Football phrases: 101 slang terms, idioms and meanings explained

Lionel Messi Barcelona 2019-20Getty Images

Football has a language of its own and some of the words in the lexicon of The Beautiful Game can be confusing, particularly for the uninitiated.

There are lots of descriptive technical phrases and most terms have a logical explanation, though the origins of some are simply baffling.

If you're new to the game and trying to figure out the lingo or simply need a refresher, Goal brings you the meaning behind 101 football slang terms, idioms and phrases.

101 Football Phrases

  1. 0-9
  2. A to F
  3. G to L
  4. M to S
  5. T to Z

The 3pm Blackout

The 3pm Blackout refers to a rule in Britain which prohibits the live broadcast of football matches on Saturdays between 2:45pm and 5:15pm.

Example: Is it time to lift the 3pm Blackout? Considering how much sport is on TV nowadays, there is no sense in keeping the rule.

The 12th man

The 12th man in football is a term of endearment for a team's supporters. Each team is made up of 11 players so, when supporters are so loud enough to influence the game, they are said to be the 12th player.

Example: Liverpool are up against it after losing the first leg 2-1 away from home, but the 12th man at Anfield is certainly significant and should help.

The 50+1 rule

The 50+1 rule refers to the clause in the German Football League (DFL) regulations which stipulates that clubs must be majority-owned by members, i.e. the fans, rather than commercial investors.

Example: Jurgen Klinsmann said: "I understand the 50+1 rule, it stems from the old club idea, but you can only get money from investors if they are allowed to have a say in the club, which is why the rule is a disadvantage for the Bundesliga on the international stage."

Fifty-fifty / 50/50

A fifty-fifty (sometimes stylised 50/50) is when two players compete for possession of a loose ball, usually coming together at the same time. In order to win a fifty-fifty, a player usually needs to be strong in the tackle.

Example: "Nine times out of 10 if you go into a 50/50 challenge hard and committed, you will win the ball, but if you go in half-heartedly, you have more chance of getting injured."

Against the run of play

When a goal is described as being scored "against the run of play" it means it was scored by a team that has not been in control of the match.

Example: "We were on top for the first 15 minutes and then conceded against the run of play. That really took the wind out of our sails, but we managed to get back into it and get the win." 


Football is commonly referred to as 'The Beautiful Game', so anti-football is when a team's style of play is cynical, defensive and, in some cases, violent. The term is understood to have been first used to describe the performance of Argentine club Estudiantes in the 1968 Intercontinental Cup final against Manchester United.

Example: Commenting on the 2010 World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain, Johan Cruyff said: "This ugly, vulgar, hard, hermetic, hardly eye-catching, hardly football style, yes it served the Dutch to unsettle Spain. If with this they got satisfaction, fine, but they ended up losing. They were playing anti-football."

Away goals rule

The 'away goals rule' is a method of deciding the winner of a two-legged tie in the event of an aggregate draw. If the tie finishes 2-2 on aggregate, the team with the most goals scored away from home wins.

Example: "Lucas Moura's incredible second-half hat-trick saw Tottenham snatch a 3-2 win at Ajax and a place in the Champions League final on away goals."

Back of the net

'Back of the net!' is an exclamation of excitement or joy used when a goal that is scored with such force that the ball not only crosses the line, but hits the net. The term was famously used as a catchphrase by Steve Coogan's character Alan Partridge in the sitcom I'm Alan Partridge.

Example: "That goal was buried into the back of the net!"

Behind closed doors

To play a match behind closed doors is to do so without spectators. It is commonly used as a punishment by football authorities as it denies a club the chance to earn money through gate receipts. However, it can also be used in the event of health concerns, such as an epidemic or global pandemic.

Example: "Following guidance from the Austrian government, Manchester United have been informed by UEFA and LASK that the Europa League game on Thursday will be played behind closed doors."

