The Fiver

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The Fiver is a daily, mostly humorous football email published by The Guardian newspaper's website, It is delivered to subscribers’ inboxes at (approximately) 17:00 Monday – Friday (hence the name "Fiver") but does not appear in the print edition of The Guardian newspaper. Even though it is published by a UK-based newspaper, The Fiver enjoys a world-wide following. Fiver writers include Paul Doyle and Barry Glendenning and are drawn from the Guardian Unlimited sportswriting staff.


Usually The Fiver is composed of:

Main stories 
Composed of two commentaries on selected events (although this used to be three), usually highlighting the negative side of the modern game, unsportsmalinke behaviour or the failure or embarrassment of a team or player. These events are usually presented in a humorous, ironic, cynical and wearily disdainful manner. Occasionally subjects of sufficient importance are dealt with in a completely serious manner, for example the death of a great player or major incidents of crowd racism
Quote of the Day 
Features a contemporary quote made by a famous (or infamous) footballing figure, again selected for its comedy value
Fiver Letters 
Comments, general observations, criticisms and pedantry. Formerly, a prize was awarded to the letter judged best of the day
Bits and Bobs 
An amalgamation of the old News in Brief and Rumour Mill sections (see below)
Still Want More? 
Links to other football and sports stories (especially "The Spin") from The Guardian
Last Line 
A brief "sign-off" line, typically an esoteric cultural reference, topical comment, song lyric or writers' in-joke

Discontinued sections[edit]

TV & Radio 
Summary of the evening’s football related programming, accompanied by anecdotal submissions from readers on various and frequently changing themes. This section has yet to return after the 2006 Christmas break. Probably because the Fiver writers can't be bothered looking up what's on TV and radio
Still Want M-O-R? 
A new but short-lived musical interlude section in January 2008 which consisted of one or two old music video clips on YouTube. It was started because of "surprising (and rather disturbing) popularity" of the Last Line from 10 January 2008. The new section was originally named Musical Interlude the next day and became MOR! MOR! MOR! How Do You Like It? How Do You Like It? on 12 January 2008. Then, it was renamed to Very MOR-ish from 13–17 January 2008 and Please Sir, Can I Have Some M-O-R from 18–22 January 2008. From 23 January 2008, the section was known as Still Want M-O-R? The section was then ended on 31 January
News in Brief 
Summary of the day’s stories about player injuries, disciplinary hearings, completed transfers, international matches. Now replaced by Bits and Bobs
Rumour Mill 
Managerial and transfer related gossip and speculation culled from other newspapers and websites. Now replaced by Bits and Bobs


Much of the humour in The Fiver derives from the tongue-in-cheek use of national and regional stereotypes. For example, frequent references are made to The Fiver’s English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish 'cousins': "Sexually Repressed Morris dancing Fiver", "Shortbread McFiver", "Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch Fiver" and "Theme pub O’Fiver" respectively. 'Family' members are often invented as and when required to portray the press of a given country. In addition the most successful teams of the time are usually on the receiving end of many jokes. The Fiver employs the kinds of jokes and insults used by football fans themselves, combining this with sharp observation, which no-doubt contributes towards its popularity amongst its readers, although that could also be why it is often accused of bias by the fans of the team which happens to be on the receiving end. The Fiver is full of irony - even the name of the publication is somewhat humorous as it often arrives well after five o'clock.

Recurring sources of humour include:

Team nicknames[edit]

