When people talk about club anthems – and I don’t mean LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem – most football fans’ thoughts turn to Liverpool’s infamous ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, or Nottingham Forest’s adaptation of Mull of Kintyre. They’ve stood the test of time – and are iconic across the country, if not the world.
In comparison, there’s a relative newcomer on the scene – but it’s taken the Arsenal faithful by storm, and they simply cannot get enough of Louis Dunford’s North London Forever. What’s so special about the anthem, why has it been adopted by the club, and does it play a role in the club’s recent success on the pitch?
Dunford grew up in Islington, North London – and has been a staunch Arsenal fan for his whole life. North London Forever tells the story of growing up in the capital. Despite seeing places from his childhood destroyed to modernise the area, Dunford speaks of the community spirit remaining unchanged – ‘cause the manor might be changing, but the people still remain’.
Since the song’s release in March 2022, it had gained significant traction online – and fans had began to push for it to be played ahead of kickoff at the Emirates. Ultimately, it was Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta who sought to include the song in the club’s pre-match buildup – a decision that was covered on Amazon Prime’s All or Nothing documentary.
I’ve been searching for many months [for] a song, an anthem before kick-off – so everybody feels part of what we are doing and it has some DNA about our club. It’s by Louis Dunford, he writes a song about the streets of North London… I want you to play in an incredible atmosphere, the fans are really pushing it now to be playedMikel Arteta speaking to his players ahead of their Premier League clash against Leeds in May 2022
The song goes beyond just football. For many Arsenal fans, it is unbelievably similar to their life story. Islington has changed so much over Louis Dunford’s lifetime, and even more so when you track back further in history to the childhoods of some older supporters. While the surroundings might be changing, the people remain the same – and what unites the people is Arsenal Football Club.
Comparisons have been, and will continue to be, made to Liverpool’s You’ll Never Walk Alone – though at this stage, it’d be criminally unfair to pick ‘the best’ anthem from the pair. Each one resonates with their respective communities so deeply, and as a neutral, I will never fully be able to understand the emotions behind either of the anthems.
What I can understand, however, is the effect that North London Forever has had on Arsenal’s performances. The Emirates has long been the subject of many jokes – mostly directed at its atmosphere, or lack thereof. Put simply, it had become widely known as ‘the library’. There were no songs that were uniquely Arsenal’s – and the pre-match playlist consisted of generic football anthems such as Sweet Caroline. The club didn’t seem at home at the Emirates, and if you’d have listened to the pre-match atmosphere on the radio, you might have struggled to identify which club was playing.
That’s not the case anymore. North London Forever was first played at the Emirates on the 8th May 2022 – the 35th game of Arsenal’s Premier League campaign, as the Gunners took on Leeds United. It was also their penultimate home game of the season, with a trip to local rivals Spurs and a hefty away day in Newcastle coming before a clash against Everton at home on the final day of the season. Arsenal won the fixture against their Yorkshire opponents 2-1.
But then came the two away days – which Arsenal lost both of. An embarrassing 3-0 defeat to Spurs saw the Gunners reduced to ten men after just over half an hour, and a 2-0 loss at St James’ Park looked to end Arsenal’s campaign in quite miserable fashion. There was an opportunity for redemption, though, in the form of Everton – who would be the final visitors to the Emirates in the 2021/22 season.
North London Forever featured again as they hosted Frank Lampard’s side – and while the Toffees may not have posed the most difficult competition, the Gunners emerged as 5-1 winners on the day. So far, so good!
The 2022/23 season is when the atmosphere really started to build at the Emirates, and while their fine form is undoubtedly a contributing factor, credit must also be given to Louis Dunford and his song. Arsenal finally have an anthem, an identity – and the Emirates is slowly but surely becoming a fortress. North London Forever has been welcomed by the fans and has become a focal point of the pre-match activity at the ground. It’s safe to say that should Arsenal go on to win the league – a feat they haven’t achieved since Wenger’s incredible Invincibles season in 2003/04 – Louis Dunford can take pride in having helped, even if only a little, his boyhood club to lift the top-flight trophy.