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Football in the year 2165

6 Jun

A couple of years ago I had a plan to compile a book about football in the future which included art, fiction and factual writing all together in one volume. Unfortunately it didn’t quite get off the ground. I came across this though in my old writing archive and thought I’d put it out there, if only to give all you readers a bit of a laugh…… My vision for what football could look like in the year 2165 – 148 years into the future

 

Jackson cursed his luck. What use was this talent now; this ability to not just kick a ball, but to master it, to make it do exactly what he wanted. A few years ago he could have been a millionaire, but now there was nothing. He knew what to blame…. analytics.

Analytics had quantified almost every aspect of the game. Not just crude measures like goals, assists, dribbles and chances created, but every miniscule movement both on and off the ball. A vast data-bank had been created of all these attributes. Unlike the past though this was not just used as a tactical aid, but ended up recreating the sport anew. Holographic technology could render lifelike avatars of the players, the pitch, even stadia, while advanced probability theory was used to predict how individual players would react to any given situation.

Football players suddenly found themselves in as much demand as factory workers when the robot assembly line was installed and shop assistants when they brought in automated checkouts. The salaries which had grown year after year collapsed virtually overnight. There would be no more stories of the bacchanalian excess which had both shocked and enthralled the public.

The ones now receiving the biggest money (though still modest by the footballer standards of the era just ended) were the programmers, mathematicians and analysts who operated firmly in the background. Many of these were now engaged on the next grand project; to methodically and painstakingly recreate the great players of the past.

Using enhanced archive footage and old data-sets they were bringing the greats back from the realms of history. The first had been Pele. The biggest challenge was the lack of archive footage, not to mention the poor quality of what did exist. This hindered the ability to take detailed measurements of his attributes and off-ball movement and those involved would admit, though never in public, to undertaking some educated guesswork. Still, the final result was visually stunning and when a prototype of holographic avatar had been unveiled at the newly re-built 200,000 capacity Maracana Stadium the assembled FIFA dignitaries – invited especially for the occasion – had reacted with shock “it’s like Pele has stepped out of a time machine” one was heard to utter as they watched with shock and delight as the recreated great, back from the dead, performed a litany of tricks for the crowd, before taking part in a virtual game where he lined up with a holographic re-creation of the current human Brazil side.

Of course there were some inconsistencies, but in the press conference after the game Chief software engineer Hal Barnes, a grey-haired bespectacled man in his late 40s with a fondness for teaming his lab-coat with a pair of battered trainers, told assembled reporters that with the lessons learned from the Pele experience and the greater amount of data on players from later eras, which includes medical data, data gathered on the training ground and psychological reports, future recreations will be even more realistic.

This was the beginning of the end for football as a sport played by humans, against other humans. For a while the human league persisted, but as Hal and his team created more legends; Cruff, Messi, Ronaldo, Le Tissier the appeal of the holographic virtual league grew stronger, not least when there came an option for spectators themselves to join in the action on the pitch by donning a special suit which replicated their movements via an avatar. Fitness and technique were not an issue as the avatars could compensate by boosting a players natural attributes. The worlds of video-gaming and football were finally fused together. There was not one football league, but thousands with hundreds of thousands of games being played simultaneously.

Jackson glumly unzipped the suit. Somehow scoring the winner in the World Cup final left him feeling deflated. It was nothing compared to scoring for real, like he had done in the park, on real grass, so many years ago.

The Programme Collection

5 Apr

 

For the best part of 20 years I’ve been carrying around a collection of football programmes. The vast majority of these I acquired over the two seasons in which I had a season ticket at The Dell, during which time a vital part of my matchday ritual would be the trip to the programme shop ‘collectors corner’. Accommodated within a nook of the Milton Road stand the shop offered not just that day’s programme, or the latest away programme, but a whole range of programmes. It was the eclectic stock on the shelves which first provided me with a sense of the sheer depth and breadth of the world of football as the Programme for the Euro ‘96 Final sat alongside a programme for Billericay Town’s FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round tie with Chelmsford City.

In the euphoria of the move to St. Marys it seemed only a minor detail that there would be no ‘collectors corner’ tucked away in an alcove, With my having moved away to uni and given up my season ticket my collecting days were at an end. I would continue to add a trickle of programmes from the games I had attended, but the bulk of my old collection, acquired in the old Dell days, was consigned to a box at the bottom of a wardrobe.