  • Manchester United are known by a variety of names, including the MU Rowdies (after the NASL's Tampa Bay Rowdies) and play at the Trafford Devilbowl, since their acquisition by the American Glazer family
  • Birmingham City were referred to as Bongo FC in reference to the involvement of their former chairmen David Gold and David Sullivan in the pornography industry (bongo is slang for porn). As they have now taken over at West Ham United the 'Bongo' name for Birmingham has become redundant
  • Blackburn Rovers are known as Blackeye Rovers in reference to the team's historically somewhat aggressive tactics
  • Leeds United are referred to as Dirty Leeds, because of their historically uncompromising football style (more recently Nasty Leeds, following the then manager Dennis Wise's statement that he wanted the team to be "nasty" in order to avoid relegation)
  • Wigan Athletic are known as Plucky Little Wigan or PLW, in reference to the media's patronising attitude to this overachieving little club. This echoes the similarly patronising epithet "plucky little Belgium," used by British newspapers in 1914 to describe their resistance to the German invasion
  • Liverpool are known as Gissagong FC ("Give us a gong", in a Scouse accent), as a result of their chief executive's disappointment upon discovering his Champions League-winning players had been overlooked in the 2006 New Year's honours list. An alternative name is "Merseyside Redskins", since their acquisition by US owners.
  • Sunderland have been referred to as SundIreland since the club's takeover by former Republic of Ireland international Niall Quinn and principally while fellow Irishman Roy Keane was manager
  • Manchester City were known as Human Rights FC after being taken over by former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, usually known as Trashcan Sinatra in The Fiver. With the 2008 takeover by the Abu Dhabi Investment Group they have been referred to as Human Rights FC 2.0, and also as Oil Rich XI
  • Newcastle United were known for a while as Newcastle United Comedy Club, NUCC, or Jongleurs FC after a chain of British comedy clubs, following a series of bizarre incidents like manager Graeme Souness' public falling out with striker Craig Bellamy, and an on-field punch-up between teammates Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer. More recently the club has been referred to as the Barcodes (or Satan's Barcodes) due to their black and white striped shirts, and as Newcastle Eff Cee while under the management of Joe Kinnear due to Kinnear's regular use of profanities. They featured less often during the 2009/10 season which they spent in the Championship
  • West Ham were known as Bad Boys Inc when they signed the controversial Craig Bellamy and Kieron Dyer to a squad that already included notorious troublemakers such as Lee Bowyer and Anton Ferdinand. As of former Birmingham owners Gold and Sullivan's (themselves known by the joint moniker "Gollivan") takeover of the club, they are now known as Wrist Ham, another reference to the owners' involvement in the pornographic industry
  • Aston Villa have been referred to as Buffalo Vills since the club's acquisition by Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner
  • Derby County are nicknamed Ramsbottom County mainly because of their poor performance, especially in the 2007–08 Premier League season. The team's official nickname is the Rams
  • Scunthorpe United are known as Firewall FC because of the difficulty in getting emails containing the name of the club through some forms of spam-blocking software (see Scunthorpe problem)
  • QPR are known as RMP or Rich Men's Plaything after their takeover by billionaire owners Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone
  • Stoke City were known as Rory Delap FC, for the number of goals they score from their Republic of Ireland international midfielder's long throw-ins
  • The Glasgow teams Celtic (with a traditionally Catholic fan-base) and Rangers (with traditionally Protestant fan-base) are referred to as "The Queen’s Celtic" and "The Pope’s O'Rangers", when in fact the opposite would be appropriate. Since Rangers' bankruptcy and transfer of assets to a newco, they have since been renamed "The Popes Newc-O'Rangers".
  • The Netherlands international football team is referred to as "FRoHtN&tD", or "the Federal Republic of Holland, the Netherlands & the Dutch" as a nod to its often confusing nomenclature with football pundits.[1]

Manager nicknames[edit]

Many football managers are also given nicknames, and once the nickname has stuck, their real names are rarely used.

  • Former Birmingham and Wigan, now Sunderland, boss Steve Bruce becomes Bernard Cribbins, who he supposedly resembles. Former Spurs head coach Martin Jol is Tony Soprano for the same reason. Likewise, Aston Villa's Martin O'Neill is known as Woody Allen, former Derby manager Billy Davies has been referred to as Begbie, and former Manchester City manager Mark Hughes has recently become known as "Ailsa from Home and Away", for his supposed resemblance to the Australian soap character
  • Kevin Keegan became Kelvin Koogan, after a poll of readers' nicknames
  • Harry Redknapp is referred to as 'Arry Redknapp, due to his strong East London accent
  • Arsenal's Arsène Wenger is called Arsene's Arsenal Wenger
  • Sir Alex Ferguson has been called at times the Imperial Lord Ferg (usually simply shortened to Lord Ferg) and Voldemort at others; amongst others.
  • Sir Bobby Robson was known, by dint of his old age and frequent mistakes with players' names, as Rir Sobby Bobson. For a short time while he assisted the Irish squad he was known as Rir Sobby O'Bobson
  • Ex-England manager Steve McClaren is referred to as Second-Choice Steve owing to the FA's pursuit of other candidates prior to appointing McClaren to the England post. The moniker Second-Chance Steve was coined after England's then minimal Euro 2008 qualifying chances were revived by a surprise Israeli victory against Russia. He was called Shecond-Choish Shteve, mocking McClaren's affectation of a Dutch-sounding accent in an infamous interview on Dutch television. After his move to VfL Wolfsburg he was referred to as Zecond-Deutsch Zteve until being sacked by the club.
  • Current England football team manager Roy Hodgson is referred to as Mr Roy.
  • Former Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni is known as Giovanni O'Trapattoni, in light of the fact that he was an Italian in charge of the Irish national side
  • Blackburn Rovers' beleaguered manager Steve Kean is known as Steve Kean-out due to the frequency of banners and chanting from Blackburn's unhappy home fans in the 2011/2012 season.