Bicycle kick

A bicycle kick is a method of shooting or passing which involves a player being airborne and usually playing the ball in the opposite direction to the way they are facing. Sometimes referred to as an 'overhead kick', the bicycle kick is so called because a player appears to cycle through the air upside down.

Example: Rio Ferdinand said: "The opposing fans in the stadium applauding the great Cristiano after the bicycle kick and rightly so. Keeps on upping the ante - relentless."

Big-game player

A big-game player is one who routinely performs well in a highly pressurised environment such as a final, a heated derby match or a decisive league fixture. Big-game players are not overwhelmed by nerves or the occasion and are capable of affecting the outcome of big games.

Example: "Lionel Messi is the all-time top scorer in the history of El Clasico. This guy is the ultimate big-game player for Barcelona."

Bosman ruling

The Bosman ruling was a decision made by the European Court of Justice in favour of Belgian footballer Jean-Marc Bosman against the Belgian Football Association, RFC Liege and UEFA in 1995, which protected the free movement of labour and altered the nature of football transfers.

Essentially, it allowed a footballer to leave a club and join another for no transfer fee - otherwise known as a free transfer - when their contract expired. A player who joins another club upon the expiry of their contract is said to have moved 'on a Bosman'.

Bottling / Bottled it

If a team is accused of 'bottling it' it means they have thrown away a game from a position of (usually significant) advantage. While the term 'to have a lot of bottle' refers to an individual possessing boldness of spirit, 'to bottle it' in football is to show a weakness of character.

Example: "The second Spurs get close to winning anything they go and bottle it. Biggest bottle-jobs in football!"


A brace in football is a term for two goals.

Example: "Mohamed Salah made the difference, bagging a brace to send Liverpool on their way to victory against Everton."

Busby Babes

The Busby Babes was a nickname for the Manchester United team managed by Matt Busby during the 1950s and 1960s. They were dubbed 'Babes' due to the relative youth of the team.


CR7 is a nickname for Cristiano Ronaldo which combines his initials and favoured number. The Portugal star has turned the nickname into a brand, selling underwear, fragrance and other items under the name.

Cristiano Ronaldo Juventus 2019-20Getty Images


When a player is cap-tied in international football it means they have played a senior competitive game for one particular national team and cannot change to another for which they may have been eligible.

Example: Former Barcelona forward Munir El-Haddadi was eligible for Morocco, but cannot switch allegiance to them because he played for Spain once in a European Championship qualifier, meaning he is cap-tied to Spain.


Catenaccio is an Italian term for a tactical system of play which uses a strong defensive system. The word means 'door bolt' or 'chain'. It was notably used by Inter in the 1960s as well as many of Giovanni Trapattoni's teams.

Caught sleeping

When a player or defence is described as having been "caught sleeping" it means they have not been concentrating enough on their job or paying attention to the player they are supposed to be marking. Variations of "caught sleeping" include "caught napping" and "switched off".

Example: "The Chelsea defence were caught sleeping when they failed to close down Ronaldinho, who used the space to pick his spot and send the ball sailing past Petr Cech."

Clean sheet

A clean sheet is when a team does not concede any goals in a match. Sometimes known as 'a shutout' in North America, it uses the image of an unblemished garment.

Example: "Despite the best efforts of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, Alisson managed to keep a clean sheet at Anfield."

Cruyff Turn

The Cruyff Turn is the name of a dribble technique which was popularised by Netherlands star Johan Cruyff when he used it to evade Sweden's Jan Olsson at the 1974 World Cup. The move involves feigning a pass and switching the ball to the standing foot by performing a 180 degree turn.


The rules of many cup competitions prohibit a player for playing for two different clubs in the same competition in the same season. If a player plays for one club in round one of a cup then transfers to another club which is competing in the same cup, they would be cup-tied for the remainder of the competition.

Dead-ball specialist

A dead-ball specialist is a player who is particularly skilled at striking a ball when it is stationary, such as during a free kick or corner kick.

