Are nicknames a thing of the past?

28th January 2014

Whatever happened to footballers' nicknames?
I know they still exist, but they don't seem to be as widely known or used as they used to be. 
Within the dressing room I'm sure every player has a nickname . . . even if some may be unrepeatable, or just consist of adding the letter 'y' to the end of the player's name.
But the nicknames that seem to have gone missing from the game are the ones that became synonymous with the player and were usually slotted in between his Christian name and surname.
Most of the time they could be used alone, without the players' real name and you would still know exactly who they were.
One of those players is on the Fulham coaching team today . . . Ray "Butch" Wilkins.
Back in the Seventies I'm sure a lot of people didn't know he was called Ray, because he always seemed to be referred to as Butch.
Now this used to puzzle me because most of the nicknames back then seemed to refer to the player's style of play.
While Wilkins was undoubtedly a man's man who could look after himself on the pitch, he always struck me as a cultured player who relied on his technical skills rather than his "Butchness". The nickname never seemed to quite fit.
This was reinforced in his later career, especially when he went out to play in Italy, where he always came across as being elegant and civilised, rather than Butch!
As it turns out, the name didn't have anything to do with is style as a professional footballer, apparently it was a nickname he was given as a child
There was no such ambiguity about the nicknames of most other players in the 1970s.
For example, Allan "Sniffer" Clarke, didn't get his name because he had been a particularly sickly child who forever had a runny nose and suspicious silvery streaks trailing up the sleeves of his school jumper.
The Leeds frontman earned his nickname due to his ability for sniffing out half chances in and around the penalty box.
A similarly named player of this era was a team-mate of the young Wilkins at Chelsea - Ron "Chopper" Harris.
Now, even if some of you younger readers have never heard of Ron Harris, or seen him play, his nickname should give you a rough idea about his uncompromising and tough-tackling style of defending.
A similar no-nonsense defending style was reflected in the nickname of Leeds United's Norman "Bites Yer Legs" Hunter.
Another Chelsea player with an instantly recognisable nickname was goalkeeper Peter "The Cat" Bonetti. The name was earned due to his feline-like agility and lightening fast reflexes.
Former Arsenal manager George "Stroller" Graham earned his nickname for very different reasons.
The centre-forward turned midfielder was dubbed Stroller due to his laid-back approach and brilliant passing ability, which made up for a perceived lack of pace.
Over the years these types of nicknames have become more and more rare. More recent exponents being the likes of Stuart "Psycho" Pearce and Neil "Razor" Ruddock.
And Fulham fans can take the credit for their former Senegalese international Papa Bouba Diop's nickname - the Wardrobe.
The practice of giving a player a nickname which slips seamlessly between his first and second names seem to have been transferred from football to darts, where they all seem to have one.
Some of the more notable - and bizarre - names given to darters include: Phil "The Power" Taylor, Andy "The Viking" Fordham and Bob "The Limestone Cowboy" Anderson.
However, most of these names have been dreamt up by the players themselves or their agents in order to promote them. 
Old fashioned football nicknames were generally earned.
Probably the most famous nickname attached to a Swans player was reserved for Ivor Allchurch.
The Wales international was known as "The Golden Boy of Welsh Football" due to his golden locks and fact he was one of the greatest players his nation had ever produced.
Although he would have had some competition from another Swansea boy John Charles, who had a famous nickname of his own - "The Gentle Giant", or "Il Buon Gigante"  as he was dubbed by adoring Italian fans during his time at Juventus.
Most modern nicknames don't refer to the players' particular skill, and they aren't used in the same way as they were. They are quite often a play on words.
One of the best examples of this is the nickname given to former Watford centre-half Fitz Hall, who was known as "One Size". I'll let you work it out.
And one of the better Swans nicknames in recent years belonged to Keith "Sky" Walker.
So why should we let the darters have all the fun? Here's to a return to teams featuring the likes of Chopper, Stroller and Sniffer.
Separate panel
I sensed an air of negativity amongst some supporters as I walked away from the ground after the Spurs match a week last Sunday.
To be fair, this is understandable following a home defeat which has left the Swans just three points above the relegation zone.
For one of the first times in a decade things aren't going quite as Swans fans would hope in the league.
But we have to be realistic, we aren't in League One or League to anymore, this is the Premier League and we are up against some of the richest clubs in the world and some of the most experienced.
We have no divine right to be above any of these teams. Let's not forget what an incredible achievement it is just to be in the Premier League. The team has to fight for their position and we have to give them every ounce of backing we can. Everyone has to stay positive
The Swans haven't become a bad team overnight. Bad teams don't outplay Spurs for the first 35 minutes. I know it was a ultimately a disappointing defeat, but remember how you were feeling after half an hour with the Swans on top.
Had Wilfried Bony's thunderbolt been three inches lower and had Martin Atkinson seen the blatant push on the Ivorian in the same way as the rest of the nation saw it, things could have been very different.
Instead of being three points above the relegation zone we could have been in the top half of the table. The Premier League is one of the most competitive leagues in the world and this year it is particularly tight.
I know these may be ifs and buts and they don't change results, but they do show this Swans team has the quality to overcome the injuries and bumpy rub of the green they have experienced in recent times.
Let's remember this Swans team has this season won 3-0 at one of the most iconic stadiums on the continent, it has also won at one of the most iconic stadiums in the world - for the first time in its 102-year history.
They are through to the last 32 of the Europa League - the furthest the club has ever reached in European competition - and as well as being three points from the relegation zone, they are also three points from the top half of the Premier League.
The support at the Liberty Stadium has been superb this season, as it has been at grounds up and down the country. But it's time to ramp it up even higher.
So let's be positive. Every single one of us needs to be 100 per cent behind the team tonight and for every single match for the rest of the season to make sure the Swans stay where they belong - in the Premier League.