Over the years vague intentions to finally get a grip and sort through the collection have all failed to materialise, but a recent move finally led me to open the box and delve deep into its contents. The intention had been to impose some sort of order on a collection which was put together with more enthusiasm than focus, slimming it down into something more manageable – or at least something which would fit in a smaller box.

Separating out all the programmes featuring my club Southampton, other local teams, clubs which no longer existed, or fixtures which stood out as interesting – a 1990 clash between Merthyr Tydfil and CSKA Moscow being the most unusual – I was finally left with a pile which I was prepared to let go of.

First though, I decided to read through them one last time just in case there were any which I wanted to keep. It was here that the problems began: A Chelsea Programme from 1987 was saved thanks to a rant from Ken Bates, aimed at David Bulstrode, over the development of Stamford Bridge, a Derby County programme from 1993 wins a reprieve due to a rather interesting article on the history of programmes – not to mention an advert containing a particularly horrible article of club-based leisurewear, whilst a Hastings Town programme avoids the chop, because one day I might just need to know that their 1991 away defeat to Peacehaven in the FA Cup attracted 355 spectators.

In fact each programme I flick through tells some kind of a story. Preserved like a pre-historic insect in amber are small nuggets of information which reveal much about the development of the game and prevailing attitudes at the time, whether it’s the managers comments showing disdain for the Anglo Italian Cup, adverts for 90’s era dodgy club-themed leisurewear – which in themselves speak volumes about how clubs were seeking to adapt to a new age of commercial opportunity. A letter in a 1992 West Ham programme in which a female fan complains of abuse her and her sister regularly receive at games including “hassle and offensive comments” from their fellow West Ham fans is also an opportunity to pause to reflect on how things have changed and perhaps how much still needs to change.

The result is that at the end of a few hours of sorting and reading the ‘get rid’ pile has shrunk to just a few programmes. I seem to have three copies of the programme for Winsford United’s HFS Loans Premier League clash with Matlock Town in 1993. I figure I can safely donate two of these to the charity shop.

Sholing Sports: A history

25 Sep

For the past year, or so I’ve been putting together a history of Sholing Sports Football Club. This project stemmed mainly from my curiosity about the side who in their time were one of Hampshire’s top amateur sides with several Hampshire Senior Cup titles and Russell Cotes Cup titles to their name as well as a number of Hampshire League championships. I’ve put this all together into a book which is available on Amazon for £2.75. The following is a brief extract about the club in the early1920s when it was known as Sholing Athletic and reveals a fascinating link between Sholing and Herbert Chapman’s famous Arsenal side.

ss1970s

In his revealing history of football in the area Bitterne Football A Glimpse at the Past  Ken Prior mentions that Athletic had a reputation as being a ‘nursery’ club with a number of players going on to better things. One Athletic player he mentions, Callaghan, went on to play for Merthyr Town, then in the football league, in the 1920s. Another, Sam Meston, joined Southampton from Athletic in 1922, before going on to play for Gillingham and Everton. One particular Athletic player though stands out head-and-shoulders among the Sholing alumni; Described in Chalk & Holley’s Alphabet of the Saints as “Without doubt one of the best full-backs to ever grace the Dell” Peartree-born Tom Parker joined Southampton in 1918 and distinguishing himself at the Saints subsequently joined Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal. Parker went on to captain the Arsenal side in their FA Cup final win of 1930 in addition to the League championship in 1931. Parker also holds the record for most consecutive appearances for Arsenal, playing an uninterrupted 172 games from April 1926 until December 1929.

The period following the first-world-war was a successful one for Athletic who in 1920 claimed the double of the Southampton Senior League title and the Southampton Senior Cup – the first of three consecutive victories in the latter tournament. Simultaneously the reserves weighed in by claiming the Junior Division ‘B’ championship. This success in the Southampton League led to a bigger stage and in 1920-21 the club entered, for the first time in their history, the Hampshire League. In their first season Athletic finished first place in the nine-team East Division – a division populated largely by reserve sides including the reserve sides of Salisbury City, Thornycrofts (Woolston), Andover, Winchester City and Basingstoke. This secured Athletic promotion to the county top flight and in their first season, 1921-22 Athletic acquitted themselves well finishing a respectable 6th out of 15.

The 1922-23 season saw Athletic go one better to finish 5th out of 17 in the league, but it was most memorable for the sides run in the Hampshire Senior Cup……

When did goalkeepers jerseys get so boring?

