EastEnders’ Shaun Williamson ‘couldn’t believe reaction’ to Sweet Caroline

EastEnders star Shaun Williamson has said he “couldn’t believe the reaction” when he performed Sweet Caroline for football fans ahead of England’s semi-final clash with Denmark.

The former soap star, best known for playing Barry Evans in the BBC soap, is also a cabaret performer and took to the stage to perform the Neil Diamond classic at BoxPark in Croydon on Thursday night, where he was met with a rapturous reception.

Video of his rendition has also since made the rounds on social media and Williamson told the PA news agency: “I just couldn’t believe the reaction.

Fans watching England v Croatia
Shaun Williamson performing for fans (Steven Paston/PA)

“I’ve been singing that song for 25 years, I do a lot of cabaret when I’m not acting and I’ve never known a reaction like that.”

He added: “It’s just a great song and a great song is a great song.

“I think it’s been around as a football chant for a while now and apparently it started as a chant in American football in the crowd. It’s just lovely.

“I know there’s a lot of a negativity around football, but you always get idiots, idiots with laser pens, if it was boxing fans or rugby fans, you always get one idiot.

“I think it’s a great release for people, they go out and they get it all out of this system, so I think it really serves a purpose.

Fans watching England v Denmark
On stage at BoxPark (Tess Derry/PA)

“I know the whole world’s gone through Covid, including Denmark and I feel sorry for them, but it is what the English need.

“It’s been a lousy 18 months, absolutely lousy, so this is fantastic.

“I think when England team go on a good run, everyone gets behind them.

“You’ve got people watching the telly, men and women and kids who normally wouldn’t bother, and they get caught up in the excitement and the longer it goes on, it’s great.

“It’s a great knock-on for the economy, especially the pubs and bars.

“They’ve all had a lousy 18 months and they’re now selling millions of pints, it is great for everybody.

“I think there’s always people who will abuse it, but it can be very positive nationalism and there’s nothing wrong with it.

“I’ve got no time for idiots who boo other people’s national anthems or shine laser pens or boo people taking a knee, but it can be it can be a very positive.”

Discussing England’s chances against Italy on Sunday, he said: “I think our biggest attribute is Wembley, and I’m not talking about booing other national anthems, but if the crowd make that much noise against Italy, who haven’t lost for ages…

“If we made some of the mistakes we made (against Denmark), we haven’t got a chance.

“But if we can just tighten up a little bit, stop giving silly balls away, we’ve obviously got a chance, we’ve got the players, but it’s going to be a monumental task, it is going to be gripping.”