Example: "Andrea Pirlo's sumptuous free kick was the difference between the teams and served as a reminder of why he is considered one of the game's greatest dead-ball specialists."

Designated Player

A Designated Player in Major League Soccer (MLS) is one who is not included in a team's salary cap, allowing them to be paid more. It was introduced in 2007 in order to facilitate the transfer of David Beckham from Real Madrid to LA Galaxy.

The Double

When a team wins two trophies it is described as a double. In most cases, 'the Double' refers to a league and cup triumph.


A dive in football is when a player deliberately attempts to hoodwink the referee into calling a foul by throwing themselves to the ground during a tackle. An attempt to deceive the referee is a yellow-card offence.

Example: "Certain players have earned a reputation for theatrics and in some cases it is deeply unfair, but that was a blatant dive by Arjen Robben."

Downing tools

'Downing tools' is a term used to describe the perception that footballers are no longer trying their best for their manager. Often, charges of players downing tools occur when a manager has annoyed a team or player, or his methods no longer inspire confidence.

Example: "Thanks to his treatment by Jose Mourinho, the feeling is that Paul Pogba has downed tools at Manchester United."

Early doors

A common expression among footballers and pundits, 'early doors' simply means early in a game. It is believed to originate in northern England as a term to describe the early closing of a public house.

Example: "We nicked a goal early doors and then it was just a case of shutting up shop to grind out the win."

False nine

The 'false nine' is a player who takes up the position of a central forward in a team, but performs a more withdrawn role than a traditional 'number nine' striker. A false nine is not as advanced as a conventional striker and drops deep to drag centre-backs out, allowing the left and right wingers to get in behind.

Example: Explaining the position, Lionel Messi said: "[Pep Guardiola] had been talking with Tito Vilanova and they had thought about me playing as a false nine. He was going to put Samuel [Eto'o] and Thierry Henry on the outside, and I was going to play as the false centre forward."

Fergie's Fledglings

The term 'Fergie's Fledglings' describes the clutch of young players who graduated from the Manchester United academy to the first team under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson. It is inspired by the Busby Babes.

Fergie Time

'Fergie Time' describes the perception that former Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson had a psychological influence on referees that made them add just enough time after 90 minutes to allow the Red Devils to score. First used in the 1990s, the fact that Ferguson could often be seen pointing at his watch on the sideline and his teams scored plenty of late goals contributed to the perception.

Example: "Back in the 1992-93 season, with Manchester United and Sheffield Wednesday drawing 1-1, seven minutes of time was added at the end and Steve Bruce scored a winner. Thus Fergie Time was born."

Alex Ferguson Manchester UnitedGetty

Fox in the box

A 'fox in the box' is a phrase which describes a striker whose movement within the 18-yard box is clever enough to elude markers so that he can score goals. The term evokes the idea of cunning which is commonly associated with foxes.

Example: "Michael Owen had bags of pace so he could always get in behind defences, but he was also a fox in the box - a total nightmare for defenders to keep an eye on."

Football pyramid

The football pyramid is the term for a football league system which is bound together as a unit by promotion and relegation. In England, for example, it is possible for a club to progress from non-league football to the Premier League and vice versa.

Foot like a traction engine

When someone says a player "must have a foot like a traction engine" they mean that they have a powerful shot. The phrase comes from the satirical British television show The Day Today. Steve Coogan's character on the show, Alan Partridge, was a parody of a sports reporter and, while doing commentary on a match, he says: "Sh*t! Did you see that? He must have a foot like a traction engine!"


The 'gaffer' is the head coach or manager of a football team. It is an informal British term for a boss, such as a foreman on a building site.

Example: "We always knew the game was going to be tough, but the gaffer prepared us well and we got the job done."


A galactico - Spanish meaning 'galactic' - is an exceptionally talented player of worldwide renown who usually transfers for a considerable transfer fee. A galactico is a player who is 'out of this world'. The term became popularised in the early 2000s thanks to a transfer policy enacted by Real Madrid which saw them sign Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and David Beckham.

