As Thick As A Carrot : Avoiding Football Clichés, by Jonny Fairclough

Footballers, pundits and fans do like a good cliché or three.  It probably arises from the fact that they can’t make up or simply can’t be bothered making up their own phrases, and I bet there’s a good number who don’t know what a cliché is, other than that ex Arsenal French bloke who plays for City.


So, avoiding the old favourites that have now gone beyond the term cliché, my latest objects of loathing are:


He’s Lost The Dressing Room

Presumably this isn’t a reference to a manager’s frighteningly poor sense of direction, so it’s more than likely a suggestion that he no longer has the support of the players.  Oddly, the people who say ‘he’s lost the dressing room’ are usually people who have never been in the dressing room and who are unlikely ever to be in the dressing room, so how do they know?  This phrase is sometimes accompanied with ‘I’d like to be a fly on the wall in that dressing room’.  Think: flies feed on shite?


 Get A Result

‘We needed to get a result’.  You did. You lost. It was a piss poor result, but a result all the same.   If you didn’t get a result it means you’re still playing.  It is possible in some situations not get a result, such as being packed off to a little cubicle in the fertility clinic with a copy of Double-D Dinnerladies and a plastic jar only to return empty handed and full glanded.  In football, there is always a result.


Tika Taka

A little clear plastic box of tiny mints, presumably sold in Spain? Or a character from In The Night Garden?  No. It’s a phrase to describe the short passing game.  I’m not Spanish and most of the people who use this phrase aren’t Spanish. So here’s something:  let’s put it into the English language and call it ‘the short passing game’.  Brilliant eh? It does exactly what it says on the tarro.


Hackney Marshes

‘It’s the type of tackle you see every weekend on Hackney Marshes’.  I’ve never played football on Hackney Marshes. Have you?  I feel I am missing out as every journey into amateur football on the TV or radio seems to terminate at Hackney Marshes.  Does it really exist? Is it a genuine Dickensian type marsh, complete with thick fog and an escaped convict called Magwitch? If it is, no wonder the quality of English players is so poor. We can’t play football in conditions like that, can we Pip?


The final third

‘We look good until we get into the final third’:  Since when were football pitches divided into thirds?  I’m sure the one at the DW has one big line across the middle, with two…yep definitely two… halves.  If it’s a geographical reference you’re after, why not divide it into squares like they did in the pre-TV days for radio commentary games?  ‘We look good until we get into Q9’


He’s an old fashioned centre forward

How is he? Drinks pints of mild after the game? Stubs his fag out just before walking onto the pitch? Drives a Vauxhall Viva? Or maybe it’s his outdated views on racism. I suppose it’s as good a defence as any if a player is accused of insulting another player.  The same goes with adultery, drink driving and trying to break an opponent’s leg.   ‘He’s just an old fashioned centre forward’




‘They’ll get the hairdryer treatment at half time’.  Unless the changing rooms have a couple of rows of those salon type things where you sit with your head in a glass bowl, this tends to be a threadbare reference to Alex Ferguson’s halftime team talks that has been entered into everyday football terminology.  How would you class some of the more reserved managers’ team talks?  The Fan-Heater (half blue/half red setting) Treatment?  Hairdryers, hand dryers, hair straighteners, whatever.  It’s a good old fashioned bollocking in my book.


No Plan B

‘He has no Plan B’.  Okay:  the obvious one first.  No, you’re right; he doesn’t have a copy of The Defamation of Strickland Banks.  Are those who are calling for a ‘Plan B’ expecting the manager to shout ‘Run-run-run-runaround’ and see the players criss-cross like the Red fecking Arrows and take up new positions?  During a game, managers make constant minor adjustments that can affect the outcome. Wholesale changes are rare. I’m pretty sure it’s unlikely a manager will go into a game and if things are going wrong suddenly think ‘Damn it. I know I should have practiced what to do if we weren’t winning. Never mind.  Let’s keep lumping it at Big Tony.  Eventually they’ll get bored with heading it back out’.


And Briefly….


Fergie Time

It’s as outdated as Hammer Time and as annoying as Chico Time.


He goes down quicker than a… 

Don’t bother.  Cruise ships to Manila brasses: all metaphors have been used, rinsed in Fairy, and reused.


He puts a shift in

He’s a footballer.  It’s unlikely he ever has or ever will put a shift in. If you mean he runs around a pitch for an hour and a half, showers, applies moisturiser and drives back to Cheshire in a Bentley, then yes, he’s quite good at that.


He knows where the goal is

I know where the toilet is and get usually get there in ample time. Problem is: a dozen pints hinders me, and then my success rate isn’t A1.  Likewise, a change in circumstances, such as a move to a higher division, doesn’t mean a player ‘loses’ the goal. It just makes things a bit for more difficult for him, and sometimes he ends up pissing on his own foot.


 So, after getting all that off my chest, I feel as thick as a carrot and under the moon.


Let’s avoid the clichés and we’ll all get along just fine.  It’s not much to ask is it?

Jonny Fairclough


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