a break till February. I enjoy the extra sense of occasion created, with the foreign fans, the ominous Euro intro music, the shaking of that funny-looking plastic sheet thing in the centre circle before kick-off. On television, the ball pattern looks black and white but, in reality, it is sort of off-white and grey. Arsenal's match began 20 minutes late, for reasons that were never explained, so the people holding the sheet, waiting to shake it, had to stand there like right eejits.

What will happen when Europe resumes? Hard to see Man Utd not getting to the final. Stam should be back. Dwight seems to have got over his iffy spell. Teddy is having an Indian summer. Scholes is a little gem. But Real Madrid are so classy all round. On their day, they have no apparent weaknesses. Unlike Man Utd. Even when he plays brilliantly, I still expect Gary Neville to make a silly mistake, Silvestre to get caught out, and Irwin is now fallible. I suspect this might be his last season as a regular. So, if it's Real Madrid v Man Utd in the final, I wouldn't bet on Man Utd. Fergie, some weeks ago, said there could be an all-English final. I can't see it. Arsenal sliced through Newcastle last Saturday, but their soft underbelly was exposed in that Bayern game. Henry, Kanu and Pires, all immensely talented, can become peripheral when the going gets tough. They lack total determination, mental and physical. Arsenal need an old-fashioned centre forward on the bench, to be sent on to charge forward, someone in the Hasselbaink mould. They could also do with Petit back.

Leeds in Europe keep on over-achieving. All season I have thought they won't do it, not this time, they'll be found out, all those kids, all those good players such as Kewell missing, bound to get stuffed eventually. But they never did. Perhaps they'll keep surprising us, right to the end. Liverpool, in the Uefa cup, have also done well, but they are constantly inconsistent, instantly considerate, considerably unconstant, ie, like this sentence, all over the shop. I saw them against Spurs at White Hart Lane and they were so awful. And you have to be really awful to be thumped by Spurs. Owen and Fowler, on their performance that day, would not have made it to Carlisle United's first team. Heskey is the big plus for them this season, improving all the time. Perhaps by February, Owen and Fowler will have found form.

Sven Goran Eriksson has said the English Premiership is now as good as the best in Europe. We know why he said that, the creep. But we do have four good teams to cheer on in the New Year, two of which might make our little chests stick out proudly by the end of the season. Then we can sing the real words: "Coming home, coming home, England's football's coming home . . ."

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.