Football Clichés: Decoding the Oddball Phrases, Colorful Gestures, and Unwritten Rules of Soccer Across the Pond

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9780143128526: Football Clichés: Decoding the Oddball Phrases, Colorful Gestures, and Unwritten Rules of Soccer Across the Pond

A fun, intelligent, and useful guide to understanding the nuanced language of soccer
 
Every week, year-round, legions of devoted soccer fans across the country rise at the crack of dawn or quietly sneak out of work to watch their favorite teams play across the pond—complete with a soundtrack of two cheeky Englishmen spouting a stream of trite phrases and curious words that make maddeningly little sense. They’ll chat about flying teacups and cultured left feet, or point out a player who’s jinking through the corridor of uncertainty, hoping to bag one with aplomb. Confused? Many Brits are, too.

In Football Clichés, London-based soccer writer Adam Hurrey amusingly translates the idioms of the sport, from the quaint to the ridiculous. Here you’ll find words for parts of the field and parts of the body; for ways to score a goal and ways to run, walk, or fake an injury. You’ll learn to read the shifting moods of fans at a soccer match and encounter the game’s oddly expressive gestures, which include the muted celebration and the beleaguered manager clap. Perfect for the die-hard or fair-weather fan, Football Clichés celebrates the world of soccer in all its glory.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Adam Hurrey is a soccer writer and has contributed articles about the unique language of soccer to the Guardian (London) and the Telegraph (UK), among others. He lives in London.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

PENGUIN BOOKS

FOOTBALL CLICHÉS

Adam Hurrey is a London-based football writer. He created the Football Clichés blog in 2007 while working as a TV listings editor and has since contributed articles about the unique language of football to the Web sites of The Guardian (London) and The Telegraph (UK), among others. He also had trials for Swindon Town as a youngster, but was genuinely rejected for being ‘too small’.


------------------------------

Early Doors


------------------------------

It’s not quite clear exactly when a cold, wet night in Stoke replaced one in Rochdale as the quintessentially English benchmark of footballing aptitude, or when sickly parrots and being beyond the orbit of the moon became so passé as metaphors for failure and glory respectively.

Why is football so fond of a cliché? For 150 years, it’s been somebody’s job to relay what happens within the ninety minutes of a match and, as that coverage now reaches saturation point, a reliable formula for succinct description of the sport has become vital.

Cliché has a perhaps unhelpfully negative connotation. It implies a lack of original thought, of stifling stereotype, and the language of football can certainly be guilty of both of these. On the other hand, football clichés are a leveller – enabling conversation between those relative novices who believe the problem with Arsenal is that they try and walk the ball in and those who feel it’s a little more complicated than that. Many clichés, in any subject, qualify as such because they are overwhelmingly true. Yes, just before half-time is a good time to score a goal. When isn’t it a good time? Well, actually, you can score too early. Words like diminutive, derisory, pulsating and profligate sit with almost absurd comfort in the footballing vernacular, while I struggle to recall anyone using the word aplomb in any other context than a well-taken goal.

Also, the heavy reliance on football’s stock phrases (by players, fans, journalists and broadcasters alike) can often hide their inventiveness. In a century and a half, nothing has encapsulated the unpredictable swings of a football match more succinctly than a game of two halves and yet this eventually grew so hackneyed that it became a cliché to denounce it as a cliché.

Unsurprisingly, for a game whose traditional appreciation of irony extends to a player scoring against an old club, football has taken a long time to become self-aware. The proverbial good touch for a big man (despite not featuring in any ancient proverb I’m aware of) enjoyed an unusually short shelf-life before finally becoming impossible to use without a knowing wink. Commentators increasingly prefix their accepted wisdom with ‘well, it’s the old cliché, isn’t it?’ and players almost apologetically declare that they ‘know it’s a cliché’ before they insist that they will be taking every game as it comes.

The football cliché has become my personal obsession. I find some infuriating, some charming and others waging a perpetual war against logic. At certain points while watching a game, I felt I could predict what was about to come out of the co-commentator’s mouth, just as he paused to go through his mental filing cabinet to find the appropriate observation. It was this complicated relationship with the instinctive language of the sport that inspired me to start a blog called Football Clichés eight years ago, followed by the Twitter account in 2010 and, finally, this book you’re reading now.

It quickly emerged that football clichés were not limited to trite words and hyberbolic metaphors. This was about gestures, mannerisms and patterns of behaviour whose origin – sometimes fellow fans, but mostly players and managers – was markedly clear. This book, in its unashamedly pedantic way, attempts to document every established piece of body language, every hypertruth, every grammatical oddity and every unwritten rule of football.

Not every cliché is indigenous to football but many have been commandeered, butchered and shoehorned into the lexicon because, like James Milner or a strong wall at a free kick, they do a job. Their mindless repetition in a football setting takes them further away from their original context – heaven knows what an actual slide rule looks like – and this alone makes them worthy of scrutiny. If the word ‘clichés’ suggests this is a sighing trawl through football’s lazy thought and dull phraseology, well, there’s certainly plenty of that. But there’s ample room for celebration too. Football’s innate drama lends itself to wonderfully colourful and evocative language, while its on-pitch stresses continue to elicit the purest, most honest displays of emotion from modern players who otherwise occupy themselves with gamesmanship, deception and self-interest.

As the autopilot coverage of football reaches its uncritical mass, it is perhaps right to embrace its idioms and idiosyncrasies and recognise them as a crucial part of the game. The next fourteen chapters will seek to uphold the football clichés that make some sort of sense, dissect the ones that really don’t and, ultimately, justify a childhood spent miming along to John Motson and Barry Davies on worn-out VHS goals compilations.

