Choir finds footie fame
It is 90 seconds to the final whistle. France scores its second goal. And, across the country, England fans groan in pain. Keith Knowles was among them. "It was such a shame when England lost," he said. "It would have helped the record enormously if the team had done well. We might have had a number one."
Mr Knowles is head of music at St Francis Xavier college in Liverpool, and leader of its 42-boy SFX choir, which has toured the cathedral cities of Europe, singing for church dignitaries. Now, following a chance encounter with Peter Hooton, lead singer of The Farm, they feature on the reissue of the indie band's 1990 hit, All Together Now, reworked as the anthem for Euro 2004.
"It's an amazing opportunity," said Mr Knowles. "We'd already sung for the Pope, but this is equally exciting. Football is like a religion to some people."
Three weeks after its release, the single is at number five in the charts and the choir has performed the song before a crowd of 43,500, at the England-Iceland match. This week, eight boys sang live on Top of the Pops, alongside pop singer Peter Andre and former Spice girl Emma Bunton, peeling off their cassocks and ruffs to reveal the England football strip.
Mark McCombs, 14, said: "Fans were screaming when we took off the cassocks.
And they cheered the whole way through. It was quite flattering, but then we found out they were actually cheering on cue."
But there have been other, less artificial trappings of stardom: "When we were in a restaurant, someone pointed out that we were the ones with the single," he said. Simon Townley, his Year 9 classmate, is still waiting for his moment of recognition: so far, the only autograph demands he has received have been from teachers.
Nonetheless, he is compiling a box of memories to remind him of his moment of fame. "I have a flag from the Iceland game, and a wristband from the Top of the Pops party. And presenter Fearne Cotton's autograph. They were all so nice. Singing pop music is a great achievement. Even if it is easier than choral music."
Mr Knowles agrees. "Peter Andre pre-recorded his appearance on Top of the Pops, but our boys sang live," he said.
"But I'd still love for us to be remembered as the song from the year England won the championship."