The Lilywhites name with other teams
We used the term ‘Lilywhites’ when forming this blog and while its name is synonymous with Tottenham Hotspur, it’s not a term that is used by everybody. Many simply refer to the club as the ‘Spurs’ but, if you look closely, many sites indicate that ‘Lilywhites’ is our official nickname.
Having established that fact, it’s time to ask why are Spurs called the Lilywhites and how did that name originate? At the same time, it’s been very interesting to uncover a list of other clubs that use our nickname and that list is longer than you might think.
It’s an obvious fact that Spurs play in white shirts but this wasn’t always the case. Our earliest jerseys from formation in 1882 were navy blue, before we used the ‘half and half’ blue and white shirts. A brown striped combination, reminiscent of Bradford City was also employed before, in 1898, Tottenham adopted the famous white jersey that we still use for home matches today.
Immediately, the phrase ‘Lilywhites’ was adopted and it’s remained in place to this day.
We know that ‘Lilywhites’ is shared by other clubs and the most famous example is over at Preston North End. History tells us that the owners of Spurs adopted their white shirts in 1898 in order to emulate Preston who had just gone through a season unbeaten. By taking their nickname as well, the imitation was complete.
Other sides have also adopted the name and one surprise for many is a link to Fulham. The vast majority of football fans will know the London side as The Cottagers, after their Craven Cottage ground but the nickname Lilywhites had also been used in their earlier days.
As far as teams in the top four divisions are concerned, only Spurs, Preston and Fulham share the nickname Lilywhites but the term certainly extends much further down the league ladder.
Non League Nickname
Included in the list of teams to use the nickname Lilywhites are a side who, until relatively recently, had a regular place in the football league. Hereford United FC first came to prominence during a giant killing cup run in the early 1970s and they subsequently gained promotion to the fourth division, largely on the back of those FA Cup exploits.
Staying on the west side of the UK, Rhyl FC also adopted the nickname Lilywhites but sadly, the club is no longer in existence. The Welsh side enjoyed a long history, having been formed back in 1878 but financial issues that were exacerbated by the Covid-19 Pandemic meant that Rhyl FC were officially wound up as recently as April 2020.
Leyton Football Club are another side to have met an untimely demise although they disbanded much earlier, having met their fate back in 2011. It’s always sad to see any club go to the wall and, having been formed in 1868, Leyton FC had to cease due to unsolvable debt.
Like all teams on this list, Leyton were known as the Lilywhites but this was frequently shortened to ‘Lilies.’ Like a number of sides, including Spurs, other nicknames were used and many fans would have known them as The Swifts.
Moving further down the league ladder, Berkhamsted Town FC were known as the Lilywhites too. The club disbanded in 2009 and while they subsequently reformed as Berkhamsted FC, the nickname ‘Comrades’ was subsequently adopted.
Happily, the remaining clubs who share the nickname the Lilywhites are still in existence and there are two sides located over in Kent and its borders. Bromley FC are the first of these and this National League side have a long history which dates back to 1892. We’re starting to see a pattern appear and it’s one that features prominently throughout this review.
Bromley are known as the Lilywhites due to the colour of their home shirts but they also have another nickname. The South London / Kent Borders team are also called the ravens and three of those birds are prominently shown on the club badge.
Moving further into the Kent countryside, Faversham FC are yet another team to share our iconic nickname. Currently playing in the Isthmian League South Division, Faversham have only one nickname this time and once again, the term Lilywhites is firmly linked to the colour of their shirts.
Still in the south of England but moving up to Isthmian League North, we have Cambridge City who were formed in 1908 as Cambridge Town. With their ground in Impington, outside of the city centre, they are known exclusively as the Lilywhites due to the colour of their shirts.
In the north of the country, Mossley FC were formed in 1903 and there is a parallel with Spurs here. The name the Lilywhites wasn’t adopted until 1912 when the club started to wear white shirts as part of their home kit.
Outside of England, Clachnacuddin FC play in the Scottish Highland League. They are frequently referred to as the Lilywhites owing to their shirts but the name is frequently shortened to just ‘Clach’.
Across the Irish Sea, Dundalk FC have also adopted the name while other fans simply refer to the side as ‘The Town.’
Spurs fans are proud of the Lilywhites tag and will continue to use it as long as those iconic home shirts are in place. Hopefully you’ll agree that it’s been interesting to see why and when the nickname was adopted and it’s also been surprising that so many clubs share the term in the football league and beyond.