Adam Hurrey, June 2014

1. They All Count: 101 Ways to Score a Goal (or Not)

home

noun

1. the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.

adverb

1. into the goal.

 

1. They All Count:
101 Ways to Score a Goal (or Not)


------------------------------

Goalscorers always insist that it’s the three points that matter most, but their individual achievement remains the most fundamental act in association football. There are surely more words and phrases dedicated to goalscoring attempts, successful or otherwise, than any other aspect of the game.

The curious use of the word home to describe the act of the ball going into the goal (by means of an effort, a try or a pop, to name but a few) suggests that the goal is where it belongs, and that the act of goalscoring serves to deliver the ball to its rightful place in the back of the onion bag.

Ways to Score a Goal


------------------------------

1. Fired


------------------------------

A powerful shot. Its height or range is not important, but its trajectory ought to be straight. Often a way of breaking the deadlock, as the goalscorer fires his team into the lead. This is the first of many firearm-inspired scoring methods in this list.

2. Drilled


------------------------------

Just as forceful as firing, but this time characterised by its relative lack of height – these are daisy cutters with extra oomph. Drilled shots invariably find the corner, but this is not mandatory.

3. Rifled


------------------------------

A more refined variation of drilling but with more authoritative connotations. Apart from untidy burglars, the verb to rifle is almost entirely exclusive to football.

4. Thundered


------------------------------

Suitable for describing shots travelling above the ground, which either go in or strike against the woodwork.

5. Hammered


------------------------------

So evocative a term for powerful long-range efforts that it even extends to players’ nicknames, such as German midfielders Jörg ‘The Hammer’ Albertz and Thomas ‘Der Hammer’ Hitzlsperger, neither of whom needed a second invitation to shoot during their time in British football.

6. Powered


------------------------------

A less popular verb, lacking the sheer vividity of the aforementioned blockbusters.

7. Slammed


------------------------------

A technique that’s often aided aesthetically by the ball being hit into the ground on its way into the net. Suitable for high-velocity goalscoring from close- to mid-range.

8. Rammed


------------------------------

The slightly vulgar twin brother of slammed.

9. Blasted


------------------------------

Surprisingly uncommon, perhaps due to its disregard for technique, but undeniably powerful. Other explosive-themed finishes are the...

10. Exocet or the...


------------------------------

11. Howitzer


------------------------------

12. Driven


------------------------------

Sacrificing some power for unerring direction, drives are distinctly long-range affairs. Estimating the approximate yardage is an optional extra, and you only need to be accurate to the nearest five yards.

13. Arrowed


------------------------------

Strictly long-range and top-corner only.

14. Thumped


------------------------------

If a thumping takes place from close-range and/or thanks to a goalkeeping howler, it may well be gleefully undertaken. As with a hammering, this act of blunt trauma can also be applied to an entire scoreline, should the margin of victory be sufficiently comprehensive.

15. Lashed


------------------------------

An instinctive act, somewhat lacking in finesse, but nevertheless useful when loitering in the penalty area.

16. Smashed


------------------------------

Largely disappearing from view as a goalscoring verb, perhaps after its unfortunate reappropriation by Richard Keys. Still a woodwork-worthy term, however.

17. Belted


------------------------------

Old-fashioned, like English No.9s, shoulder-charges or cup-ties, belters are at home at any level of the football pyramid.

18. Crashing header


------------------------------

Requires some collateral damage in the process, ideally an overprotected goalkeeper, as the fearless goalscorer gets a run on his markers to head home. Crashing headers overwhelmingly have a downward trajectory, which will be pointed out as a lesson for any youngsters watching at home.

19. Towering header


------------------------------

Equal in altitude to the crashing header, thanks to a prodigious leap comparable to that of a proverbial salmon, but not boasting the same level of physical devastation.

20. Nodded


------------------------------

Usually the simplest of tasks from close range – an aerial tap-in, if you will.

21. Glancing header


------------------------------

A slow-motion replay delight, as the ball skims deftly off the goalscorer’s head and into the far corner.

22. Bullet header


------------------------------

A maximum-velocity header, often making use of the power of the cross that supplied it. Likely to be scored past a goalkeeper who, rather unhelpfully, is rooted to the spot.

23. Stooping header


------------------------------

Not high enough to be a towering header, nor low enough to require a...

24. Diving header


------------------------------

An art form, perfected in the 1980s by the likes of Keith Houchen and Andy Gray. May require the head to be bravely put where the boots are flying.

25. Guided


------------------------------

Cemented as a goalscoring verb by its inclusion in the text commentary of Championship Manager ’93, but it remains vague. It suggests some degree of craft and composure with either the foot or the head, perhaps taking advantage of the pace of the cross that created the chance.

26. With aplomb


------------------------------

A word commandeered almost exclusively for use in football. Finishing with aplomb requires both neatness and style, while remaining magnanimous in comparison to the...

27. Impudent chip


------------------------------

Impudence is best displayed by diminutive forwards such as Lionel Messi, at the expense of stranded goalkeepers.

28. Audacious lob


------------------------------

The audacity of a lob is directly proportional to the distance from goal of its origin.

29. Flicked


------------------------------

Varying in complexity within the six-yard box, almost at any height. A flick is often all that a teasing cross requires to succeed.

30. Backheeled


------------------------------

Frequently cheeky in general play, but possibly outrageous if trying to score from one.

31. Dinked


------------------------------

A snack-sized version of the impudent chip, necessitated by an onrushing goalkeeper.

32. Passed


------------------------------

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