Origins of Nicknames for 20 Premier League Clubs

Supporters of Premier League clubs often pride themselves on their nicknames, but do you really know the origin of them? Do you know the origins of the Baggies, Gunners, Red Devils, Toffees, Trotters, Hammers, Lilywhites and Citizens?

Let’s take a closer at look some of the interesting stories behind each of Premier League club’s nicknames.

Arsenal – The Gunners

Like many, Arsenal’s nickname goes right back to when the club was originally founded. Way back in 1886, workers at Woolwich Arsenal Armament Factory decided to form a football club called Dial Square. The club would be renamed as Woolwich Arsenal before dropping the prefix in 1913, but their original connection with the armament industry would remain and the names Gunners is now synonymous with the club.

Aston Villa – Villans

Not the most fascinating story behind this one. Formed when a local cricket team Villa Cross needed something to occupy themselves during the winter months, the name Villa inevitably evolved to Villans.

Blackburn Rovers – Rovers

Again not the most imaginable nickname. Rovers is a common team name for a side which is willing to travel distances for victory. Logically fans shortened the clubs name to Rovers.

Birmingham City – Blues

When the club was formed as Small Heath Alliance they decided the club would play in a dark blue shirt. The club would stick with these colors and the nickname Blues was born.


Blackpool – Seasiders/ Tangerines

One of several clubs to have multiple nicknames. The term Seasiders relates to the popularity of the town as a tourist resort on the North West coast, while Tangerines relates to the colour of the clubs home kit. The club picked up the colours after been impressed when a club official saw a Netherlands side play.


Bolton Wanderers – Trotters

There are a few reported explanations for this one. One explanation claims that like Rovers, the term Wanderers implies a side is willing to travel great distances for victory. The term Trotters is simply a variation. Another explanation claims that the Trotters nickname originates because people from Bolton have a reputation for being practical jokers. Pranksters are known locally as Trotters. The most bizarre explanation claims that an old ground was built next to a pig farm and stray balls would end up with the pigs.


Chelsea – Pensioners

The nickname comes from the well known Chelsea Pensioners – war veterans living in a nearby hospital. In 1905 the club adopted the crest of  the Chelsea pensioners, and the nickname followed on.


Everton – The Toffees

The famous nickname comes after a local sweet shop known as Mother Noblett’ sold and advertised the Everton mint. The sweet shop is located opposite Prince Rupert’s Tower, which forms the majority of the Everton crest.


Fulham – Cottagers

This nickname originates from the famous cottage which is an iconic part of Fulham’s Craven Cottage ground.


Liverpool – The Reds

Another nickname which doesn’t take two much explanation. When Liverpool adopted the city’s colour of red as the colour of their strip, the nickname of the Reds simply followed on.


Manchester City – Citizens/ The Blues

Again not the most fascinating story behind this nickname, the name Citizens has simply evolved from the term City, where as The Blues has obvious connections with the clubs home colours.


Manchester United – The Red Devils

A few conflicting stories describe the Red Devils nickname. One rumor suggests that during a tour of France in the 1960s the club were branded the Red Devils due to their red kit and Sir Matt Busby liked the name so much he asked for the club to incorporate a devil in the badge. Another story suggests it stems from local rugby Salford. The rugby club were nicknamed the Red Devils and with United formally training in Salford the nickname transferred over.


Newcastle United – Magpies / The Toon

The name Magpies originates from the clubs iconic black and white striped kit, where as ‘The Toon’ comes from a local pronunciation of town.


Stoke City – Potters

A fairly straightforward nickname that originates from the large connection with the pottery industry in North Staffordshire.


Sunderland – The Black Cats

In 1997 when Sunderland moved to the Stadium of Light the clubs supporters were also given the opportunity to vote on the clubs official nickname. With 11,000 votes the club announced their official nickname as ‘The Black Cats’.  The historical link with black cats goes way back to the 1800’s with a River Weir artillery base named “Black Cat Battery”. This name reportedly developed after a member of the local militia who was manning the station fled after thinking a black cat was a devil incarnate because of the howling wind and full moon at the time.

Fast-track to 1905 and a black cat was pictured sitting on a football next to the club chairman at the time, and three years later a black cat would appear in the clubs team photo. The fans believed that the animal brought them good luck and in 1937 Sunderland fan Billy Morris took a black cat to Wembley in his pocket, Sunderland would win their first FA Cup trophy that year. The connection grew even further in the 1960s when a black cat lived at Sunderland’s Roker Park ground and was cared for by the club.


Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs/ Lilywhites

Spurs is obviously a shortened version of Hotspur which comes from the clubs connection with Shakespeare character Harry Hotspur. Lilywhites simply comes from the colour of Tottenham’s home shirt.


