Where in the world can you hear about Cottagers, Gunners and Monkey Hangers all within a few minutes?
Well, if you’re listening to a football (soccer) update from the United Kingdom, those are three team nicknames you might hear.
Admittedly, there are a lot of teams over there with rather … well … boring nicknames. There are a lot of Blues, for instance, who wear home uniforms (or kit, as they call it in the United Kingdom) which are, yes, blue. The group of teams called Magpies are the same, with black-and-white kit.
But then there are the other nicknames, the ones I like looking up and finding out where they came from. Like the three I mentioned earlier, or the Addicks or the Spireites.
The Spireites call Chesterfield home, and while it might seem more fitting to call them the Sofas, their name comes from a landmark in the town, which we would actually call a city, since it has more than 100,000 residents. Anyway, the Church of Saint May and All Saints has a crooked spire, which legend says was caused when a local blacksmith put new horseshoes on the Devil’s cloven hooves, but deliberately did it wrong, causing the Devil such pain he leapt into the air, hitting the spire.
Others attribute the crooked spire to poor workmanship.
Be that as it may, the local football team has been known as the Spireites for many years.
Some of the other nicknames aren’t quite so rooted in the past. like Charlton Athletic, known as the Addicks after a fish and chips shop in the town. Don’t see the connection? A lot of people in England drop their h’s, so haddock becomes something sounding more like Addick.
Fulham’s home stadium is known as Craven Cottage because of the cottage which sits in one corner. Thus, the team is the Cottagers.
An even more straightforward one, in many regards, is Arsenal, which was the site of an arms factory whose workers formed a football team. They were know, and still are, as the Gunners.
My vote for the most bizarre name, though, goes to Hartlepool United. During the Napoleonic Wars, the story goes, a French ship was wrecked near the town. There was only one survivor, a monkey which was wearing a sailor’s uniform.
The people of the town held a trial for the monkey, and didn’t get any answers to their questions (no surprise there). Having never seen a monkey before,they assumed it was a French spy, and hung it.
However, it is worth noting the story wasn’t heard of until a fellow named Ned Corvan wrote The Monkey Song later in the 19th century.
Whatever the case, the team has been known as the Monkey Hangers since.