Why Are Tottenham Hotspurs Called Spurs?

When someone says they’re a Spurs fan, they could mean that they’re either a basketball fan rooting for the team from San Antonio, Texas, or they’re a fan of the London-based Premier League soccer team.

It’s a bit of an odd name for a sports franchise, and we’ll break down exactly how this north-London town came to call their team the Spurs.

Why are Tottenham Hotspurs Called Spurs? The Tottenham Hotspurs are named after the English knight Sir Henry Percy, who was nicknamed ‘Hotspur.’ The team adopted Hotspur as their name, which got shortened to Spurs.

Who Is Sir Henry Percy?

Sir Henry Percy lived in the late 1300s and early 1400s in Northumberland, which is very close to the Scottish border. As such, he fought the Scots in the Hundred Years’ War, and it was his enemies who were the ones who gave him his nickname.

Henry Percy was formidable in battle, and he frequently spurred his horses on as he attacked the Scots.

Thus, the Scots called him Hotspur. This name might have been born out of fear, respect, or both, but whatever the case, it stuck. Henry Percy and his family supported Henry Bolingbroke (who would become Henry IV) in the usurpation against Richard II.

However, the Percy family would ultimately be unhappy with several things that Henry IV did, and they would later take up arms against the king they helped install on the throne.

Befitting his name and legend, Henry “Hotspur” Percy died in battle. While the circumstances around his death aren’t 100% certain, he was struck down at age 39 in the Battle of Shrewsbury and later declared a traitor.

After he was killed, his men retreated immediately, as if knowing that they wouldn’t stand a chance without him.

A Pop Culture Icon

Henry “Hotspur” Percy is a well-known character in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, and he was played by Tom Glynn-Carney in the 2019 film The King.

His legacy in English history looms large, and while some inaccuracies and legends have popped up around Henry “Hotspur” Percy, his historical relevance is well-documented.

What Does that Have to Do With a London Football Club?

Some 518 years after his birth, Henry “Hotspur” Percy’s legacy of charging into battle made him an inspiration for a budding football club. But why?

Historical tidbits and fun facts aside, it doesn’t seem like this horse-riding warrior would logically end up being the namesake of a north London soccer team. But although Percy himself lived in the northern part of the country, his descendants owned land around the Tottenham Marshes, which was where the team had their first soccer ground. 

The soccer team originally played in the same area as the Hotspur Cricket Club, and many of the founding members also played cricket at that club.

After two years as simply the Hotspur Football Club, the team changed its name to the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club in 1884. There was apparently another team also called the Hotspur Football Club, and their mail was getting confused. 

So it looks like Henry inspired lots of athletic endeavors half a millennium after he lived. What a legacy!

Why is Their Logo a Chicken?

Knowing as we do now that Henry rode a noble steed into battle with such vigor that it earned him a nickname, it makes sense that the team logo for the Tottenham Hotspurs would be a horse in his honor.

However, that’s not quite the logo that we see on the kit of the Tottenham players. Instead, it’s a cockerel.

In 2006, the club commissioned a new, sleek logo that features a cockerel with a very prominent spur standing on top of a soccer ball. It replaced the previous crest that also featured a cockerel. 

The association with a cockerel first came when a player, William James Scott, commissioned a bronze cockerel for the team in 1909. The connection was that cockerels used in cock fighting have natural spurs, as well as metal spurs attached by their handlers.

In the 17th century, English cockfighters tied silver spikes to their cockerels’ legs that were so sharp, they sometimes injured the handlers. Since the team was already known as the Spurs, it seemed like an appropriate mascot for the team.

The Modern Logo Honored Team Traditions

The logo used until 2006 was made up of a crest with the cockerel on top of the soccer ball, as well as two red lions.

These represented the coat of arms of Henry Percy’s Northumberland family. While the lions themselves are removed from the current logo, there is a shield outline around the logo that calls back to the crest of old.

That 1956 to 2006 crest also featured seven trees and a castle, both of which represent local areas. The castle symbolized the nearby Bruce Castle, and the trees symbolized Seven Sisters, which is an historical area within Tottenham.

From the Marsh to the Premier League

The Tottenham Hotspurs came from humble beginnings, playing in a marshy area in a public park. They had to mark off their own field and couldn’t charge admission. Over 100 years later, they pushed for the formation of the Premier League in 1992. 

They’re one of only six teams in Premier League history to have avoided relegation. The other five are Manchester United, Arsenal (Tottenham’s rival!), Liverpool, Everton, and Chelsea. Henry “Hotspur” finds his namesake in quite esteemed company.

Conclusion

Some team names are straightforward. Manchester City and Liverpool are simply the names of the places where the teams are located. Others have names and mascots steeped in history. 

The Tottenham Hotspurs rely on a figure that looms large on the pages of the history books. Even though they frequently shorten the name to just the Spurs, they’re calling back to a man who attacked his enemies relentlessly and put his life on the line for what he believed in.

Connor Smith

I'm Connor, the guy behind SoccerPrime. I'm a former NCAA Div 1 college player that retired at the age of 21 due to injuries - which led me into a new career as a soccer coach.

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