Football Club Nicknames & Where They Came From

Unusual football club nicknames are a proud tradition of English football, but for some clubs the origins behind their names are a little more distinctive than others....

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Why are Forest called the Tricky Trees?

Consider every sports-themed pub quiz you’ve ever been to (in the days when you still could), and it’s a pretty safe bet that the odd football club nickname has cropped up as a question to try and slip you up.

Here are three for starters – with answers below.

Which club are called The Gas?*
Who are affectionately known as the Chairboys?**
Which club is called the U’s?***

Unusual football club nicknames are a proud tradition of English football, but for some clubs the origins behind their names are a little more distinctive than others.

We’ve picked out a selection of some of the nicknames you’ve always wondered about, but never thought to ask…

(*Bristol Rovers; **Wycombe; *** trick question – four clubs have that name)

 



Football Club Nickname FAQs 

Why are Everton known as the Toffees?

Everton probably have the most distinctive nickname of teams in the current top flight, given it doesn’t refer to the club badge, city name or colours.

There’s actually a good tale behind this one, with the club taking its nickname from the Everton toffees served up by local proprietor Old Ma Bushell at her Ye Ancient Toffee House in the 1800s which proved a huge hit with fans on their way to the game.


Why are Portsmouth known as Pompey?

“Play up Pompey, Pompey play up” is one of the most famous chants in English but what exactly is Pompey?

It’s actually the local nickname for the city of Portsmouth, and thought to originate from the port’s 74-gun ship HMS Pompee, navigating the high seas all the way back in the 1790s.

Why are Portsmouth called Pompey?
The docks at Portsmouth, once home to HMS Pompee

Why are Nottingham Forest sometimes called the Tricky Trees?

It’s one of the stranger names for a club, but sadly there’s not much of an exciting backstory to this one.

It simply refers to the famous tree crest in the club’s longstanding logo. Could have come up with a bit more of an apocryphal tale, lads.


Why are Norwich City called the Canaries?

Norwich boast one of the most instantly-recognised kits in the English game, but it seems the kit came from the nickname rather than the other way round.

Norfolk was a popular hub for canary breeding around the time the club was formed.

Perhaps more shockingly, they used to play in light blue and white halves before switching to the more iconic green and yellow.

Why are Norwich called the Canaries?
Norwich, not always yellow and green like their feathered namesakes.

Why are Wycombe called the Chairboys?

This one’s a head-scratcher if you’re not from the leafy Buckinghamshire suburbs. However, it turns out the Wycombe area used to be a hotbed of the UK furniture making industry.

Although it’s a shame they didn’t consider some alternative suggestions before settling on Chairboy: we quite like the sound of the Coatrackers.


Why are Bristol Rovers called the ‘Gas’?

No, it’s not because they’re all talk without the results to show for is.

This one is simply geographical, with the club’s original ground Eastville situated next to a gasworks.


Why are Brighton and Crystal Palace know as the Seagulls and Eagles?

Two Premier League rivals thrown together with pleasingly similar nicknames. It seems too good to be true. Sadly, that’s because it is.

Brighton were originally known as the Dolphins but reverted to the Seagulls when the M23 rivalry with Palace began to get heated in the 1970s to wind up their South London rivals.

Why are Brighton called the Seagulls?
Seagulls, causing problems for Eagles since the 1970s.

Why are Bournemouth called the Cherries?

Another nickname that only really makes sense once you understand the local history connections.

Today if you head to the Vitality, you can enjoy the aroma of fried onions and chicken balti pies, but back in pre-football times the area used to be home to a fragrant cherry tree orchard.

Some Cherries fans might concede they’ve only seen rotten apples served up in recent times.


Why are Leicester called the Foxes?

Their most famous son Gary Lineker was a notable penalty box predator, but it’s actually the shape of the county of Leicestershire on a map that gives Leicester their name. Check it out – it’s surprisingly fox-like if you stare hard enough.

They weren’t always known for their vulpine credentials – at formation they were known as Fosse, due to the Fosse Way roman road that runs through Leicester.

Why are Leicester called the Foxes?
It really does look like a fox.

Why are so many clubs called the U’s?

There’s not much to link Cambridge, Colchester, Oxford and Sutton bar a relatively undistinguished history bouncing around the lower reaches of the English pyramid.

However, they all share a common nickname.

This one’s pretty easy – the U stands in place of United, reflecting their full team names.


Why are Oldham and Wigan called the Latics?

As with the U’s above, it’s a simple corruption of their full name, ‘Athletic’, although clearly no-one did the spell-check that day when the nickname got signed off.


Why are Hartlepool known as the Monkey Hangers?

Settle down, because this one really is a cracker. It all dates to the Napoleonic wars, when the citizens of Hartlepool allegedly hanged a monkey in the mistaken belief it was a French spy.

Hundreds of years later, a new generations of locals would elect club mascot H’Angus the Monkey as the local mayor.

Makes up for the chequered history a little, we guess.

Why are Hartlepool called the Monkey Hangers?
H’Angus the Monkey, before his mayoral duties took hold.

Why were Reading called the Biscuitmen?

Nowadays, their location in the Royal County sees them known as the rather more staid Royals, but back when football clubs didn’t worry image rights, Reading happily went about their business as the Biscuitmen.

The biscuit makers Huntley and Palmers had their head office in Reading from the mid-1800s and for many years were the town’s main employer.

The nickname stuck until H&P left the town in 1976. That’s probably much to the relief of modern-day Reading fans who’d settle for boring over a lifetime of crumbling under the pressure gags.


Why are Charlton called the Addicks?

It’s a word that pretty much only exists in conjuction with Charlton Athletic, and it has stranger roots than you might think. It’s actually a classic piece of South London slang, in place of ‘haddock’. Lee Bowyer will be hoping his side don’t stink the place out when the season resumes.

Why are Charlton called the Addicks?
Decent grub around the Valley, by all accounts.

Why are Shrewsbury Town called Salop?

It’s time to get your little book of English history out again.

Anyone unfamiliar with the Shropshire region won’t be familiar with the term ‘Salop’ but it’s the actual historic name both for the county and the town, probably destined to gain wider fame when showcased in a Netflix medieval epic coming your way soon.


Why are Sheffield Wednesday called Wednesday?

Finally, we come to arguably the hands down oddest name in English football.

It’s hands down the most boring day of the week but the Owls, as they are more commonly known nowadays due to their Owlerton base, had good reason for it.

Back in the mid-1800s, Wednesday was actually a pretty good day for the founding members who used it for a well-deserved day off. They made good use of it too, founding a club that’s going strong over 150 years later on Wednesday 4th September 1867.

 


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