Monday, 25 June 2012

From Albion to United, the reasons behind Football Clubs and their names

I thought this week I would comment on my favourite sport but instead of doing an article on how much I love Balotelli and his antics, I thought I’d use my, supposed, skills as a historian and delve into the history books to discover where football teams got their names from; why so many ‘Uniteds’, ‘Rovers’ and ‘Wanderers’? What is the story behind the suffix? Of course it would be too time consuming to go through each individual team and discuss the origin of their name, so I plan on taking the most popular suffixes of club names in Great Britain, plus a few anomalies, and hopefully providing some interesting insight into the history of football team names. Some are quite self-explanatory; Borough, City, County and Town shouldn’t leave too many of you guessing how they came up with these names!

Albion- E.G Brighton & Hove Albion, Burton Albion ,West Bromwich Albion
Albion is the oldest known name for Great Britain, today it is used more predominately as an alternative name to England. It was used heavily in poetry during the 19th century at a time when the word was very popular in Britain; West Brom were the first club to take up the suffix in the late 19th century before Brighton did at the turn of the century. Albion is very sentimental word for England in modern times and highlights why football teams use it as part of their name.

Athletic- Charlton, Oldham, Wigan
Has no actual connotations towards Athletics as a sport or as an Athletics club, but actually refers to a sense of fitness and strength derived from the Latin word Athletica.
Hotspur-Tottenham Hotspur
An anomaly in league football but I think there are one or two non-league football clubs that have taken to using Hotspur too. Tottenham got their name from a Mr Harry Hotspur, real name Henry Percy, who was the son of the first Earl of Northumberland. The Percy family owned large tracts of land in Tottenham during the 15th century and Henry himself was famed for his riding spurs and his
Cockfights in which he fitted his fighting cocks with spurs, hence why the Spurs crest features a cockerel.

Orient- Leyton Orient
This is another one of the anomalies of English football with only Leyton Orient using this particular suffix. Based in East London and founded in 1881 as Eagle Cricket Club, the name Orient came about in 1898 at the request of one of their players, Jack Dearing, who at the time also worked for the Orient Shipping Company. Due to the high level of shipping business in and around East London at the beginning of 20th century, the name seemed very apt and has stuck ever since.  Quite an interesting one this, as it has absolutely nothing to do with football but rather cementing the clubs place in a certain part of London.

Rangers- Glasgow Rangers, Queens Park Rangers
The word Ranger refers to people wandering in search of plunder; plunder in a football sense referring to glory and trophies. Queens Park Rangers epitomise the use of the suffix by having had 18 different home grounds in their 129-year history. Glasgow Rangers too, had 6 different home grounds in the first 20 years of their existence. Judging by their history, both of these clubs were correct in their choice of name.

Rovers- Blackburn Rovers, Bristol Rovers, Doncaster Rovers
Rovers, in a similar way to Rangers, refers to constant travelling in search of glories. Rover seems to have to connotations with pirates and sea-travel; 7 ships in the Royal Navy have been named Rover suggesting ‘Rovers’ travel great distances in search of their glories.

Wanderers- Bolton, Wolverhampton, Wycombe
Wanderers has two meaning its seems. The first refers to a nomadic existence, a case of perpetually wandering around, minus the romantic sentiment of Ranger or Rover. This is how Bolton got their name due to their nomadic nature at the beginning of their history; they played at a variety of different grounds for the first 30 years before moving to Burden Park in 1901. The Second meaning came from the first winners of the F.A Cup. In 1872, Wanderers F.C of South London, previously of East London, became the first winners of the F.A Cup and it Wolves and Wycombe took their name from the cup winners. After Wanderers’ victory, the word took on a rather romantic meaning referring to a group of travelling gentlemen who were playing the game for pleasure rather than solely to win.
Wednesday- Sheffield
The only football club in Britain with a day of the week in their name, the club was initially a Cricket Club named the Wednesday Cricket Club, before the members decided that they should play football during the winter months in order to keep fit. Sheffield Wednesday football club was founded on Wednesday 4th September 1867. The club included a lot of local butchers who had half-days on Wednesday and therefore would play both matches on the Wednesday. Very quickly it became obvious that the football side of the club was far more popular than the cricket and eventually football replaced the cricket as the main sport.