30 Aug

In the now annual summer ritual of new kit releases it is not unusual to see a full range of emotions on display; from eager expectation to full-blown anxiety. Fans queuing outside the club shop on the appointed release day may do so with a sense of Christmas-morning excitement, or with a sense of resignation that, like a bad haircut, it will only be a short time until it’s time for a new one. Any failure to respect established club traditions is also likely to result in much controversy – Southampton fans are still recovering from the trauma imposed by the brief hiatus of the clubs red and white stripes.

By contrast, even in an atmosphere as highly charged as this, the unveiling of the design for the goalkeeper’s kit is highly unlikely to stir anything more than fleeting interest. Perhaps this is because few fans will ever purchase one – aside from the sort of aspiring goalkeeper types usually seen milling around local 5-a-side centres – but perhaps this is because goalkeepers kits these days, have become so bland, so boring even, as to be virtually unnoticeable.

Today’s range of conservative keepers kits are a far cry from the flamboyant jerseys which predominated in the 1990s. This was the time when new printing technologies provided designers with greater possibilities and although there was an existing traditional grammar for goalkeepers kit – mainly of muted greens, blacks, greys and the occasional yellow – few clubs or fans, had any real preference, or investment in one colour combination, or pattern over another. With looser rules there was therefore greater freedom to innovate. Along with third kits, which also provided designers with a blank-slate unimpinged by a need to heed tradition, goalkeeper’s jerseys were in the vanguard of a headlong rush towards garishness.

The most famous exponent of this movement was Jorge Campos, the Mexican international goalkeeper who reputedly designed his own kits and whose acid-trip fluorescent jersey and shorts combo, were a highlight of World Cup USA ’94, and which make him a cult figure to this day. Such luridness had though been the norm and was embraced around the globe; from the highly popular explosion-in-a-paint factory look, as seen on Huddersfield Towns 93-94 ‘keepers shirt, which manages to combine pink, yellow, green, red and blue among other shades, to the Estonian national team’s 1996 design whose Aztec-like patterns were positively headache inducing. Special mention also deserves to go to Sunderland’s 1994-96 goalkeepers shirt which featured the outline of a pair of hands and which was, being charitable, the best thing that could be said about the kit.

Indeed many of the goalkeeper’s kits of the era were hideous monstrosities, therefore the eventual counter-reformation which saw a return to a more traditional plainness should surely be seen as a welcome development. But with even Jorge Campos’s successors in the Mexico goal now reverting to a more muted colour palate the passing of the era of garishness should instead be mourned.

Saints, Pompey and the city that never was…

18 Feb

Recently I’ve been looking beyond blogging to a few different projects. One of these is looking at the history of Southampton FC from a ‘what if’ perspective. It’s a long way from completion (if it does ever see the light of day!), but I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of the output and see what people think. The what if here relates to a plan, which seems almost unthinkable, but was seriously considered in the 1960s…

We have glimpsed at the possibilities of a new kind of metropolitan area for people who may or may not be more affluent and more leisured than we are today, but who are certain to be better educated. For them we have seen clustered housing in rich variety with rivers and woodlands in interlacing patterns, countryside and marine recreations ready to hand, easy for movement , convenient for shopping, strongly based on educational establishments, a powerful commercial centre, and (as important as anything) a venue for “21st century” industry. Seen in this light we realised that expansion could bring incalculable profit to the whole nation

Buchanan & Partners South Hampshire Study: Report on the feasibility of major urban growth Ministry of Housing and Local Government HMSO 1966

Lying in the depths of Southampton’s civic archive is a document with a plan so radical, of such magnitude, that had it been implemented the whole region – maybe even the whole country – would today look vastly different: Officially named The South Hampshire Study the 1966 publication by Colin Buchanan and Partners sets out the blue-print for what is more commonly known as Solent City – a name which was not used in the South Hampshire Study itself, but came from an earlier publication, A Town called Alcan, which had tabled proposals for a similar ‘linear-city’ development.

The intent of the plan outlined in the SHS was to create a city able to accommodate a growing population, promote new types of industry such as electronics and act as a ‘counterweight’ to London. The city would be joined up by a grid system of road and rail with several major routes connecting the city from East to West, bookended by the ancient cities of Southampton and Portsmouth.

It is these two cities which have had a longstanding rivalry. There is much myth and confusion about the historic origins of this rivalry with various explanations offered from strike-breaking to medieval administrative antagonisms.

