BROWNE ON THE BALL: Football is forever evolving, so what’s really in a name?

Your history! Football clubs' stadiums, nicknames, crests, teams, grounds and kits - like this Boston United number from 1983 - are constantly evolving. Should we care about names remaining the same?
Your history! Football clubs' stadiums, nicknames, crests, teams, grounds and kits - like this Boston United number from 1983 - are constantly evolving. Should we care about names remaining the same?

A few years ago I was taken on a stadium tour of New York City’s iconic Madison Square Garden.

While showing us around the changing rooms our tour guide proudly stated this was the ‘locker room’ that had housed some of the greatest players to have ever graced the New York Knicks and Rangers.

But when the discussion turned to the sporting greats who had performed at the venue over the years, my guide oddly explained that they perhaps wouldn’t have used these rooms, because this site was not actually the original Garden, but in fact the fourth building to have carried the name.

For me it seemed bizarre that the title would be passed on from soon-to-be demolished building to brand-spanking-new site.

To him, an American, this seemed normal.

After all, he lives in the land of franchise sport. A place where the Brooklyn Dodgers now represent LA, and where the Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee and swiftly had to rebrand as the Titans when it was pointed out there is no oil in Elvis Presley’s home state.

In the grand scheme of things, the USA is a relatively new nation.

Therefore it doesn’t have the need to cling to its past... unlike us Brits.

History and tradition have been the buzz words bandied about in recent years when pouring scorn on football club owners Assem Allam and Vincent Tan.

Allam has been labelled out of touch for his attempts to rename Hull City as Hull Tigers, while Tan has been painted as a megalomaniac for daring to change Cardiff City’s home colours from blue to red.

But should we really care?

I’m not saying the Americans have got things right. I wouldn’t be happy if I woke up to discover my local team had upped sticks and moved 20,000 miles away.

However, are we being a little over precious here in Blighty?

If Boston United were to change their name to the Boston Pilgrims, the only thing that would bother me is the fact that the Pilgrims had next to nothing to do with this town.

We cling to tradition and fight for it when it’s those crazy foreigners with different sounding names wanting to make their mark on the English game.

But were there the same levels of outcry when Arsenal moved from Woolwich to North London, or when Herbert Chapman changed their colours from redcurrant to red with white sleeves?

Did anyone give a monkeys when new owners rebranded the gold and green of Newton Heath as Manchester United, who now play in red shirts?

MK Dons are ridiculed as Franchise FC, but the same hate isn’t chucked at Clapton Orient, who moved to Leyton and changed their name.

Newcastle United, Leeds United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham are among the clubs to have drastically altered their club crests - the most important emblem of tradition - in my lifetime.

Where’s the fuss?

Didn’t Sunderland used to be nicknamed the Rokerites? Weren’t Bristol Rovers formerly the Pirates and not the Gas? Brighton and Hove Albion switched from the Dolphins to the Seagulls purely to spite Crystal Palace.

Dagenham & Redbridge, Solihull Moors, Rushden & Diamonds, Ebbsfleet United: All these clubs, for one reason or another, changed their names without the current brouhaha that’s being bandied about.

Can any older football fan tell me how much was made of Boston United changing their shirts from black with a white chevron to amber?

Did supporters threaten boycotts when the Stumpites sadly became the Pilgrims?

And what about Boston Town? Was there uproar when Boston FC extended their name?

The simple fact is football, like everything else in life, evolves... even the rules and the stadiums.

In 10 years’ time young fans will think we’re lying when they are told that Boston United used to play at a place called The Fantasy Island Stadium in the middle of town.

They’ll think we’re taking the mickey when we say there was a time before goalline technology, and goalkeepers used to be able to pick up back passes.

Things change. Let’s just accept that and move on.

Rant over. Now I’m off to enjoy a Marathon bar, some Opal Fruits and clean the toilet with some Jif.