Example: “I'm not a 'Galactico', not yet, [but] I hope to be one day,” said Eden Hazard after joining Real Madrid.

Game of two halves

When a football match is described as being 'a game of two halves' it usually means that one team dominated the first half and then the other dominated the second half. Football is by definition a game of two 45-minute periods broken up by a 15 minute half-time interval. The pitch itself is also divided into two halves.

Get stuck in

To 'get stuck in' is to play football in a determined, tough fashion, particularly when it comes to tackling. It is a command against sitting back and allowing an opponent to play.

Example: "We showed them a little too much respect in the first half, standing off a bit, so the manager told us to get stuck in in the second half."

Ghost goal

A ghost goal is a goal that has been awarded despite the whole of the ball not crossing the line. Ghost goals are now increasingly unlikely thanks to VAR and goal-line technology, but can still occur.


In football, a giant-killing is when a top level club is beaten in a cup competition by a club of much smaller stature, usually from a number of tiers below the top. The term evokes the imagery of the biblical story of David and Goliath.


The GOAT means 'Greatest Of All Time'.

Example: The argument over whether Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi is the GOAT will go on forever.

Golden goal

A golden goal is a method of deciding a game that has gone into extra-time, where the team which scores first wins.

Group of Death

A Group of Death is used to describe a group in a tournament (such as the World Cup) that is made up entirely of teams who are considered very strong.

Example: "Brazil 2014 served up a number of groups that were considered competitive enough to be described as 'Groups of Death'. One such example was Group B, which featured the two finalists from the 2010 World Cup - Spain and the Netherlands - as well as Chile and Australia."

Hairdryer treatment

The 'hairdryer treatment' is a euphemism for a furious verbal assault on a player or players by a manager. The idea is that a constant stream of hot hair is blown into one's face.

Example: "Manchester United were so bad in that first half that there is no doubt Alex Ferguson will give them the hairdryer treatment."

Hand of God

The 'Hand of God' describes a goal scored by Diego Maradona for Argentina in the quarter-final of the 1986 World Cup against England. Maradona illegally used his hand to punch the ball past England goalkeeper Peter Shilton and into the back of the net. Despite protestations, the goal was awarded.

Diego Maradona Peter Shilton Argentina England 1986 World Cup


When one player scores three goals in a single game it is known as a hat-trick. A perfect hat-trick involves the three goals being scored with the left foot, right foot and head.

Heavy metal football

The term 'heavy metal football' describes the style of play implemented by German football coach Jurgen Klopp. As a style, it is high intensity and fast, involving rapid counter-attacking moves. The term was first popularised when Klopp was manager of Borussia Dortmund.

Holding role 

The holding role describes a midfield position where the main objective is to protect the defence by breaking up play with tackles before initiating counter-attacks. Famous examples of a holding midfielder include Claude Makelele, N'Golo Kante and Roy Keane.

Hollywood pass

A 'Hollywood pass' is a pass which looks impressive, but doesn't necessarily achieve much, such as a cross-field diagonal ball. A Hollywood involves more risk than a short pass.

Example: "Steven Gerrard is incredibly gifted, but he tries too many Hollywood passes when he should just keep it simple."

Hoofing the ball

To 'hoof the ball' is to aimlessly clear the ball out of defence instead of carefully picking a pass.

Example: "Everyone wants Ireland to play it out from the back, so why are they always hoofing the ball?"

Hospital pass

A 'hospital pass' is a pass which puts the receiver at risk of being injured or places them immeditately in danger. It exposes bad decision-making on the part of the passer.

Example: "His passing is normally very accurate, but he's sold his team-mate short there with a complete hospital pass."


A 'howler' is an embarrassing mistake, usually made under little pressure. Goalkeepers are most associated with howlers, but it can happen to any player on the pitch.

Example: "What seemed like a routine pass back has turned into a nightmare situation for the goalkeeper. What a howler!"