What is more abundantly clear is that today it is the two cities respective football clubs which are beacons of this rivalry. It is also one which has hardened in the past few years. Whilst football has generally shaken off the tarnish of the era of hooliganism to become safer and more family friendly games between the two have been at best ill-tempered. Infamously in one 2004 meeting which resulted in 94 arrests a 14 year old girl became the youngest female to receive a ban from football matches. Non-competitive games between the two which were once an regular feature would today be almost unthinkable, the last being veteran Pompey ‘keeper Alan Knight’s testimonial in 1994

So what would have happened had the Solent City plan been realised, would the rivalry be as deep as it has become today, or would it have taken a different course?

The authors of the Urban South Hampshire Study were clear in that their vision was not simply to expand, or merge the cities, but to create a whole new entity and the development was meant to re-enforce this

In general terms we think both cities would need to find their futures in identifying themselves as important parts of a new metropolitan area on the south coast. This is especially applicable to Portsmouth. This city, with the greatest respect, is a city with a question mark over it

Had this occurred then the logical step would be for the rivalry between the cities and football fans to evaporate with the softening of the lines on the map. Boundaries can change and it is worth remembering that the Hampshire Senior Cup final of 1893 was added extra poignancy by the fact that Freemantle was due to be swallowed up by its burgeoning neighbour and the Magpies victory that day could be seen as a reassertion of Freemantle’s identity as something distinct. In the present day however, the idea that today a resident of Freemantle – or indeed a resident of Bitterne, Portswood, or St. Deny’s – would draw a distinction between being a resident of their area and a resident of Southampton is extremely unlikely.

The planners proposals sought to remodel the existing cities, including a shift the new mega-cities centre of gravity to the points where the major routes intersected at Eastleigh or Cosham. Such re-modelling would lead to some displacement of the population from what are core areas of the clubs supporter base, weakening these. Furthermore Solent City would also have had many cases of shared symbols, perhaps even a landmark piece of architecture or two. In time structures such as the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, or London Eye become focal points of a shared sense of identity.

All of this in time this would erode the identity of Southampton and Portsmouth without which the rivalry would be almost meaningless.

Finally there is the question of novelty factor. It has been suggested that one reason for the derby having added significance is that the two clubs fortunes have rarely aligned. This makes games between the two rare events, more so since the virtual cessation of non-competitive fixtures between the two. Solent City development would have been good for both clubs in terms of the population boost in their catchment as well as the economic power of the region as a whole. This would have made it easier to sustain two top flight clubs. Games between the two would have become routine events and therefore less likely to cause much excitement, much like as if Christmas was every day.

On the other hand some of the fiercest and most keenly contested rivalries take place within a single city. In fact the battle to acquire bragging rights as Solent City’s premier team may even lend the rivalry an extra edge. The examples of Arsenal and Tottenham, Rangers and Celtic, Liverpool and Everton, Bristol City and Bristol Rovers all demonstrate that sharing a city doesn’t act in any way to diminish a rivalry between football clubs.

Similarly history and identity cannot be so easily erased, even by the bulldozer. It is possible that the rivalry would become even more potent as the population reacted against official efforts to mould a new pan-Solent identity. Even with better transport links and greater fluidity of movement, people still do not tend to move far from their support networks. This impulse would ensure that despite remodelling and displacement old networks and allegiances would find a way to endure.  The two clubs would come to represent a form of resistance to the new vision and the new landscape – a way of kicking back against large-scale change. In this case a rivalry would be at the very least as fierce and intense as today, but may well have been even more so.

All this remains conjecture. Buchanan and Partner’s plans were met with a less than favourable response and instead of becoming reality were banished to a dusty shelf in the bowels of Southampton civic centre. There is however, an irony, pointed out by Nicholas Phelps in his book An Anatomy of Sprawl: Planning and Politics in Britain. It is that what opponents of Solent City most feared, urban sprawl, has come to pass. The hinterland between the two cities, of villages and strawberry fields has been largely developed, into a continuous edgeland of suburban cul-de-sacs, industrial estates and retail parks; Piecemeal and lacking a unifying one-city vision. At some point in this a no-man’s land red becomes blue, but for the most part those residents watching football on their televisions are as likely to be wearing Liverpool, Chelsea, or Manchester United shirts while at the far ends the poles of Southampton and Portsmouth seem further apart than ever.

Woolston Works Football Club; The team who may have been Southampton FC

6 Jan
The Songvand. Built at Woolston in 1883

The Songvand. Built at Woolston in 1883

Just down-river of St. Marys stadium, on the other side of the Itchen bridge, is the area of Woolston in which, alongside the river, where currently towers rise from the ground, lies the site of the Vosper Thornycroft shipyard. The yard, which until a decade ago dominated the area, now remains only in memory and a continuing legacy of white-van men who originally learnt their trade as yard apprentices in the 1970s and 80s.

