Curbing Your Enthusiasm: A nicknaming masterclass

A former Premier League manager approached us here at Tales and asked that we publish his diaries, so he could show the public what life is like out of the game. His only request was that he remained anonymous. Below is this week’s entry:

Football management is an incredibly tough job. There are so many different roles you have to perform. You’re a gaffer, a father, a brother, an accountant, a personal trainer, a fashion adviser and sometimes a grief counsellor.

But one of your most important roles is being a team builder. It’s incredibly important to foster togetherness and develop a strong collective spirit.

This is something that a lot of modern managers don’t seem to believe in anymore. Just look at the current disgrace that is Chelsea. No one is having fun there. Hell, after the defeat to Watford on Monday, Antonio Conte looked like a man who had just lost everything in a Yu-Gi-Oh card game. I’ve been there, brother, it’s not a nice experience.

But I have some advice for Tony C***. During my stint at West Ham, we were one of the teamiest teams in the league.

‘How, Alan?’ I hear you cry.

Nicknames.

On the first day of pre-season, all the players and staff would get together and work out what each player’s nicknames were going to be. Everyone had to have at least three and everyone had to be involved in the naming process. Whenever we signed a new player, on their first day, we would all sit down and work their nickname out.

Each session could take anywhere between two and seventy-six hours. The best outcome we ever had was the 2007-08 squad. When we named that particular group, we stayed out so late that one of the coaching staff lost a foot due to frostbite. But when we finished 10th in May, that showed it had all been worth it. Below is that hallowed list:

West Ham 2007-08 nickname list

Robert Green – Greeney, Robert Palmer, Moptop Head, Alan Partridge (we would sometimes just scream A-HAAAA at him. Good times)

Lucas Neill – Neilly, Crocodile Dundee, Cork Head, Shrimpo

George McCartney – Georgey, The Best Beatle, The Worst Beatle, Mr Consistent (you had to say this one sarcastically, you don’t want people to get too big headed)

Danny Gabbidon – Gabby, Valleys, Talkative Mafioso (a personal favourite of mine)

Anton Ferdinand – Tonny, Mary Antoinette, Ringo, D.B. Cooper

Matthew Upson – Uppo, Gunner, Next Big Thing, Current Big Thing (you had to emphasize big, maybe puff out your cheeks)

Freddie Ljungberg – Ljungbergy, Swedish Chef, El Meatball, Calvin Classic

Scott Parker – Parky, Aviator, Maccy D

Dean Ashton – Deano, Bleachy (added later in the season), Lurch

Craig Bellamy – Craigy, Bellow (lovely wordplay here), Tiger Woods, Alleged Violence

Matthew Etherington – Etheringtony, The Cincinnati Kid, Class of 92 (he never shut up about a trial he had at United), Half a Kanouté

Carlton Cole – Coley, Carlty, Cockney Scumbag (this sounds like violent language, but was always delivered with love).

John Paintsil – Paintsilly, Justice of the Peace, The Nameless One

Nobby Solano – Solanoy, Master Tromboner, King of Azteca, Moaning Mayan

Mark Noble – Nobley, Hammer of the Year, The Sundance Kid, Mr West Ham (again, the more sarcasm the better)

Hayden Mullins – Mullinsy, Hayden Mussolini, Please stop spouting that nonsense mate (Hayden drifted a bit too far to the right for a central midfielder if you know what I mean)

Jonathan Spector – Spectory, The Spectator, The Original Celtic, Foghorn Leghorn (we always thought he spoke like the famous chicken and would regularly do impressions. Spectory loved it)

James Collins – Collinsy, Ginge, Ginger Pele, Gareth Thomas (there were some rather unsavoury nicknames related to this one that I have chosen to omit. Nobley should have known better)

Julien Faubert – Fauberty, False Bear (tasty wordplay), The Express Train

Richard Wright – Wrighty (we didn’t bother doing more as we knew he would barely feature)

Tony Stokes – Stokesy, Chimney Sweep, Giraffe Tony (don’t ask)

Jimmy Walker – Walkery, Big Fat Goalie, Pen Saver Jim (he stopped a Lampard pen once and never, ever shut up about it),

Bobby Zamora – Zamora-ee, Bobby Tendon, Zamore (to the tune of That’s Amore, obviously), Bobby Davro

Nigel Quashie – Quashie-ee, El Quasho, Relegatron (said like a robot)

Calum Davenport – Davenporty, CD, Davros (combination of his looks and love of Dr Who)

Kyel Reid – N/A (I have literally no idea who this is and have no nicknames against his name in my notebook)

Lee Bowyer – Bowyery, Dickhead, Unfinished Business, Affrayable Lee (you had to try to trick him into thinking you had said ‘Affable’ while also reminding him that he had been convicted of affray in 1996. We liked a laugh)

James Tomkins – Tomkinsy, Jimmy, Tommo (we struggled here)

Kieron Dyer – Dyery, Sicknote, Cassius Clay (we often attempted to get him and Bowyery to re-ignite their feud, including one time they had a bare-knuckle brawl in the training ground car park. Dickhead earned me a fiver)

Marek Stech – Stecky, Czechy, That Guy, Who?

Luis Boa Morte – Morty, Constrictor, Oooo, Arsenal (you had to say this in a high pitched voice. We loved The Inbetweeners)

Henri Camara – Camera-ee, Snap, Little Stupid Face Man (we weren’t particularly nice to Henri, something I should now regret, but he brought so much of it on himself, the Little Stupid Face Man)

Jack Collison – Collisony, Jimmy Collander, Big Fat Jack,

Freddie Sears – Searsy, Kiddo, The Child, Who? (this often meant we couldn’t distinguish between Searsy and Stecky)

Jordan Spence – Spencey, Spenny, England Captain Extraordinaire (when in doubt, be sarcastic)

So there you have it. What a team and what a set of names. For Conte’s sake, let’s hope he’s doing this with Cescy, Hazardy and Morata-y. You can have them for free, Antonio.