In his pocket

When a player is deemed to be in another player's pocket, they are being kept under control. The term 'in his pocket' is normally used to indicate when a defender has marked an attacker well.

Example: "Not many people can keep Sergio Aguero quiet, but Virgil van Dijk has had him in his pocket all afternoon."

Injury time

Normal time in football is 90 minutes, but a referee can add on time at the end of the match based on stoppages for injuries and so forth. This is known as injury time. Other names include stoppage time and added time.

In the hole

When a player is described as playing 'in the hole' it means they are occupying the space between midfield and attack. Playmakers or traditional 'number 10s' generally play 'in the hole'. Some examples of players who play 'in the hole' include Paul Scholes, Lionel Messi and Francesco Totti.

Into row Z

Putting the ball 'into row Z' means clearing it as far and high as possible in order to avert danger. The idea is that row Z is the highest part of the stadium.

Example: "He took no chances there and blasted it into row Z!"

La Masia

La Masia is the name of Barcelona's youth academy, where young footballers are educated and trained. La Masia is a Catalan word which means 'the Farmhouse'.

Lost the dressing room

If a manager has 'lost the dressing room' it means that they no longer have influence and control over their players. Mistreatment of a popular player can lead to revolt in the group or it could just be down to a lack of confidence in a manager's ability and methods. In effect, losing the dressing room means that a manager cannot lead their team sufficiently and usually ends up with them losing their job.

Example: "He started well and they bought into the philosophy, but when he stripped the captain of the armband he lost the dressing room."

Magic sponge

The 'magic sponge' is a tongue-in-cheek term for the rudimentary medical treatment of an injury through the use of a wet sponge. 

Example: "When Eden Hazard went down it looked fairly serious, but he's back up again now thanks to the magic sponge."

Man manager

A head coach is described as a 'man manager' if they are considered particularly adept at motivating different players. A good man manager usually possesses good communication skills and emotional intuition. Someone with good man management skills knows when to eviscerate or encourage each individual on their team. 

Jurgen Klopp Andy Robertson Liverpool Watford 2019-20

Man of the match

The 'man of the match' is the player who is judged to have played the best or had the most influence on a game.

Match fixing

Match fixing in football is when the outcome of a particular game is deliberately influenced in order that someone - be it a player, players or criminal enterprise - can financially benefit. Match fixing is a serious offence which can result in prosecution.

Mickey Mouse cup

'Mickey Mouse cup' is a perjorative term for a competition that is not deemed as important or competitive as others. If a country has a number of cup competitions, the 'Mickey Mouse cup' is usually the one which has the lowest financial reward.


A nutmeg is a football skill move whereby the ball is put through the legs of a player.

Off the woodwork

When the ball is said to 'hit the woodwork' or 'come off the woodwork' it means it has hit the post or crossbar. The term is a throwback to a time when goalposts were made out of wood.

On a cold, wet night in Stoke

If one posits that a player cannot play 'on a cold, wet Wednesday night in Stoke' it means they would struggle to perform in England. The phrase, since embellished, was first uttered in 2010 by pundit Andy Gray, who suggested that Barcelona star Lionel Messi would find it difficult to play well in the rain-sodden, wind-swept pitches of the Premier League.

Own goal

An own goal happens when a player puts the ball into his own net. An own goal is often a source of deep disappointment for a player and can haunt them through the remainder of a game, particularly if their team loses.


The Panenka is the name for a penalty kick that is chipped delicately into the back of the net. Named after Czech footballer Antonin Panenka, the technique has been deployed by the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Andrea Pirlo among others.

Parking the bus

When a team 'parks the bus' it means that they played a completely defensive game with little or no intent of attacking. The term was coined by Jose Mourinho in his first stint as Chelsea manager when he accused Tottenham of 'bringing the bus' and leaving it in front of goal. Ironically, the term would later come to define Mourinho's tactical style.

