Football: Unravelling the history and mystery of the motto


Olivia Blair
Friday 19 September 1997 23:02

There's no doubt that Barc- elona are, as their club motto maintains, "More than a Club"; "institution" would, in fact, be a more apt description. However, the 14-times Spanish champions were obviously not quite enough of a club to be able to overcome Newcastle United on Wednesday night, a club who just five years ago were staring the old English Third Division in the face.

Keith Gillespie may have been the architect, Faustino Asprilla the executioner, but it was Newcastle's defence which held the key to victory. A back four which used to be renowned for being as leaky as a chocolate teapot stood firm in the closing minutes against incessant Catalan pressure. But then you'd expect that of a club whose motto - Fortiter Defendit Triumphans - insists that a Strong Defence Triumphs: a fact that Kenny Dalglish has obviously taken on board to a far greater degree than his predecessor.

Club mottoes, like Kevin Keegan's attitude to defending, are something of a mystery. There appears to be no rhyme nor reason why certain clubs display stirring (or not so stirring) Latin or English maxims on their club crests, while others are motto-less. I suspect the explanation is rather more worthy than the one put forward by Reading's historian, David Downes, that: "It's down to someone at a club showing the initiative to plump for a motto and implement it."

He's been trying for years to get Reading to adopt the somewhat unoriginal motto, "Up the Royals", but at least that's preferable to the club paying lip service to a sponsor on their crest. Thankfully, there's currently only one such culprit. Compare the awful inscription on Grimsby's Club crest (Europe's Food Town) to the evocative Arte E Labore (Skill and Toil) promoted by Blackburn who, under Roy Hodgson, seem to have finally added Arte to the Labore which won them the premiership in 1994-95; or to Bury's rousing Vincit Omnia Industria (Hard Work Overcomes Everything); well, everything in last season's Second Division that is. I know which motto I find more inspiring and Europe's Food Town it certainly isn't.

Glasgow could never be described as Europe's food town, so it's not surprising to find that Rangers' motto is the more noble, Aye Ready (Always Ready), to which the cynics might add... to go out of Europe. But if we're picking holes in club mottoes, then Spurs has to take the biscuit. Whoever saddled the North London club with the dictum Audere E Facere (To Dare is to Succeed) obviously hadn't reckoned on the Spurs of the 1990s, who haven't dared to do anything of note since Gazza dared to chip David Seaman at Wembley in 1991. Any Spurs fan would concede that "Things can only get better" might be a more appropriate maxim.

But then fans are seldom canvassed on issues such as mottoes, as Sunderland fans know only too well. They were enraged by the club's choice of new crest and motto, claiming that the crest is too similar to Newcastle's and that the motto - Connectatio Excellentiae (In Search of Excellence) - was simply plucked, without thought, from the pages of a Latin dictionary. After rumours suggesting it was borrowed from a local Gateshead bus company proved to be unfounded, a local paper acted as a forum for fans' personal preferences, which range from the angry (Let's Shaft the Fans) to the more pragmatic (In Search of Promotion).

Being realistic, it's doubtful that a motto has any bearing whatsoever on a club's performance these days. Okay, so Chesterfield may continually "aspire" to greater heights - witness their performance in reaching the semi finals of the FA Cup last season - while Kilmarnock could do worse than take heart from their motto Confidemus (Let us have Confidence) when they try to overcome the 3-1 first leg deficit against Nice in the Cup- Winners' cup.

But try telling Burnley, currently propping up the Second Division that "work is the reason and the reward"; or that it's all about "progress" to Blackpool, who haven't escaped the clutches of the Second Division for five years. There was certainly no sign of Bruce Rioch and Arsenal's board of directors paying any heed to the Highbury motto Victoria Concordia Crescit (Victory comes through Agreement) when they came to blows, nor is there any evidence to suggest that anyone at Everton has thought to remind Howard Kendall that Nil Satis Nisi Optimum (Only the Best is Good Enough) at Goodison. If they had, the Everton manager would surely have given up his pursuit of Fabrizio Ravanelli and offloaded the beleaguered Nick Barmby.

Finally, if anyone can throw light on Stockport's unique motto, which describes them as "The Friendly Football Club", don't expect it to be ex-managers Dave Jones and Danny Bergara. The former was recently snubbed by the club he led to promotion and Coca Cola Cup renown last season when they refused to stock his book in the club shop, while Stockport's parting gift to Bergara, who had taken them to two play-off finals and two Autoglass Trophy finals, was a punch on the head from chairman Brendan Elwood. No prizes for guessing the motto of that story.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in