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  • Writer's pictureWill Uglow

"And long may it continue" - 17 Infuriating Modern Football Clichés

Updated: May 12, 2021

"To be fair, Jeff, we set our stall out early doors, but it was a game of two halves and we ended up with our tails between our legs." To the uninitiated, football's unique and diverse lexicon is a minefield of bewilderment that requires its own specialist dictionary to decipher. Even for those more used to the mysterious musings and bizarre banter of the beautiful game, the results are sometimes no less baffling.

Be it a soundbite from a scintillating striker in a post match interview or an under fire manager's pre prepared programme notes, the game is bursting at the seams with a dizzying array of stock phrases and idioms that are called upon time and again in the absence of anything more original or imaginative.

Some of these sayings seemingly predate the dawn of time itself - looking at you, "game of two halves". Others, however, have only taken hold in recent times, driven by the increasingly rampant need for opinions and viewpoints in what has become its own, unsleeping, 24 hours a day mega industry. Whilst they may not have been around as long as some of the "game of two halves" of this world, these newer soundbites are sometimes no less annoying and have added to an ever growing library that can be raided at an instant to describe every emotion from the bitter disappointment of a last minute defeat to the unbridled ecstasy of a cup final victory.

A bit like some ghastly pre World Cup England single that reaches the nose-bleeding heights of no 38 in the charts, these sterile statements may cause us to cringe every time we hear them, but without them, football quite simply wouldn't be the game that so many know and love. Here, tribute is paid to the new kids on the block that deserve to join their more established counterparts in the irritating cliché hall of fame. Just remember, its a marathon, not a sprint...

The keeper was beaten all ends up

Likely to be uttered by a stunned co-commentator as a goalie stays helplessly rooted to his line, watching as a goal bound rocket flies past him and into the postage stamp (there, another cliché!). All well and good, but what does it actually mean? Just how many ends can a goalkeeper get beaten by? We never hear a fantastic save applauded with cheers of "he had his ends covered there, Clive!". One of those nonsensical phrases whose misty origin has been long forgotten.

Last year, we would have drawn/lost that game

Not content with coaching their team every week, some managers have to be time travelling fortune tellers. A gritty, hard fought result at a tricky away ground is often cause for this type of coach to proclaim how far their side's mentality has come in the space of 12 short months. Meant as a compliment, of course, but surely it seems as much of an insult to the earlier team, especially if the current manager wasn't in charge back then. And unless said manager has access to a nearby Tardis, it's unlikely they'll ever really know for sure what the result may/may not have been.

We asked questions of the defence

Or in other words, you didn't score.

This team has captured the public imagination

Admittedly, this one isn't exclusive to football, but the beautiful game is perhaps its most common breeding ground. This is the typical punditry reaction when a home nation has completed a rare, alas unsuccessful, foray into the latter stages of an international tournament. Think Wales at Euro 2016, or England in Russia two years later. The team hasn't gone home with the silverware, may not have anything tangible to show for their efforts, but hey, at least they've somehow caged the thinking capacity of several million people back home, right?

We want to play the (insert team name here) way

Playing with a philosophy? I'm all for it. Winning with style? Count me in. But playing in your own club's unique, mythical "way"? Now, let's not get silly here. There's a fine line to tread between pride in a club's heritage and sheer overblown arrogance - uttering this dross is a sure fire way of crossing it. It may summon up romantic images of a glorious team with an age old commitment to exhilarating, champagne football. In reality, it usually comes across as contrived marketing guff used by several prominent managers (not naming any names, *cough* Ole Gunnar Solskjaer) to sweep an eye-gougingly dull 0-0 draw in the team's last outing under the carpet.

If Messi/Ronaldo scores that goal, it gets talked about all week

Paul Merson of Sky Sports News, we salute you. This one makes the grade for its sheer pointlessness. Such is the saturation of football coverage nowadays, any strike of searing (or even middling) quality is unlikely to escape intense adulation as well as re-analysis using every camera angle humanly available, regardless of whether it comes from the boot of the league's leading goalscorer or FC Unknown's obscure new Lithuanian left back. But no, we still have to be told that if the goal had belonged to one of modern football's golden couple, it would "get talked about all week", even if it has already, you know, been talked about all week.

