Shaun Williamson believes ‘Sweet Caroline’ is football’s ultimate anthem

Former EastEnders star Shaun Williamson has backed ‘Sweet Caroline’ as football’s ultimate anthem after surprising fans at Boxpark Wembley with a rendition ahead of England’s clash with Denmark.

Williamson, to many still better known as Barry Evans from the BBC soap, has found a new calling as the emcee of ‘Barrioke’, a karaoke event that has seen him entertain huge crowds on an enormously popular – and seemingly indefinite – tour around the UK.

The 58-year-old’s new gig has made him an expert in how the masses relate to music and stands by the Neil Diamond’s hit song – ranked England’s favourite football tune in a recent survey – while he feels Phil Foden would make the best soap star out of Gareth Southgate’s squad.

Aitch and Shaun Williamson perform Sweet Caroline on the Coca-Cola Zero Sugar stage at BOXPARK Wembley
Aitch and Shaun Williamson perform Sweet Caroline on the Coca-Cola Zero Sugar stage at BOXPARK Wembley (John Nguyen/PA)

Williamson told the PA news agency: “There’s been some belters, any Liverpool fan will tell you it’s ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and every particular team has their own anthem, but to me it’s ‘Sweet Caroline’.

“It’s just a beautiful song. I don’t think you can beat it. It’s simple. Like most great songs, there’s a simplicity to them. There’s some notable rivals, like ‘Three Lions’ or ‘Vindaloo’ by Fat Les, but I think ‘Sweet Caroline’ takes it.”

England supporters agree. In a poll carried out by Coca-Cola Zero Sugar about fans’ favourite anthems, ‘Sweet Caroline’ took 31 per cent of the vote followed by ‘We Are the Champions’ (29 per cent), ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ (25 per cent) and ‘Three Lions’ (23 per cent), with ‘Vindaloo’ (15 per cent) rounding out the top five.

Asked to envision a Eurovision of football songs, Williamson thinks a combination of Scottish DJ Calvin Harris and frequent collaborator Rag’n’Bone Man could write a winning hit for a UK entry.

Calvin Harris, left, and Rag'n'Bone Man performing on stage
Williamson believes Calvin Harris, left, and Rag’n’Bone Man could create a hit football anthem (Matt Crossick/PA)

He said: “Calvin Harris just keeps writing these anthems. I don’t know where the man gets it from. He’s in his own field, he’s a genius.”

It has been more than 20 years since EastEnders’ Barry met an untimely demise when he was pushed off a cliff by his wife, Janine Butcher, and Williamson admits there was a point where he “tried his level best to shake [Barry] off, but Barry has come in again in the form of Barrioke, and it’s this wonderful Indian summer to the autumn of my career”.

Williamson thinks Phil Foden is best placed to provide the drama and water-cooler dialogue necessary to make a successful soap star.

The Extras star, who played a satirical version of himself on hit comedy, also feels captain Harry Kane “gets the double standard of you’re appearing on the show, but they’re taking the mickey out of you big time” to serve him well in a cameo appearance if Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant ever revive the show.

Aitch and Shaun Williamson Coca-Cola Zero Sugar stage at BOXPARK
The former EastEnders actor, right, has found a new calling as the emcee of ‘Barrioke’ (John Nguyen/PA)

Williamson is confident England have what it takes to at least reach the semi-finals this year, and agreed that whatever twists, turns and cliff-hangers there are to come, watching Southgate’s men can sometimes feel a bit like tuning into the soap on which he once so famously appeared.

“It can be uplifting, it can have its funny moments, but if you’re an England fan it can be downright depressing, just like EastEnders,” he said.

“Whereas in EastEnders if they’re struggling for a really good storyline they have a murder.

“England just have penalties.”