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The Fame and Claim to a Nickname

A little pre-season football trivia fun is always good to relieve the tedium of the summer months without our beloved club football. So now is an ideal time to look at quirks and questions you have always wanted to ask about your club but have always been tied up with the importance of the season and results. One thought springs to mind: nicknames. Every club has one, most fairly obvious: Newcastle, The Magpies hence the black and white jersey, Swansea, The Swans, the clue is in the name, or perhaps the more unfamiliar nicknames: ‘Tricky Trees’ which Nottingham Forest are sometimes called, but most fans will know their nickname as simply ‘Forest.’ Other nicknames are slightly unexciting and predictable: Chelsea, The Blues, Man City, The Sky Blues etc… Further nicknames include The Gunners – Arsenal, The Foxes – Leicester or Derby County, The Rams – all obvious from the badge but where did it originate from? Which are the most obscure nicknames in football and how did they come about? Here are five of the most bizarre nicknames and the story behind them…


Sunderland FC – AKA ‘The Black Cats’

A strange name for a team bearing no resemblance to a cat nor do they wear black so where has this nickname come from? There are a couple of theories, the first being a battery gun on the River Wear called ‘The Black Cat Battery’ giving the club the name. One other suggestion is during the 1960’s the club had a resident black cat which was looked after by the staff, or it could be all down to the fact that a black cat was taken to the 1937 FA Cup final by his owner and Sunderland fan. As black cats are deemed to bring good luck, this supporter brought this lucky charm to the match and Sunderland won the cup so it worked! A few good reasons why Sunderland are nicknamed The Black Cats, if the latter is correct, then perhaps the black feline bringing luck will ring true for Sunderland this season and the club will win promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt.


Everton FC – AKA ‘The Toffees’

The Toffees is the familiar nickname for this Merseyside club, an odd title which needs explanation: Apparently, during the 1950’s and ‘60’s, toffees were thrown to supporters before kick-off on a match day. A lady would walk around the pitch giving out the sweets to fans hence Everton being referred to as ‘The Toffees’. However, this blue side of Liverpool club also have a far more bizarre nickname that many will never have heard of: ‘Scientific’ or ‘The School of Science.’ Strange but true, and the reason behind it? A remark made regarding the team’s style of play that dates back to 1928. Their football was so attractive and controlled that it was thought of as ‘scientific’ giving the club not one but two unusual nicknames.


A.C Chievo Verona – AKA ‘The Flying Donkeys’

This Italian side who finished 14th in Serie A last season have one of the strangest and most comical nicknames, they are known as ‘The Flying Donkeys.’ This peculiar name was actually given to the club by their closest rival team Hellas Verona. Chievo, a renowned Serie B club to the delight of Hellas supporters, ridiculed their foes by insisting ‘donkeys would fly before Chievo made it to Serie A.’ However, during the 2000/01 season, Chievo kept on winning and ‘The Flying Donkeys’ flew into Italy’s top football league for the first time in the club’s history. Hellas fans were clearly wrong to mock, but they can claim they gave their rivals their nickname – the ‘donkeys would fly’ quote stuck and Chievo became ‘The Flying Donkeys.’


Atletico Madrid – AKA ‘The Mattress Men’

This Spanish side have one of the most unusual yet historic nicknames dating back to the early 1900s when the club was formed. The team was created by a group of students, money was tight, they needed a proper jersey to become a proper club so they asked a local company who sewed mattresses to make them a club shirt. Made from red and white material, it was the cheapest option and after the jersey had made its debut, the club supporters chanted the word ‘colchoneros’ which in Spanish means ‘mattress men.’ The newly formed club had a nickname and the mattress company also did well out of it, other football clubs started ordering their kits from them. A bizarre story yet a winning combination for all involved.


Juventus – AKA ‘The Old Lady’

The Italian giant’s nickname ‘The Old Lady’ is a strange one for such a vibrant athletic side. However, this iconic title dates back to the 1930’s when the club’s fans used to call their beloved team ‘a lady’ purely because of their complete adoration for the Italian team. The ‘Old’ part of the name comes from the fact that in Latin ‘Juventus’ means ‘youth’ so it was deemed amusing and ironic to call the club ‘old.’ Juventus are also one of the oldest clubs in Italy making ‘old’ a plausible reason behind the nickname as well as this, the owners of the club, back in the ‘30s, were renowned for keeping hold of ageing club legends. Put the two together and this great iconic club becomes an ‘Old Lady.’


So, every football club has a nickname whether it is cliched, original or as discovered, unequivocally unusual. There are many football clubs that have been labelled with amusing nicknames but you would have to agree the above five are some of the strangest yet with fascinating stories behind them. It is all part of a club’s history and interesting trivia while we wait for the new season to begin and to find out if ‘The Black Cats’ will be ‘lucky’ enough to return to the Premier League, whether ‘The Toffees’ will have a ‘sweet’ or ‘sticky’ season, perhaps ‘The Flying Donkeys’ will ‘soar’ into Serie A, can the ‘Mattress Men’ ‘bed’ well into the new season or maybe ‘The Old Lady’ will ‘totter’ to another Serie A title…

About Hannah Lawrence

Hannah Lawrence
My name is Hannah Lawrence and I regularly write scripts, novels and articles.  I have completed a course with The Writers Bureau and have had work published by Viz magazine, United Press poetry books and The UK Poetry Library. I have some of my short stories available for purchase on Amazon for Kindle, I am also a member of my local writer's group, Kingswood Writer's Ink.  You will also find some of my work on my website as well as on Wattpad. 

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