Professional athletes are a funny bunch. They are a diverse that they encompass clinically obese darts players (think Andy Fordham), almost 7ft tall animals (think The Big Show), dwarf-like rugby-playing-thugs (think Piri Wipuu), perfectly manicured metrosexuals (think Ronaldo) and pretty much everything in between. Yet for such a wide range of modern men, they are almost always abysmal at dishing out nicknames to team mates.
It’s a worldwide problem, but one particularly prevelant in football. Think of some of the great Manchester United teams, when Giggsy passed it to Incey, who hoofed it to Becks, who crossed it in to Schosley who knocked it down to Yorkey who powered a shot past Robbo into the top corner. It’s just dreadful.
Luckily there are a few shining examples of not just good, but great nicknames amongst our sporting elite. Here we run down the best eight of all time.
8) Wash – David Ngog. France, Football.
David Ngog picked up his nickname when he signed for Liverpool, but being the new kid in town it took him a while to work it out. The last ‘g’ in his surname is silent, so the hilarious wags at Liverpool’s Melwood training ground had christened him after the famous shampoo, Wash Ngog. Geddit? The name stuck with him longer than he stuck at Liverpool. A non-scoring striker in the land of Rush, Fowler and Owen was never going to become a legend and he was shipped off to Bolton before moving into further obscurity.
7) Trigger – Jason McAteer. England (sorry, Ireland), Football
A born and bred Scouser, McAteer played his international football for the Republic of Ireland, but was most famous for being a bit thick, hence he became known as Trigger. For those of you who weren’t raised on a diet of UK TV, Trigger is the loveable idiot in Only Fools and Horses (played by the recently deceased Roger Lloyd-Pack), which was a cap that fitted McAteer well. The story, which the man himself confirms isn’t an urban legend, that made McAteer famous as Trigger revolves around a pizza at the end of a night out. When asked if he wanted it cutting into four or eight slices, he replied four, because he’d never be able to eat eight.
6) Handles – Martin Love. Australia, Cricket
Cricket is packed full of average nicknames. There are Punters, Freddies, Badgers and Mr Crickets (oh, wait) to go with plenty of Wattos, Harmys and Smithys. But amongst all the mediocrity, there are occasionally some beacons of hope. Love apparently had a different nickname back home, but during his time with Durham was affectionately renamed Handles. A qualified physio, the nickname never really suited him, but it stuck.
5) King of Spain – Ashley Giles. England, Cricket
Well, it’s cricket again! Some nicknames are earned, some are given, but some come about by accident. This is definitely one of the latter. Giles was an off spinner for England (he’s now the coach of the ODI team) and his county Warwickshire were having some mugs printed celebrating him as “The King of Spin”. Unfortunately something got lost in translation on the way to the manufacturers and they came back with “King of Spain” printed above on the mug above his mug. This has spawned a new industry with “Viva El Gileo” mugs and Spanish flags at England games.
4) Stanimal – Stanislas Wawrinka. Switzerland, Tennins.
If you hadn’t heard about the Stanimal by Christmas, you probably have now. Stan managed to pull off a shock victory (of sorts) in the Australian Open final against one of the finest players of all time, Rafa Nadal. It might have seemed at times that the injured Nadal was the animal on court at the Rod Laver Arena, but 19 aces against Rafa is enough to prove the Stanimal’s nickname is well earned… It also stands out as the only portmanteau in the list, although I’m not sure that’s relevant.
3) 36 – Billy Twelvetrees. England, Rugby Union
Billy Twelvetrees is hoping to spend the next few weeks cementing a place in the centres for England during the Six Nations and pencil himself in for a World Cup slot next year. He’s already inked in our list as an all time great, thanks to the Irish accent of his team mate Geordan Murphy. Murphy is a broad Dubliner and well, you know, a three is tree in that part of the world, and even a primary school child can tell you that twelve threes is 36.
Picking the top slot was only ever a two horse race between two great nicknames. Both of these follow in the pun-tastic style of Paul ‘Human’ Romaines and Michael ‘Second To’ Nunn (both just outside the top 8)
2) One Size – Fitz Hall. England, Football
One Size is a footballer you’ve probably never heard of. He’s played for Newcastle, QPR, Watford and a few other lesser lights of English football and is probably more famous for his nickname than his sporting prowess. Standing 6ft 4 (just under 2m) it’s unlikely that One Size Fitz Hall.
1) All Hands – Monde Zondeki. South Africa, Cricket.
On a list of superb nicknames, picking the best was always tough. It’s been made even harder by the fact that I’m not convinced anyone on his team has ever called Monde Zondeki “All Hands”. But even if this was a nickname thought up in the stands or commentary boxes, it’s still a cracker. All Hands Zondeki. Just say it out loud, let it roll round your mouth and picture him catching a cricket ball. It just fits, it’s perfect.