Example: Mourinho talking about his Inter team beating Barcelona in 2010: "We won the tie in Barcelona but everyone talks about Barcelona winning and says we parked the bus in front of the goal. We didn't park the bus, we parked the plane and we did it for two reasons. One, because we only had 10 men and two, because we beat them 3-1 at San Siro, not by parking the bus, or the boat or the airplane but by smashing them."

Jose Mourinho Tottenham 2019-20


A 'poacher' in football is a striker who is opportunistic and takes their chances. Similar to the 'fox in the box', a goal poacher scores a lot of goals in the box, but is generally not very active in other areas of the pitch.

The Poznan

The Poznan, also known as The Grecque, is a celebratory dance performed by supporters in order to taunt the opposition. The supporters turn their backs to the pitch, link arms and proceed to jump up and down while chanting their preferred song. The implication is that their team is so good that they know they will win - they do not need to watch.

Professional foul

A professional foul is when a player deliberately obstructs an opponent in order to prevent them from scoring a goal or initiating a counter attack. It is a cynical pre-meditated tactic which is punished by a yellow card and sometimes a red card, depending on the severity of the foul.

Put it on a plate

To 'put it on a plate' for a team-mate is to create an easy chance for them to score.

Example: "Lionel Messi dribbled past four players before putting it on a plate for Luis Suarez to tap in."


A 'rabona' is a skill move which involves kicking the ball with one's legs crossed by wrapping the kicking leg behind the standing leg. Rabona is the Spanish term for skipping school and the move involves a level of deception.


Remontada is the Spanish word for 'recovery' or 'comeback' and it is used to describe a remarkable turnaround in fortunes by a team that had been on course to lose.


Sarriball or Sarrismo is the term used to describe the tactical style of football employed by Italian football coach Maurizio Sarri. A fast-paced, attacking style which prizes possession, Sarri has implemented it at Napoli, Chelsea and Juventus.


A spectacular, long-range goal which involves the ball moving rapidly through the air.

Example: "Clarence Seedorf has just scored an absolute screamer from 40 yards!"


Scudetto is Italian for 'little shield' and it is shorthand for the Italian football championship. The scudetto, which is an Italian flag within a shield, appears on the jersey of the team which won Serie A the previous season.

Second season syndrome

When a promoted team performs well in its first season in the new division then flounders in the second, it is known as 'second season syndrome'. It can also be applied to individual players who dazzle in their debut year at a club only to endure a downturn in fortunes.


A 'sitter' is an easy chance, usually one which seems almost impossible to miss.

Example: "All he had to do with guide it into the net, but he mistimed the kick. He's missed a sitter."


The skipper of a football team is the captain. 

St Totteringham's Day

St Totteringham's Day is the day when Arsenal fans celebrate when it becomes mathematically impossible for Tottenham to finish above their team in the league. It is therefore a moveable feast, which may not occur every year.

Stay on your feet

'Stay on your feet' is a phrase that is usually directed at rash players, who are urged not to dive in and prematurely attempt to tackle an opponent. It became an internet sensation when Ray Wilkins uttered the phrase repeatedly while doing commentary for the 2011 Champions League clash between Real Madrid and Tottenham.


The stepover is a dribbling technique which involves stepping over the ball with one or both legs in order to confuse an opponent. Long a tactic of technical players, it is notably associated with Brazil icon Ronaldo and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo.


Sweeper is the name given to a central defender whose job is to 'sweep up' trouble and then use the ball in an intelligent manner by passing to a team-mate or carrying it out of defence. The role of the sweeper, or libero, is not as rigid as that of a traditional centre-back. Notable examples of sweepers include Franco Baresi, Bobby Moore and Franz Beckenbauer.

Tapping up

The term 'tapping up' in football is used to describe the act of approaching a player who is under contract with another club without express permission of that club in order to initiate a transfer. Strictly speaking, tapping up a player is not permitted, but in reality it happens a lot and is difficult to avoid.