We're back where we belong / let's get this club back to where it belongs

Another phrase rooted in mindless arrogance. When a historically successful or renowned side sheds its 'sleeping giant' tag and makes a triumphant return to the promised land of the Premier League, few neutrals would begrudge their supporters the quiet, smug contentment of returning to the elite. When said supporters begin boasting about their renewed status as if its some sort of divine right, however, things begin to get ugly. The promotion/relegation system exists for a reason and if clubs truly 'belonged' in any division, regardless of current performance or results - well what sort of crazy idea do you propose, a Super League? Surely that would never happen...

They need someone who 'knows' the club

String of underperforming managers? Are their tactics, man management, or motivation techniques not up to scratch? Or do they simply not 'know the club'? They may possess the most glittering coaching CV in Europe, but if they make a slow start, should we replace him with that guy who made 6 substitute appearances back in 1997 because he knows the way from the car park to the home dressing room? Am I qualified to be headteacher at my old school because I studied there once? Can I take over as CEO of Tesco UK because I popped into my local outlet for a pint of milk yesterday? Madness!

They could play a bit / They knew a thing or two about putting the ball in the back of the net

So a televised game has gone quiet, leaving a few seconds for the camera to pan to a retired club legend sitting in the stands, usually yawning, on their phone or, worse, completely asleep. It would surely be enough for the commentary team to simply pay reference to said former player's achievements before play resumes. Instead, the co-commentator feels the need to understate their achievements in a pointless attempt at being witty, because surely it's too obvious to just state what they have done. Hilarious. Stitch my aching sides.

The Barcelonas, the Real Madrids, the Bayern Munichs of this world

Phew, glad they clarified that for us. For a second, I was convinced they were talking about one of those Martian Barcelonas.

You can only beat what's put in front of you

There's respect, disrespect and referring to your opponents as if they were the cold leftovers of a Sunday roast dinner. This is the sort of thing a top level Premier League manager may come out with following a routine 6-0 drubbing of a non league team in the FA Cup third round. It feels as if the already humiliated opponent is being likened to a gristly, raw piece of meat that needed to be chewed through to get to a more substantial main course. The false modesty of this statement can't disguise its underlying arrogance. See also...

They're a tough team to beat

Ok, they may be 5 divisions below us, but we really had to grind out that 6-0 victory.

These fans deserve success

And how exactly do you quantify that? Do they make more noise than that timid, quiet crowd that clearly don't deserve success? Is there some secret league table I'm not aware of where results are determined on crowd decibel levels or average attendances? What type of fans deserve failure exactly in this bizarre new scheme?

There are no easy games at this level / if you make mistakes at this level, you get punished

Frequently used to refer to any level of football whatsoever. Makes some sense when applied to a Champions League Final. Guiseley v Darlington in the National League North? Not so much.

And long may it continue

The go-to statement when trying to sign off any post match interview with a positive spin. Top striker in red hot form? Long may it continue. Run of clean sheets? Long may it continue. Overuse of a stale, irritating phrase that is rarely heard in any other context? Long may it continue.

They had no right to score from there!

Now, I don't profess to have an unblemished understanding of the laws of the game by any means, but I'm pretty sure there's no rule stating that certain players need to stop and display a scoring permit to the referee before being allowed the luxury of finding the net from specified areas of the pitch. Perhaps too old to be considered a true 'modern' cliché, but its repeated usage makes it impossible to ignore. You could say it had no right not to be included here.

That leaves us with the undisputed king of the modern football cliché…

Every game is a cup final

I'm coming over a bit queasy all of a sudden. I may not need the sick bucket, but someone get it ready just in case...

There is some wild, hair brained and downright deluded codswallop spouted on stadium touchlines and in media rooms across the footballing spectrum, but surely nothing can match up to this monstrosity.

Before an important run of games at the end of the league season, it's understandable that players and managers may want to inject extra meaning or impetus into the fixture list to emphasise the task at hand. But every game is a cup final? Seriously? So if you lose one game, you down tools and just give up? If you get off to a winning start, let's count it as a major trophy and put it on the club honours list?

Usually confined to tight relegation dogfights, this sickly saying can occasionally morph into its even uglier cousin when describing an 'against all odds' underdog promotion to the Premier League - "we have 38 cup finals". Please, don't get me started. Sheer hyperbolic nonsense.

Agree or disagree with these selections? Think of any other modern day howlers that have "no right" to be ignored? Let us know, Clive...

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