With so much coverage of football out there – online, on the airwaves (well radio, nobody truly uses the term ‘airwaves’) and on the television – it’s only natural that a ‘football language’ has developed. As with any language, this ‘football language’ has, along the way, picked up (and not shaken off) more than its fair share of dated, nonsensical phrases.
A quick consultation with the linguistic experts (mostly Andy Townsend and Robbie Savage) has produced the following list of phrases which, if they were banned from football for ever, would be missed by nobody. Except Savage and Townsend who would be rendered mute.
“For me…” – an infuriating new entry into the lexicon of punditry bollocks over the last two seasons or so and a particular favourite of ex Chelsea bystander Andy Townsend; ‘For me…’ has become an essential part of footballing vocabulary favoured by players and pundits alike. Seemingly not aware that their opinion is clearly pouring out of their own mouth they feel the need to ensure the viewer the opinion they are hearing is in fact theirs by helpfully announcing something along the lines of:
For me, that is a clear penalty.
In the absence of any ventriloquist/pundits in football at the moment it simply isn’t needed. If The Great Mulbo does eventually replace Andy Townsend (and I hope he does) I’ll welcome the phrase with open arms as he declares; “For me, that is a clear penalty, and for Little Mulbo – it’s a glear genalty!”
Occasionally it also pops up at the end of sentences too, with commentators sometimes booming; “he has to do better there for me.” In this instance it just conjures up a bizarre image of all players only taking to the field to make the commentator happy (usually an image only visible inside Jonathan Pearce’s head); ‘That one was for you ‘JP!’
“As/Like I said…” – After years of declaring themselves misquoted when a troublesome remark of theirs reaches the wider media (“Hey, I said the manager was ‘reet ‘ard! In a funny Yorkshire accent!”) players have now become so confused as to what they actually have and haven’t said they have started to forget if they have even said anything to start with. Watch any player in a post match interview and you can guarantee he will use “As/Like I said…” within a maximum of 30 seconds. Below is a sample of such a comment:
Yeah it was a good win. Like I said, it was a tough game and they made us work hard. As I said, it was a great cross for the goal.
STOP IT! YOU DIDN’T SAY ANY OF THOSE THINGS. UNTIL YOU ACTUALLY DID! AFTER YOU HAD SAID YOU HAD SAID THEM! Or something.
“If anything, he hit that too well” – A buffoon comment of the highest order whereby a shot is deemed to have been hit so well that it goes straight at the goalkeeper. Or twenty foot over the bar. Clearly, it wasn’t hit well enough and, as a result, did not go in.
“It’s a great ball but nobody is there to get on the end of it” – A pass hit (usually too hard) without the player first looking up to make sure if anyone was actually there to get on the end of it. Reserved for eccentric, pacy wingers who are ‘just doing their job.’
“If that was on target, it was a goal”– Occasionally, when a player ‘hits it too well’ the ball may whizz past a static goalkeeper while also clearing the crossbar by a couple of inches. When this happens it is sometimes remarked that ‘if that was on target, it was a goal.’ It doesn’t seem to matter that the reason it was not a goal was precisely because it was not on target. As of yet the phrase has remained in quarantine but do not be surprised in the near future to hear it mutate into phrases such as;
If that was not a pass back to the goalkeeper and instead was a shot at the opponent’s goal that went under the bar and between the posts, flying past the goalkeeper – that was a goal!
If that goalkeeper had a metal frame, two vertical posts for legs and a crossbar for a waist with a net flailing down his back – that would be a goal.
“They’ll be fine” – A crucial component of any episode of ‘Match of the Day’ used to summarise the performance of any team the pundit in question thinks will finish between 7th and 17th.
“Unless you’ve played the game…” – A particular favourite of players who have the distinction of not only having being painfully average during their playing careers but also complete morons when it comes to talking about the game. Most frequently used on the radio (95% of the time by Robbie Savage) it is used as an audio pat on the head for a fan whose opinion cannot possibly be right. Spending an entire lifetime watching football without having any personal ties to those involved the game is somehow seen as a hindrance when forming opinions while being loud, brash and completely blinded to your own faults and those of your friends on the other hand, lends your opinions an air of authority. The day I believe that a man who was put on the Earth to one day play the lead role in a Benny Hill/Ninja cross over – where his ability to chase people around for hours before booting them up the arse will be perfect – is inherently more informed than the public on all football matters is the day I pack it in for good.
“They’re a well organised team” – Trotted out any time a ‘lesser’ team beats a supposedly superior side. Not to be confused with the many disorganised teams up and down the leagues who often turn up in the wrong kits, a man short, at the wrong ground before chasing each other up and down the pitch, trying to throw the ball into the opposition goal.
“He has a good touch for a big man.” – A backhanded compliment for any football player over 6ft2. Often found heading the ball, the player in question gets the same praise dished out by a proud mother applauding her child the first time it manages to produce a puddle of urine in their potty, every time he manages to kick a ball in the right direction without tripping over his humongous Jacamo feet and ending up with his head planted in the ground like an ostrich. Touches are often said to be ‘deft.’
“Technically a very good player” – A paid professional footballer who is able to pass the ball over both short and long distances. Usually used by coaches/managers who have a ‘project’ and/or ‘philosophy.’
“There was definite contact” – Science defying qualification for any reaction by an attacking player in the opponent’s penalty area. Justification for falling over, doing a cartwheel, a reverse back flip that always results in a penalty being awarded. Also see: “He’s entitled to go down.”
So there we have it, for me some of the most irritating phrases around in football today. As I said, if the pundits and players involved in football could get rid of them forever, they’ll be fine.