It was in the latter part of the 19th century, when Southampton was in the throes of a transition from spa-town to industrial port, that the site became occupied by the ship-builder Thomas Ridley Oswald, arriving in the 1870s along with a large part of his workforce from the Wearside yard where he had previously based his operations.

According to the local Historian A.G.K. Leonard The yard’s first ship the Aberfoyle, weighing 953 tons was launched in 1876 and in 1877 Oswald partnered with John Murray Mordaunt, with the company becoming known as Oswald Mordaunt & Company. The scale of the operation on the banks of the Itchen was significant; Leonard states that White’s Hampshire Directory reported that by 1878 the yard had 1,000 employees over a 20 acre site (for comparison Southampton’s total population at the time of the 1881 census was 78,278).

Oswald’s interests however, seem to have extended beyond mere business, as Juson & Bull observe in Full-Time at The Dell Oswald “appeared to have a predilection for hiring artisans whose skills were not confined to shipbuilding and repair.” With workers drawn from the ship-building and footballing heartlands of Glasgow and the North East the effect on the local football scene was transformative as Juson & Bull illustrate with a 1936 quote by Willliam Pickford, a stalwart of local football who would go on to be chairman of the FA:

The effect of this galaxy of Scotsmen on the game in Hampshire was electrifying. Up to then few local people knew anything about the fine points of the game, and the public troubled little about it as a spectacle. The opening of the Woolston Shipyard… turned Southampton into an Association hot-bed and it woke up with a start

In their book Saints A Complete Record of Southampton Football Club 1885-1987 Gary Chalk and Duncan Holley report that in the late 1870s workers from the yard had formed a team, Southampton Rangers, who regularly played games on Southampton Common. Due to the itinerant nature of the workforce however, the team was rarely stable in terms of its make-up.

By the late 1880s though, a team made up primarily of workers from the yard, Woolston Works had come to dominate the local football scene. In the 1886-87 season Works, noted for a robust style of play, had played 16 games, with only two defeats and had scored 72 goals to a mere six conceded (Gannaway 1996). They had also claimed the Hants and Dorset Senior cup with a 1-0 win over Wimbourne and had reached the final of the Portsmouth & District Association Cup, where they lost 2-0 to a Portsmouth AFC side featuring none other than Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle in the Pompey goal. Works went on the next season to claim more silverware claiming both the Hampshire Football Association six-a-side tournament and the inaugural Hampshire Senior Cup the following season with another 1-0 win, this time over Winchester.

The fortunes of the Works however, were at this point in time still intractably linked to the fortunes of the yard. Unfortunately for the football team Oswald, Mordaunt & Co did indeed run into financial difficulties leading to the closure of the yard in April 1889 and the ultimate dissolution of the company. Having again reached the final of the Hampshire Senior Cup an exodus of players left the side offering only a weak defence of their Hampshire Senior Cup title, losing to the Royal Engineers of Aldershot. It was a sad end for a team which at the very peak of their powers the team had been undone by events off the field.

This was not however, the end of either shipbuilding on the site, or the yards association with football. The yard would reopen soon after in 1890 under new owners, passing through several hands before being acquired by J I Thornycroft & Co in 1904 – the Thornycroft’s name remaining associated with the yard until its final closure in 2004. There would be several sides which emerged from the yard with one Thornycroft’s (Woolston) side reaching the first round of the FA cup in 1920, where they would face first-division Burnley in 1919-20. Securing a 0-0 draw at Fratton Park (the game had at one point been due to be played at the Veracity Ground) the northerners won the replay 5-0. Finally Sholing (previously known as Vosper Thornycroft FC) became the last side to emerge from the yard in 1960 and currently play in the Southern League. None of these sides would however, ever dominate local football to the extent that the Works had done in their all too brief hey-day.

But, what if the company Oswald, Mordaunt & Co had not collapsed when it did? It is reasonable to suppose that St. Marys would have faced a major obstacle in their struggle to become the pre-eminent side in the area.

On the field Works could consider themselves the superior team. In a game between the two in 1888 Juson & Bull report that Works, winners of the Hampshire Senior Cup beat St. Mary’s, winners of the Junior Cup, 3-0. Perhaps most importantly the Works were also ensconced in one of the few enclosed venues in the town available for football, the Antelope Cricket ground.