Nicknames for footballers[edit]

  • Emile Heskey is called the Amazing Mr Em (or just Mr Em), after a period where he was regularly picked for club and country despite fan criticism of his form: just as, in the TV show, Mister Ed was a horse who only his owner could hear speak, Heskey was said to be a "carthorse" who only his managers could see play good football
  • Steven Gerrard, popularly known as "Stevie G", was referred to as "$tevie Me" after lucrative contract negotiations, which was modified to "$tevie Mbe" when he was awarded the MBE. When Gerrard was charged with assault in 2009, this was temporarily changed to '$tevie GBH', but reverted after he was acquitted
  • Alan Smith is referred to as the Emmerdale Eminem, for his Yorkshire origins and his supposed resemblance to the rapper
  • The diminutive Shaun Wright-Phillips is known as Subbuteo's Shaun Wright-Phillips
  • Michael Owen is known as Lil' Mickey Owen
  • John Terry is known as England's Brave John Terry, (or EBJT), as he has a knack for pulling out of England matches due to some mysterious injury only to play for Chelsea the week after. It is now changed to Chelsea's Brave John Terry (or CBJT), or when he's playing for England since being stripped of the captaincy, England's Brave But Embarrassing John Terry (or EBBEJT), following his unsuccessful rebellion against Fabio Capello EBJT was briefly redubbed England's Brave and Loyal John Terry (EBLJT). Since his retirement from international football in 2012 he has been referred to as Plain Old JT.
  • Hulking German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn is known as "Mary Shelley's Oliver Kahn".
  • Arsenal's Theo Walcott was known as "Foetus Walcott" after his surprise inclusion in the doomed England squad for the 2006 World Cup at the age of 17
  • Djibril Cissé is known as Djinkin' Djibril Cisse, or more commonly, the Lord of the Manor of Frodsham, in recognition of the title he obtained when he purchased the large manor house of the same name
  • Cristiano Ronaldo is known as 'Him' (always with capital H) - perhaps because of the god like status he was propelled to in season 2007-08 but mainly, one suspects, because the writers got fed up of writing about His move to There (Real Madrid) which was written about seemingly every day of the 2008 close season
  • Javier Hernández is known as Petit Pois, the French translation of his Mexican nickname Chicharito, meaning Little Pea in English.

Leagues and Tournaments[edit]

Some tournaments are also referred to by nicknames, with the Champions League being referred to as Big Cup, and its lesser relation the UEFA Cup being known as Euro Vase. The Scottish Premier League is usually referred to as the EuroDisney League or "EuroDisnae League", the implication being that it is a Mickey Mouse league. The FIFA World Cup has been referred to as Biggest Cup, and more frequently the FIFA World Cup, but with a string of sponsor's names, such as Nestle Fuji Texaco Pepsi Max Cyril The Handyman 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa(TM).

The (mis)fortunes of the Home Nations' international teams[edit]

For example, Northern Ireland's national team were referred to as "Norn Iron Nil" due to their proclivity for losing/failure to score, however, after their shock 1-0 victory over England in September 2005, became known as "Norn Iron One-Nil". After a poor England performance, former manager Sven-Göran Eriksson's £4 million salary was usually mentioned, as was former manager Fabio Capello's £6m salary.

Fiver lawyers[edit]

Segments of text are supposedly excised by "Fiver lawyers", the implication being to avoid libel suits, though the gist of the missing information is usually obvious, or already known, to the reader.

Fat cats[edit]

Any news involving FIFA or its president Sepp Blatter implies that, whatever has been announced, the matter was being discussed simply as an excuse for a gluttonous lunch, with details of the menu usually added for illustrative purposes. This also applied to UEFA and its former president Lennart Johansson until Johansson was succeeded by the more respected former player Michel Platini.

Muesli munchers[edit]

Referring to Guardian (and hence its own) readers by the 'sandal-wearing muesli-eaters' stereotype.

Attitude towards football clubs[edit]

While no football club is beneath The Fiver's contempt, it does tend to go easier on struggling, poverty-stricken lower league clubs, showing the writers do have a conscience. However, fans of Liverpool football club get a particularly hard time due to their reputation for incessant whining about perceived injustices brought upon them by a conspiratorial London-based media, which in itself is evidence of the injustices brought upon Liverpool by a conspiratorial etc. and so on.

Self-deprecating humour[edit]

As of 2007, this has taken on a darker strain, with more frequent references to the Fiver waking up with a hangover, in a gutter or in a puddle of the Fiver's own urine. This is largely a continuation of an occasional "This Is How We Work" item, replacing a news story with a tale of the Fiver writer struggling, and failing, to write a meaningful article as the clock ticks towards 5pm, usually culminating in the humiliation of the writer (and "hot tears of shame") at the hands of the Fiver editor. The main Guardian paper, and articles therein, are enviously referred to as "Big Paper".

The Fiver has a cousin The Spin, which is all of the above, although with a more measured and less overtly humorous outlook, on the subject of cricket, written by Andy Bull.


External links[edit]