Most football teams have nicknames, some of which are fairly transparent, and some of which are more opaque, for example the Toon or the Quarterboys.
Probably the least interesting way of referring to a club is to shorten the whole name, hence Manchester United are known as Man. U. while their close friends rivals are known as Man. City (can you guess their full name?). Other examples of simple abbreviations for English clubs are Spurs (Tottenham Hotspur) and Wolves (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
A few of these shortenings are difficult to work out, though. Some clubs have the word Athletic in their name: Charlton Athletic and Wigan Athletic to name but two. In the case of Wigan, they use the last part of Athletic and corrupt it to the Latics, while Charlton mangle the beginning, and are the Addicks.
But there are other ways of deriving nicknames. Using the team’s colours is one way: the Blues (take your pick: Chelsea, Birmingham City…), the Bluebirds (Cardiff City), the Magpies (Newcastle United, who play in black and white), the Canaries (Norwich City, who play in Canary yellow). Still pretty dull.
More interesting are the ones which derive from the locality or from local trades. So Sheffield United are known as the Blades, because the city of Sheffield has a long and proud history of the steel industry in the city, making knives (among other things). Ipswich Town, surrounded by rural area and farms, are known as the Tractor Boys, while Stoke City, cradle of English industrial pottery, names its club the Potters. Unfortunately for Northampton Town, there’s a double-meaning to their nickname, which derives from the local trade of making shoes: the Cobblers (look up cobbler and then look up cobblers if you’re wondering). And if you’ve ever wondered why Arsenal are known as the Gunners (or even why they’re called Arsenal), it’s because this famous North London club actually began life in South London as Woolwich Arsenal. They had to drop the ‘Woolwich’ when they moved to Highbury, and an arsenal is a place where guns and ammunition are kept, hence the nickname the Gunners.
For a long time, Sunderland were known as the Rokerites, a name derived from their stadium, Roker Park. But in 1997 they moved to a new home, the Stadium of Light (think Estádio da Luz but with a soggier climate), and the club decided to let the fans vote for a new nickname. Now, they are the Black Cats and are probably the only club to have arrived at a nickname via a democratic process.
The Magpies (Newcastle United), are also known as the Toon – a reflection of the Geordie pronunciation of Town.
And the Quarterboys? You might not have heard of them yet. They’re my local team, Rye United, who play in division 1 of the Sussex County League. The name is a reference to the ‘boys’ in Rye’s medieval church clock tower that chime every quarter.Email this Post