Although the sale of the land which it occupied (modern day St. Mary’s Street) for development in 1896 meant that the Saints tenure at the Antelope would be relatively short its importance in the clubs development cannot be understated; As Dave Juson states on the website Deftly Hallowed the Antelope played a key role in St. Mary’s rise

It was at the Antelope St Mary’s firmly established themselves as Hampshire’s pre-eminent football club. Not just in terms of trophies – they won the Junior Cup outright after three consecutive wins, and lifted the Senior Cup in 1891 and ’92 – but by far the best supported. It was at the Antelope they first entered the FA Cup; adopted open professionalism; changed their name to Southampton St Mary’s and became one of the nine original Southern League clubs.

Had the Works survived, even for just a few more years, St. Mary’s would be denied the use of the Antelope at this crucial juncture in their history. Although this may not have been immediately catastrophic it would make it particularity difficult for the club to take its next steps it is not difficult to suppose that St. Marys would have withered on the vine to become, not unlike the Works themselves, a footnote in the City’s footballing history.

In other cities it was a works team which went on to achieve prominence: Coventry City began life as Singers FC the works team of the Singer cycle manufacturer, whilst Manchester United’s origin lie among a group workers from the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. Had Oswald, Mordaunt & Co survived it is likely that the football team would have followed a similar path to these clubs; As football developed and professionalised the side would have outgrown the yard which had supplied players and would have gone it alone, taking on the name of Southampton FC.

This may have resulted in a few differences, some small enough to be imperceptible. In all likelihood the team name would still be Southampton Football Club and the side would, like almost all others at the time, have adopted Southampton’s civic coat-of-arms as a team crest (of which today’s club crest is a variation). Other differences would be more visible; the team today would not be nicknamed ‘the Saints’ – this being derived from St. Marys. They could well be known as ‘the Boatmen’ as Sholing, the last remaining team from the yard, are. The team may also play in different colours as red and white were adopted early on by St. Marys while the Dell may have remained an empty patch of land until developed for housing and today be several streets of Victorian terraces.

As it stands however, fans crossing the Itchen bridge on match day, the site on the left remains, forever, an alternative future, rather than the clubs past, but it is worth perhaps pausing for a moment to consider the role played by the Works both in their rise – doing much for the development of football in the area and subsequently their fall – paving the way for St. Mary’s to become the Southampton FC of today.

Bibliography:

Chalk, G. & Holley, D. (1987) Saints A Complete Record of Southampton Football Club 1885-1987 Breedon Books

Gannaway, N. (1996) ‘Association Football in Hampshire Until 1914’ Hampshire Papers No.9 Hampshire County Council

Juson, D. & Bull, D. (2001) Full Time at The Dell Hagiology Publishing

Juson, D. ‘The Antelope Cricket Ground’ Deftly Hallowed [online] http://www.deftlyhallowed.co.uk/antelope%20ground.html

Leonard A.G.K (2010) ‘The speculatively-built ships of Oswald, Mordaunt and Company, 1879-84: Woolston, Bitterne, Test, Itchen and Netley’ Journal of Southampton Local History Forum No. 16 Winter 2010

Town, United & City – Which Team Names are the Most Popular

29 Oct

I had a bit of time on my hands today and like you do, started wondering about the names of football teams, or to be more precise their suffixes: City, United, Albion and the like. 10 minutes later, by the combined power of Google and MS Excel, I had in my hands a list.

Wordle club suffixes 3

A Wordle of all club suffixes from the Premier League to the Conference Premier

 

Taking the top five tiers from the Premier League to the Conference Premier the most popular team name was ‘Town’ as in Huddersfield Town, Swindon Town and Braintree Town. In total 17 teams were named ‘Town’. Second most popular was ‘United’ as in Leeds United, Manchester United and Sheffield United, which accounted for 15 teams. Completing the top three was ‘City’ with this suffix being sported by no fewer than 14 clubs. Outside of this pack Rovers in fourth place mustered a mere five clubs, with Athletic on four and Albion, County and Wanderers all on three.

Most pop suffixes to albion

 

Where this gets interesting though is if we compare the distribution of the teams named ‘Town’ and ‘City’

Graph Town and City

 

As we can see there is a clear pattern here with clubs named ‘City’ more represented in the higher divisions and those named ‘Town’ better represented in the lower divisions. The explanation, of course, would seem to be that clubs from large settlements (i.e Cities) are more likely to possess the support and resources necessary to be successful at the top level compared to clubs from smaller settlements (i.e Towns). Stating the obvious perhaps, but still interesting nonetheless.

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