Unflattering footballer nicknames

Footballer nicknames are all fine and well, until you find yourself stuck with an unflattering one like 'psycho', 'ape', 'calamity' or 'sicknote'. Luckily you're not necessarily stuck with a nasty nickname. Gerd Müller is proof of that. The height challenged German striker was in danger of having to spend his career being known as 'Kleines Dickes'. That was after his first coach at Bayern Munich famously asked 'what am I meant to do with this little fat one', when Muller first entered the club's training ground. Stick him up front and let him shoot at goal, as it turned out. So outstanding was Müller at hammering in the goals, he ended up earning himself the much more flattering nickname 'Der Bomber'.

The opposite happened to William Henry Foulke, the legendary Sheffield United goalkeeper who was active around the turn of the twentieth century. At the start of his career, Foulke was noted mainly for his impressive height. At six foot four he was extremely tall for the period that he lived in. His extraordinary ability to stop even the best placed balls soon earned him the nickname 'the octopus' and a well deserved call up for the English national team.

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A slim and very tall Foulke pictured in 1896

As the years progressed however, Foulke also started to be noted for something else: his ever increasing weight. He would eventually come to weigh well over 300 pounds. It doesn't seem to have prevented him from keeping out the balls, as his time with Sheffield United would see him win two FA Cups and a League championship, but it did turn Foulke into an object of mockery by opposing fans. A new nickname took hold, 'Fatty Foulke', and sadly for him that's the one he's gone down in history with.

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A caricature of Foulke dated 1902

A bunch of legends have sprung up around Fatty Foulke. The phenomenon of ball boys is meant to have been introduced after collecting balls that went high or wide became too much of a challenge for him. Then there's the story that when staying in a hotel with his team, Foulke once snuck into the dining room early to devour all eleven breakfasts. Whether it's all true is doubtful, but some stories probably shouldn't be checked to death.