Time for a new anthem . . .

One good thing about all these recent international games is the national anthems. I do love watching their little mouths mouthing, or not, as the case usually is. Before the Bulgaria game, Dawson alone sang lustily, making his mum proud. Most of the other England players managed only a few facial movements, apart from Rooney and Milner, who didn't even try, faces tight, gobs closed.

Laurent Blanc, the new manager of France, in his first game, at home against Belarus, insisted all his players learn the words of "La Marseillaise" - and sing them properly. New managers do this, picking on trivial things, turning them into symbolic acts that will revolutionise their play. They ban flip-flops, ooh tough, insist on blazers, I should think so, no sex at half-time, with or without wives, which is, like, so unfair.

In France, of course, "La Marseillaise" has history. When France played Tunisia at home in 2008 most of the crowd booed the national anthem - because most of the home crowd, not just the away supporters, had North African blood and were enjoying getting back at France, the colonial bastards. The French government was livid.

The real history of the French national anthem is that it was an army marching song, dating back to the 1790s and becoming a rallying song for the French Revolution. I think it's brilliant. I wish we had it, instead of our soppy anthem. When I hear that stupid England band suddenly play it at Wembley games, I want to scream.

I remember the days when every cinema screening ended with the national anthem - or have I made that up? It seems impossible, just like smoking at the movies. Definitely in the Fifties, perhaps the Sixties; don't know when it ended. If you tried to leave while it was still being played, you'd be glared at.

I have a son-in-law, Richard, who is French. I asked if he knew the words of his national anthem. He sang it in his head and said yes, at least the first verse. He couldn't believe French players don't know it. He learned it at primary school and it was sung at all national events. He feels 100 per cent French - though his father came from Cameroon.

I then tried, in my head, to see if I know the words of "Flower of Scotland". I look upon myself as Scottish, so surely I should know the words of what has become our national anthem. It's even drearier, more mournful, than "God Save the Queen". Isn't even ancient, having been created in 1967 by Roy Williamson of the folk group the Corries. Hmm, got as far as "O flower of Scotland", then gave up. Well, I always preferred "Scotland the Brave".

The point of these anthems is that they are national, so meant to inspire us nationally, and should energise us if we are going into battle on the pitch, hence a marching song like "La Marseillaise" is excellent.

So, did it work? The French players did sing a bit better - then got stuffed 1-0 by Belarus and booed off the pitch. As for Dawson, the only English player to open his lungs, he got carried off injured and will be out for two months. Symbolic, huh?

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.

This article first appeared in the 13 September 2010 issue of the New Statesman, France turns right