Whether you’re a United or a City, a Rover or a Wanderer, there’s a story behind every football team name ending, however common or unique they are.
In some cases, the name choice may simply be down to a desire to differentiate a club from the others in the same city, but as the suffixes get more rare, the stories behind them become even stranger. Let’s take a look:
English Football Team Suffixes
At time of writing (the end of the 2019-20 season), there are 19 different team name endings in the four top (and professional) tiers of the English football pyramid.
This, of course, includes your share of Citys, Rovers and Uniteds, as well as 12 football team names ending in ‘Town’ and two football team names ending in ‘ton’, but just one – Blackburn – ending in ‘burn’.
But there are also a fair few titles belonging to individual clubs, particularly among the English Football League team suffixes:
- Crewe Alexandra – named after Princess Alexandra, the wife of Edward VII who was King of Great Britain when the club formed in 1877.
- Plymouth Argyle – a debatable origin – in 1881, just five years before the club was founded, a branch of the British Army called the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was formed, made up of troops with commendable footballing ability. Others believe they are just named after the nearby Argyle Tavern.
- Milton Keynes Dons – named after Wimbledon’s relocation to Milton Keynes in 2003. They wanted to keep part of the club’s history alive, so retained their nickname, the Dons.
- Nottingham Forest – takes it name from the city crest, which recalls tales of Robin Hood robbing from the rich and giving to the poor from Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire.
- Tottenham Hotspur – named after soldier Harry Hotspur, who featured in William Shakespeare’s Henry IV.
- Leyton Orient – according to club historian Neilson N Kaufman, ‘Orient’ was a suggestion from one of their players, Jack R Dearing, who had worked on the Orient Stream Navigation Company (otherwise known as the Orient Line).
- Preston North End – initially a football and cricket club, Preston left the suburb of Ashton for Moor Park in the north of town, and added ‘North End’ to acknowledge that relocation.
- Accrington Stanley – due to being based initially at the Stanley WMC on Stanley Street (initially called Stanley Villa, they renamed to become Accrington Stanley).
- Port Vale – supposedly named after their formation in 1876 followed a meeting at Port Vale House. May also be a reference to the valley of ports on the Trent and Mersey Canal.
- Aston Villa – likely to have originated from nearby cricket team Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel, whose players took up football to keep busy during the winter months. Described by Tom Hanks as sounding like a ‘lovely vacation spot’.
- Sheffield Wednesday – ‘The Wednesday’ formed in 1867, about 50 years after the formation of ‘The Wednesday Cricket Club’, who were so named due to their founding members having that day of the week off work. (There’s also a team called ‘Abergavenny Thursdays’ based in Wales)
English Football Teams with ‘United’ in Their Name
From the Premier League to League Two, there are 13 of these 91 clubs whose name ends in ‘United’:
- Manchester United (formed in 1878 as Newton Heath, became Manchester United in 1902)
- Sheffield United (formed in 1889)
- Newcastle United (formed in 1892)
- West Ham United (formed in 1900)
- Leeds United (formed in 1919)
- Rotherham United (formed in 1925)
- Oxford United (formed in 1893 as Headington United, became Oxford United in 1960)
- Peterborough United (formed in 1934)
- Southend United (formed in 1906)
- Colchester United (formed in 1937)
- Cambridge United (formed in 1912 as Abbey United, became Cambridge United in 1951)
- Carlisle United (formed in 1904)
- Scunthorpe United (formed in 1899, became Scunthorpe & Lindsey United in 1910, reverted to Scunthorpe United in 1958)
Who was the Original ‘United’?
The first ‘United’ was Sheffield United, despite Manchester United forming 11 years earlier. Indeed, when the Blades were founded in 1889, the Red Devils were still known as Newton Heath LYR Football Club.
The Yorkshire club, though, still maintain their original name to this day. It is a title that was given to them by members of the Sheffield United Cricket Club, formed in 1854, and who would go on to create a football club under the same name 35 years later.
