That's the name of the game

I am so pleased by the shape and sound of this season so far. At long last we have three Jacks coming through, establishing themselves in Premiership first teams. There's the excellent Jack Wilshere at Arsenal, Jack Rodwell at Everton and Jack Collison at West Ham. For over a decade I've been scanning the squad lists and muttering: "Bloody hell, where are they? What are our mums playing at?"

For 13 consecutive years, Jack has been the number one boy's name in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics, which is, of course, not to be totally trusted - yet where were all the players called Jack? It did puzzle me.

I like to think football reflects life, reality, society today. At one time, our heroes had names such as Stanley and Tommy and Billy, names you could identify with, because they were all around - in your class, in your street. Then they seemed to dry up.

One explanation, used for many things in modern football, is "all these foreigners coming here with their funny foreign names". Any likely Jacks lingering among the nine- and ten-year-olds in the academies have little chance of making the team sheet when it's full of Carlos Kickaballs, Emmanuel Eggnogs and Luca Leftpegskis. And yet, if it's true all those Brit mums have for 13 years been naming their male sprogs Jack, surely some of them should have sneaked through?

Ah, I thought, could be that it's the aspiring middle-class mums going for Jack? As we know, the middle classes, being very short-sighted, want their kiddos to be lawyers and doctors, though they will earn a measly £100,000 a year, as opposed to £100,000 a week, like any half-decent, one-legged bench-warmer in the Prem.

The working classes also tend to favour conventional names, apart from the soppy ones who go for soap and film stars, like my friend Melvyn, whose mum named him after a Hollywood actor called - hold on, she did tell me - Melvyn Douglas, was it? Mostly with boys they stick to the same old family names. Frank Lampard, for example, is named after his dad, as is Wayne Rooney. Makes it pretty hard for Jacks to emerge. Now football seems to be catching up with the national stats. Sort of.

The second top boy's name is Oliver and the fifth is Joshua. Come on, tell me any Prem players called that. They'd get the piss well taken in any dressing room. They probably change their names, like actors, once they get on the first rungs of the youth stage.

The mystery is Mohammed. Spelled like that, it is only number 16 in the list, but if you count in all the various spellings, it surges up to number two, just behind Jack. But where are all the Mohommeds on the team sheets, or Mohhamuds? Yes, we think we know the reason. It'll be a few more generations before they aspire to, or are accepted into, British football life.

Meanwhile I've been doing another namecheck. Naturally, one's blind eye picks up one's own name in a sea of print, but although I've yet to see another Hunter anywhere on the planet now that Hunter Thompson has gone, the surname Davies or Davis is suddenly popping up everywhere. There's three at Bolton (Kevin, Sean and Mark), plus Andrew at Stoke, Curtis at Villa and Simon at Fulham. Only three Coles, now that Andrew has retired, so I reckon we're now number one in the Prem. Hurrah for us.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 28 September 2009 issue of the New Statesman, The 50 people who matter