A testimonial is an exhibition football match that is held to honour a player who has contributed a considerable portion of their career to a club. While there is no official length of time, it tends to be reserved for players who have played for a club for 10 years or thereabouts.

Through ball

A 'through ball' is a pass which is threaded through the opposition's lines of defence to a team-mate who has made a well timed run.

Example: "Kevin De Bruyne split the defence wide open with a sensational through ball to Gabriel Jesus."


A tifo is a colourful, coordinated display by supporters, usually inside a stadium, but also outside. Tifo is the Italian word for the typhus fever.

Tiki taka

Tiki taka is a tactical style of football which involves dominating possession and passing the ball quickly in order to overwhelm the opponent and unpick their defence. It is associated with Pep Guardiola's Barcelona team of 2008-2012 and the all-conquering Spain team that won Euro 08, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012.

Interestingly, while the style was admired across the world, Guardiola took issue with the term because he felt it implied simply keeping the ball for the sake of it. “I loathe all that passing for the sake of it, all that tiki-taka. It's so much rubbish and has no purpose,” the Catalan said to journalist Marti Perarnau in 2014. “You have to pass the ball with a clear intention, with the aim of making it into the opposition's goal. It's not about passing for the sake of it.”

Pep Guardiola Manchester City Real Madrid 2019-20

Total football

Total Football (totaal voetbal in Dutch) is the name of a tactical style of play that was pioneered by Ajax and the Netherlands national team in the 1970s. The concept of Total Football is that any player on the team can fulfil any role as necessary, allowing a fluid, dynamic approach.

While it was popularised by the Dutch in the 1970s, it later became the foundation of the modern-day Barcelona team when Johan Cruyff took over as manager of the club in the late 1980s.

The Treble

When a team wins three trophies it is described as 'doing the Treble'. Generally speaking, a treble requires a team to win their domestic league along with two important cup competitions. Lesser competitions are often disregarded.


The term 'ultras' is used to describe a branch of football fans who demonstrate great fervour in their passion for a club by creating loud, colourful displays during matches. While it is not always the case, some ultra groups have a tendency towards hooliganism and are associated with organised crime.

Under the cosh

If a team is 'under the cosh' they are enduring severe pressure during a game and defending resolutely against wave after wave of attacks.

Example: "When Roy Keane was sent off, Manchester United spent the rest of the game under the cosh."


1. When a player is described as being 'unplayable' it means that they are performing so well that they cannot be contained.

Example: "Zlatan Ibrahimovic was unplayable in his prime. He could do what he wanted."

2. When a football pitch is in such a bad condition that a game of football cannot be played on it.


In football, the term wardrobe is used to describe a defender who is massive in stature and who blocks and clears every ball that comes into their area. Manchester United centre-back Harry Maguire is affectionately referred to as 'the Wardrobe' by Red Devils fans.


The term WAG means 'wives and girlfriends', referring to the partners of footballers.

Cristiano Ronaldo Georgina Rodriguez 2019Getty


A 'worldy' is another term a goal that is considered to be of world-class quality. Worldies tend to be long-range shots, but they can also be difficult manoevres such as bicycle kicks.

Example: "Wayne Rooney has curled in a worldy from 35 yards. Sensational goal."


A modern statistical measurement, xG is an abbreviation for 'Expected Goals'.

YouTube footballer

A 'YouTube footballer' (sometimes 'YouTuber') is a player who appears to attempt complicated things on the pitch solely for the purpose of their highlight reel rather than the good of the team. It is a derogatory tag that is fixed to players who are perceived to be selfish. Former Liverpool captain Graeme Souness famous described Paul Pogba as a YouTube footballer.

Yo-yo club

A yo-yo club is one which is always capable of earning promotion but cannot seem to maintain its status in the higher division. Therefore they are regularly promoted and relegated. Manchester City, West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace and Birmingham City are notable historic examples of yo-yo clubs in England.

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