So, while we may commonly refer to Manchester United as ‘United’, it’s worth pointing out that they were far from trend-setters in this regard.
Scottish Football Team Suffixes
North of the border, it’s a similarly unique story. While there’s still your fair share of Citys and Uniteds, as well as a few Athletics and Rovers, plenty of suffixes you can file next to haggis and deep-fried Mars bars as things so quintessentially Scottish.
Let’s take a look at some of them from the top four Scottish divisions:
- Glasgow Celtic – though most commonly known as just ‘Celtic’, no other Scottish team possesses this name ending. More frequently found in Ireland, it has often been given to clubs founded by the Irish (as Celtic were by Brother Walfrid in 1887).
- Glasgow Rangers – across town, the most successful club in Scotland takes its suffix after one of its four founders, Moses McNeil, suggested ‘Rangers’ after seeing the name ‘Swindon Rangers’ in a book about rugby.
- Heart of Midlothian – named after the historic county Midlothian, as well as the Heart of Midlothian mosaic on the Royal Mile, which marks the historic entrance to The Old Tolbooth jail. This was demolished in 1817 but referenced in Walter Scott’s novel ‘The Heart of Midlothian’.
- Hamilton Academical – took this title after being founded in 1874 by the rector and pupils of Hamilton Academy.
- Greenock Morton – initially just called ‘Morton Football Club’, the club took its current title in 1994 as a nod to the club’s home town of Greenock.
- Thistle – taken on by such clubs as Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Partick Thistle, the thistle represents the national symbol of Scotland.
European Football Team Suffixes
Some just as wacky titles can be found across Europe, too. For starters, take Gibraltar’s Lincoln Red Imps, so named after a former director of English side Lincoln City, nicknamed ‘The Imps’, sponsored them. It doesn’t appear that there are any other ‘Red Imps’ in the football world, nor is there even a place in Gibraltar called Lincoln.
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, Eerste Divisie side Go Ahead Eagles became named as such in 1971 to recognise the eagle as the bird on the coat of arms of the Dutch city in which they are based, Deventer. Previously, they were simply called ‘Go Ahead’, and were founded in 1902 as ‘Be Quick’. Fellow ‘Eagles’ can also be found in the United States and Canada.
There’s also plenty of countries with sides referring to ‘youth(s)’ in their name; in Europe alone, there’s the Irish Wexford Youths and a number of Juventus-named sides in Italy, of course. But perhaps the most infamous of these is the Swiss BSC (Berner Sport Club) Young Boys of Bern, whose title was supposedly meant to mimic that of a sports club in Basel, known as BSC (Basler Sportclub) Old Boys
Unique Football Team Suffixes Further Across The Globe
If you thought ‘Wednesday’, ‘Red Imps’ or ‘Young Boys’ was odd enough, things are about to get even stranger.
Because particularly in Africa and South America, such bizarre, distinctive suffixes make the anomalies among England football team name endings look fairly normal. Take the brilliantly-named Ghanian outfit Cape Coast Mysterious Dwarfs, for instance, or the Sierra Leone-based Anti Drugs Strikers.
That’s not all, though. Not by a long shot. In Africa alone, you’ve also got Ghana’s oldest club, Accra Hearts of Oak, the South African Kaizer Chiefs, and the rather optimistically-titled Liberian side Invincible Eleven. Not exactly City vs United, is it?
Meanwhile, in South America, Suriname has its own fair share for wacky team names. Look no further than S.V. Robinhood, who fittingly are renowned for giving opportunities to poorer men and boys, or three-time champions S.V. Walking Boyz Company, for example.
There’s also the Argentinian side Deportivo Morón, currently in the second tier, or Bolivia’s Club The Strongest and Club Always Ready. Certainly not lacking in imagination, or hubris, for that matter.
So, at whatever level you might be looking to form a new club, just remember – why settle for being a United, a Rover or a Wanderer when you could be a Mysterious Dwarf, a Red Imp or a Morón?