Anorak News | Modern football cliches: ten imports we DON’T want in our game

Modern football cliches: ten imports we DON’T want in our game

by | 30th, April 2013

FOOTBALL phrases: Ten imports we DON’T want in our game

Spitting, biting, diving, shirt-pulling, feigning injury, waving imaginary cards… All of them rightly condemned, and all at various times accused of being ‘foreign’ practices that are creeping into ‘our game’. Now add to the list the insidious importing of heinous phrases, some from other sports and some, heaven forfend, from another country – namely the US of A.

OFFense and DEE-fense

Just plain wrong – and to add to the ignominy, there’s the ridiculous American emphasis on the first syllable. What’s wrong with good old attack and defence?

Who’s to blame?

Sky Sports News, with their strange plastic presenter-robots and sets like some monstrous plastic creation from Toys-R-Us.


Started as an annoying replacement for ‘marking’, e.g. ‘Leighton Baines will match up with Aaron Lennon’. Now ‘taken to the next level’ by talkSPORT’s screeching, wailing commentator Sam Matterface, who uses it interchangeably with the word ‘match’, as in ‘Chelsea’s match-up with Spurs next week’.


The Group

Formerly the team or the squad. Now suddenly, and for no apparent reason, ‘the group’.

Who’s to blame?

Brendan Rodgers is the most likely culprit.

Britain Soccer Premier League

Once upon a time the cultured long-ball from ‘the Steven Gerrards of this world’ was described, by law, as ‘Hoddle-esque’. Now players find themselves ascribed ‘the David Beckham quarter-back role’.

Who’s to blame?

The clue is in the name. Brand Beckham’s arrival stateside made this sadly inevitable.


Step up to the plate

Why? This is football not baseball.

Although football isn’t the only sport to suffer. Cricket, which used to provide metaphors for all aspects of real life (keeping a straight bat, etc) now imports phrases from other sports at an even more alarming rate. Players are forever stepping up to the plate – and when Michael Vaughan is in the commentary box, they often find themselves ‘behind the eight-ball’. So we’ll blame him for this sorry state of affairs.

Cricket - 2012 Investec Test Series - Second Test - England v West Indies - Day One - Trent Bridge
Work Ethic

No longer a protestant attitude, but a physical attribute.

Where once we had ‘box-to-box players’ who had ‘a good engine’, now they are blessed with a ‘terrific work ethic’.

Who’s to blame?

A few suspects here, but we’ll go for the motor-mouthed evangelist for ‘Twitter and social media’, Stanley Victor Collymore.



Not the old-school verbal bullying of yesteryear, as practiced by ‘football men’ in dressing rooms, but a highly sanitised form of drivel practiced by tosspots on dreadful TV shows. James Corden springs to mind immediately, of course, thanks to his excruciating japes with the England Squad and his horrible World Cup show. But the blame must be placed firmly at the door of the Daddy of Banter – the odious and much-loathed Tim Lovejoy, whose online TV channel plumbed the depths with its hideously named Banter Pit. Here he is looking like a tit.

The football family

Once we had a closed brotherhood of ‘real football men’. Now we have the more inclusive-sounding ‘football family’, which appeared miraculously when it was ‘brought together’ by the collapse of Fabrice Muamba at White Hart Lane last year, and has been invoked, ad nauseam, ever since.

PA Picture Review of the Year 2012

To be Fair

The mother lode.

A few years ago one of our writers wrote to the Times, noting the strange transformation this useful, hardworking but low-profile phrase was undergoing. In conventional usage it would sweeten the pill of criticism, by offering a nominal defence of the accused, e.g. ‘to be fair, it wasn’t entirely his fault that the team conceded three goals in stoppage time’.

Then, in one of those sudden changes that happen in football, it suddenly replaced the phrase ‘to be honest’, and its meaning changed to its opposite. Now it was a prefix for unbridled criticism: ‘To be fair, he had a shocker.’

Since then it has become ubiquitous and meaningless, used unthinkingly a thousand times a day by all those who, as Ray Houghton would say, have played the game at the highest level.

Who’s to blame?

Impossible to narrow it down, but Paul Ince is as prolific as anyone.


‘He’s not that sort of lad’

Think to long about this one and your mind will melt.

Unlike most football phrases, this is only used in very specific circumstances. Its basic function is to exonerate a player for any dangerous foul that he does, on the grounds that he is not the sort of person who would do the sort of thing that he has just done. Sometimes a player will do this sort of thing repeatedly, in which case… repeat as necessary.

Who’s to blame?

Ryan Shawcross, who is definitely not that sort of lad.





Posted: 30th, April 2013 | In: Key Posts, Sports Comment | TrackBack | Permalink