West Brom – Baggies

One of the most debated nicknames around is West Brom’s. The popular belief is that the name originated from the baggie shorts that the players wore around in the early 1900s. But club historian Toby Matthews claims: “In its early days The Hawthorns had only two entrances, one behind each goal. On match days the gatekeepers would gather up the takings at each end and be escorted by policemen along the sides of the pitch to the centre line where there was a small office under the stand.

“The gate money, mostly in pennies, amounted to a considerable sum and was carried in large cloth bags. It wasn’t long before some wag in the crowd started shouting “Here come the bag men!” at their appearance in front of the main stand, and this developed into a chant of “Here come the Baggies,” giving the team its nickname.


West Ham – Hammers

West Ham’s nickname originates from the Thames Ironwork Football Club, a team from which they developed. The West Ham crest features two crossed rivet hammers and the club has been known has the Hammers ever since


Wigan Athletic – Latics

Wigan are not on their own with this nickname with League 1 side Oldham Athletic also claiming it. Latics is simply a corruption of the world Athletic.


Wolverhampton Wanderers – Wolves

Probably the most unimaginative nickname out of the bunch, but the most commonly used. Most football fans will know the Midlands club as Wolves, and there is no prize guessing why!

22 thoughts on “Origins of Nicknames for 20 Premier League Clubs”

  1. Re Arsenal – Arsenal went through several name changes going from Royal Arsenal to Woolwich Arsenal to The Arsenal and then finally Arsenal. The “Gunners” name probably started in the Royal Arsenal time – and they were certainly called the Gunners during the Woolwich Arsenal period.

    However like all nicknames the name has moved along with the times and the fans of Arsenal now refer to themselves as Gooners, not Gunners – indeed “Gunners” is only ever seen in the press – the fans don’t use it at all.

    1. What are you on about? Gunners is absolutely used as the clubs nickname. You often here “Come on you Gunners!” screamed at the games and it’s all over Arsenal marketing and merchandise!
      A Gooner is an Arsenal fan, not the club. I think you may have either misunderstood the article or are not much of an Arsenal fan.

  2. I’d actually be interested in knowing more about the “Rovers” and “Wanderers” suffixes. If they both mean that a team was “willing to travel great distances”, does this mean the names pre-date the formation of the actual league? Since surely once a home &away league format was formed, every team would do an equal amount of travelling?

    1. This isn’t quite accurate. Imagine briefly teams A, B and C. A and B are very close to each other, 1km. C is 20km from both A and B. In the season, C will travel to both A and B, 40km total traveling. A will travel to B and C for 21km of travel, B will be the same as A.

      So if you have a cluster of teams, and then a few that are farther away, the outlying teams will travel much father over the course of the season.

      1. True, that’s the other possibility that I hadn’t mentioned. Still, I wonder if that situation explains Bolton, Blackburn and Wolves’ situations, since all three teams are in fairly densely populated areas – I can’t imagine any of them being a geographic outlier in the sense that Torquay is.

  3. actually the nickname Wanders, Rovers and the like usually refer to a team that originally had no home ground or stadium or multiple temporary home grounds in the early years they played thus they played all of their games away and were “homeless” teams and/or that had to “wander” or “rove” constantly to play games.

    for instance Blackburn Rovers did not have a home ground until their 2nd season in 1876-77.

    and Bolton:

    “The club changed its name to Bolton Wanderers in 1877. The name was chosen as the club initially had a lot of difficulty finding a permanent ground to play on, having used three venues in its first four years of existence.”

    one of the most famous early English Football clubs was also known as Wanderers FC that changed their name to such in their 2nd year after chaning home grounds to the Battersea London area from another area of Greater London (they were originally Forrest-Leytonstone and a founding member of the FA in 1863). they won the FA cup in 1872 and some later teams might have simply used the nickname as an homage to this team. it is believed that this is the case for Wycombe Wanderers.

    anyway the explanation in the article is incorrect either way. the team name Wanders, Rovers or Travelers usually implies that the team in its earliest years had to move its home ground at some point, moved to many home grounds or did not have a home ground and thus played in many different places early on. or the team copied the name of a club for whom this was true.

    1. Tranmere Rovers and Wolverhampton Wanderers were named after similarly named Cricket clubs with whom they shared early grounds. the origin of the names of the cricket teams is thought to be for a similar reason as i noted above namely that in the early existence of the cricket club they did not have their own cricket pitch on which to play/practice and were thus forced to constantly move their home matches to temporary pitches or play away matches … again thus the Rovers/Wanderers moniker.

  4. Great post, love stuff like this. So much history and meaning behind these names, unlike the lame-o garbage in MLS. Did you hear they’re working on Sporting KC, to go along with FC Dallas, DC United and Real Salt Lake. I wonder how many cowboys in Dallas know the F in FC Dallas stands for football–as in the soccer kind of football!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *