Football club nicknames tend to fall into one of two camps.
There are the unimaginative: The Villans (Aston Villa), the Reds (Liverpool) and the Citizens (Manchester City), etc.
Then there are the unusual: the Eagles (Crystal Palace), the Toffees (Everton) and the Hatters (Luton).
The one we are dealing with today probably falls into the second category.
So why are Bournemouth called the Cherries?
Let’s take a closer look.
Why Are Bournemouth Called The Cherries?
There are two theories attached to Bournemouth being nicknamed the Cherries. The first is that it comes from the ‘cherry’ red striped kits they have worn for most of their history, the second is that they were nicknamed the Cherries because there were numerous cherry orchards adjacent to the club’s Dean Court ground when they moved there in 1910.
For a long time, Bournemouth was a footballing journeyman.
Their spells languishing in the bottom two divisions of the Football League were occasionally punctuated by giant-killing acts.
Most notable of these was a victory over Manchester United in 1984 when Bournemouth were in the third tier and led by Harry Redknapp.
But in 2008, the club was in the bottom division of English professional football, and not just in danger of going out of the Football League, but of going out of business altogether.
Enter Eddie Howe, a new set of owners and a drastic change of fortune.
In 2009 Bournemouth finished 21st in League Two.
Six years and three promotions later, in 2015 they were competing in the Premier League, the first time the club had ever been in the top level of English football.
Suddenly the Cherries were the club on everyone’s lips!
But why the Cherries?
Well there are two theories as to how the team got its fruity nickname, and no one can say for definite which is the original reason.
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Theory #1: It Is Because Of Their Kit
AFC Bournemouth was founded in 1899 as Boscombe Football Club.
Boscombe is a suburb of Bournemouth, located about a mile east of Bournemouth’s town centre.
For the first 24 years of its life, the club plyed its trade in amateur football.
Then in 1923 two things happened, 1) the club changed its name to Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic Football Club and 2) it was elected to the Football League, joining the newly formed Third Division South.
But where does its kit come into all this I hear you ask?
From its foundation in 1899, the club had always worn red and white striped shirts (with the exception of the 1925/26 season when they wore a plain red shirt).
It is said the ‘cherry’ red stripes led to the club becoming known colloquially as The Cherries.
Whatever happened the nickname was strongly enough associated with the club that it stuck, even when in 1936 Bournemouth ditched the cherry-red stripes and black shorts to adopt an Arsenal-esque red shirt with white sleeves, accompanied by white shorts.
The cherry red stripes didn’t reappear on the team’s kit until the 1970 season.
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In the first part of that intervening period, from 1936 to 1961, Bournemouth stuck with a red shirt with white sleeves. From 1961 to 1970, the shirt was all red.
In 1970 the cherry red stripes returned. But this time rather than the kit being red and white stripes, it was now red and black stripes.
This kit was modelled on that of AC Milan. But again it didn’t last long.
In 1974 the club switched back to almost entirely plain red shirts, complete with a modernised club badge.
From 1974 to 1990 the club’s shirt was mainly red (with occasional appearances of white), until the AC Milan-styled red and black striped shirt reappeared for two years from 1990 to 1992.
From 1992 to 1994 Bournemouth switched to an unusual red and white chevron kit before switching back to red and black stripes in 1994.
Red and black has remained the predominant color ever since.
Just to quickly go over that again:
- 1899 to 1936: Red and white striped shirts (with the exception of 1925-26 when the club wore a plain red shirt).
- 1936 to 1970: A plain red shirt (with white sleeves for a number of years).
- 1970 to 1974: Red and black striped shirts.
- 1974 to 1990: A plain red shirt (with occasional use of white).
- 1990 to 1992: Red and black striped shirts.
- 1992 to 1994: Red and white chevron shirts.
- 1994 to Present Day: Red and black striped shirts (or slight variations on the theme).]
Or for a quick visual representation visit the excellent Historical Kits website.
But the point is that the one consistent in the club’s 120 years plus history is that ‘cherry’ red has always been part of the team’s kit.
Hence the nickname the Cherries!
Theory #2: It Is Because of Their Ground
For the first few years of their existence Boscombe Football Club, as they were known then, played in Castlemain Avenue in Pokesdown, a small suburb about three miles east of Bournemouth town centre.
In 1902, they moved to a pitch in King’s Park and were becoming an increasingly strong football force, and one of the best teams in the South-West of England.
They had finished 2nd, 4th, 4th, 1st, 2nd, 5th and 3rd in the Hampshire League and it was obvious they needed a proper stadium to accommodate the growing number of fans.
Enter local businessman J.E. Cooper-Dean and the second theory as to why Bournemouth are called the Cherries.
J.E Cooper-Dean gave Bournemouth a long-term lease for an area of wasteland next to King’s Park.
A ‘restrictive covenant’ was placed on the freehold, so all plans had to be submitted to the Cooper Dean estate for approval before any work could be carried out.
The team officially moved into the ground, named Dean Court after the club’s benefactor, in December 1910, with the first development being a 300-seat stand.
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But the main point here is that the Cooper-Dean estate that was adjacent to the new ground was home to numerous cherry orchards.
And that is where the second theory of why Bournemouth are called the Cherries comes from.
Over the next few decades Dean Court underwent several developments, and the club’s first Football League match in 1923 attracted an attendance of 7,000 fans.
The record attendance at the ground stands at 28,799 for an FA Cup match against Manchester United in 1957.
In 2001 Dean Court was completely rebuilt and moved away from adjacent housing with the pitch rotated ninety degrees.
Today with a capacity of 11,364 Dean Court is far and away the smallest ground in the Premier League.
In fact, as of the 2022/23 season, the only ground with a smaller capacity in the top two divisions of English football is Luton’s Kenilworth Road which holds 10,356 fans.
It is hard to say for definite which of these two theories is the real reason Bournemouth are called the Cherries.
I suspect it is most likely a combination of both.
The club was already known for its cherry red striped kit when they then moved to a new ground situated right next to an abundance of cherry orchards.
What started with a few locals referring to the club as the cherries most probably became more widespread as the club gained prominence and moved to their new ground in 1910 and then joined the Football League in 1923.
Whatever the reason is, I can’t think of another English team nicknamed after a fruit.
If you can please drop it in the comments below!