Phil Dickson, 48, from Wells Somerset, is football mad and this weekend his dream of playing at a Wembley final in front of a global audience will be realised. He’ll be on the pitch but not kicking the ball. Phil is the Band Sergeant Major for the Band of the Coldstream Guards and will be part of a six-man team of top British Army Musicians who will perform a fanfare at the start of the beautiful game for the UEFA Euro 2021 Final on Sunday night.
Phil said: “It’s just fantastic that I’m going to be there for the final and now knowing that England got the right result and will be too, is incredible. I’m so proud to be representing the Band of the Coldstream Guards, at Wembley, in an England final, to a global audience. It really doesn’t get much better than this!”
It’s going to be a massive event, and he’s prepared for a wall of noise when the fanfare team marches out onto the pitch on Sunday night, so they’ll have a big match challenge on their hands to fill the space with the majestic sound.
“It’s a great fanfare, one we don’t play often called Miklos, which was composed by a former Coldstream Guards band member Lance Sergeant James Scott” explained Phil. The three silver trumpets and three trombones of the fanfare team will bear the blue, red, blue banners of the Household Division, embroidered with the Coldstream Guards cap star and the musicians will be in their iconic red tunics, bearskin caps with red plumes.
“The biggest challenge is keeping to time. The match organisers have said the fanfare needs to last for precisely 21 seconds; we’ll be socially distanced, there’ll be pyrotechnics, lighting, the roar of the arena, so hearing each other and seeing each other so we can keep synchronised is not an option, so that’s where the professional training comes in. This is what we do, adapting and rising to the challenge is part and parcel of being in the army, so no matter how big the event, the moment that tunic and bearskin goes on, you know you’re performing, and it just brings out the best in everyone.”
Phil, like his fellow musicians in the Band of the Coldstream Guards, is no stranger to big events. He was on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace when the Band was asked by Her Majesty The Queen to play the Star Spangled Banner in solidarity with the United States after 9/11. Two weeks later he and the band were in Times Square, New York playing live to 100 million plus audience on Good Morning America.
Phil has spent 32 years in the Army, the majority of it in the Band of the Coldstream Guards. His current role of Band Sergeant Major means he is responsible for discipline, welfare and the administration of the band as well as being a musician. He plays cornet principally, but also trumpet, double bass and bass guitar. Growing up in a Salvation Army family, music was his world, but the Army has allowed him to combine that love with travel and some amazing platforms. He’s performed on nine concert tours of Japan, performed for Royalty routinely, and countless national ceremonial events, including some pretty impressive football matches, but Sunday will be a career highlight.
“I was sat behind the goal at the Euro96 semi-final match against Germany when Gareth Southgate lost the penalty,” confessed Phil. “I was absolutely gutted. But I always believed the team could come through. While previous teams have always looked back and been conscious of defeat, this one is looking forward and focussed on winning. That’s the attitude we have in the Army, and when I see how Gareth Southgate is leading his team, leading from the front, it resonates with how we do things. Leadership is so important. Harry Kane is my favourite player (I’m a Tottenham fan!) and when I see the leadership shown by him – putting the team result before his own desire to get the golden boot – I’m proud. He’s awesome.”
The six army musicians are all massive football fans so whatever the result they’re proud and privileged to be part of the event. But as Phil explained they’re all praying for an England win: “It’s been a long wait. I’d like England to win convincingly with that passion we’ve seen building throughout this competition. A 3-0 victory, clean, decisive with no extra time and no penalties. Like the Coldstream Guards motto: Nulli secundus – Second to none.”