United- Manchester, Newcastle Leeds
Probably the most common suffix, outside of city and town, it quite literally means people have decided to unite together, what is interesting is how they became ‘united’. I decided to look at two of the most popular ‘Uniteds’ in England. In the case of Newcastle United, at the end of the 19th century, Newcastle West End were in serious financial trouble, whereas Newcastle East End has just become a professional team. Newcastle West End collapsed and effectively merged with East End, eventually uniting under one name, Newcastle United.  Manchester United, formerly known as Newton Heath, changed their name in 1902 when Newton Heath were ordered with a winding up order due to large un-paid debts. As a mark of the Fresh Start the club changed name to Manchester United, firstly to show solidarity after troubling times and secondly because the owner, manager and captain all thought Manchester United sounded much better than Manchester Celtic.

So there we have it, a quick overview of some of the most popular Football club names. The reason behind this entry was because I find it interesting how so many football team names have nothing to do with the sport whatsoever but are born out of a sense of community spirit and a need of belonging and a desire to win. It highlights how big a part football has had to play in communities across Great Britain throughout the years, how they have helped form community identities and even put certain areas of the country on the map. Hopefully, this has been as interesting to read as it was to research, maybe sometime I’ll have a look at football team nicknames.

Monday, 18 June 2012

One Hundred and Eightyyyy - The rise and rise of Darts

For a blog entitled Sports Diaries, one may think that darts is a peculiar sport to start with. Yet I think no sport at the moment is on the rise quite like darts with this years PDC (Professional Darts Corporation) World Darts Championships highlighting that fact. Now in its 19th year, the Championships concluded last night with Adrian Lewis taking the title for the second year in succession. The event, held at Alexandra Palace, takes place over 3 weeks, starting on the 15th of December and ending on the 2nd Janurary, with an obligatory break for Christmas, and each night at the 2,500 arena was a sell-out. Previously the event had been held at the Circus Tavern in Essex, a much smaller venue, but such is demand these days, a move to a bigger arena was essential.
The size of the daily crowds at this end of year Darts competition goes to show how far the sport has come from its muted beginnings in 1994; not only is the darts great to watch but the atmosphere generated at the palace rivals that of any football ground on a Saturday afternoon, and I dare any of you to watch the video above and say you wouldn't be joining in! They pack into one of the palaces large halls on long, picnic bench style tables, settle down with their jugs of beer and their home-made banners to watch hours of sport entertainment. The personnel of the crowd too may come as a surprise, for darts now seems to be the new sport of choice for the Royals, with Prince Harry appearing in the crowd at the 2010 final and last night saw Mike Tindall and wife Zara Phillips sitting in the stands. Other celebrities at last nights final include former cricketer Andrew Flintoff and comedians Lee Mack and Tim Vine.
Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall enjoying the darts last night.

Darts has begun to attract large crowds consistently and TV giants Sky Sports, who showed all 72 matches of this years World Championships, have taken note. They now broadcast at least 6 major Darts events a year, sometimes showing up to 10 hours of a live action a day, with their decision to do so being justified with increased viewing figures year on year; 2002 saw 200,000 viewers for the World Championship Final in contrast with the one million that watched this years. Darts is now a global sport too with PDC UK events broadcast around the world in countries such as Australia, Holland, Singapore and the United States. No other sport in my eyes has seen such a rise in popularity in recent times; its gone from being a game played to small crowds in large pubs, to a global sport which is fantastic to watch. The money involved at the World Championships, money nowadays being an indicator towards popularity,  has risen from £16,000 in its inaugural year in 1994 to £200,000 that Adrian Lewis picked up yesterday, not to mention the increase in sponsors emblazoned on the light-weight shirts the players wear.

Phil 'the power' Taylor with his award in 2010.
As for those who suggest Darts is not a real sport, think again. The concentration, stamina and nerve needed to throw darts consistently accurately for up to three hours shouldn't be underestimated, its a talent; we also shouldn't ignore the mental maths needed to calculate whats required to checkout! Darts is just as much a sport as football is, the attributes needed to play are just somewhat different and I think people are beginning to recognize this more and more. The players themselves are becoming recognized these days for their skills, and I don't think anyone has done more for the sport than Phil 'the power' Taylor, arguably the greatest player in the last 15 years. Having won the PDC World Championships a record 13 times, with the nearest record being just two wins, 'the power' helped put darts on the map and in 2010 was named as runner-up in the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year award. Taylor's achievement at the BBC SPOTY serves as the best example of the rise in popularity of darts; for Taylor to be runner-up, the first darts player ever to be involved in the award, puts darts bang on the sporting map and personally long may it stay there, for there's nothing quite like a night at the darts.