We need to get rid of these footballing cliches immediately

Stuart Thomas Columnist

By Stuart Thomas, Stuart Thomas is a Roar Expert

79 Have your say

    Jargon and corporate speak do my head in. In the media, in the workplace and in life itself. I cringe when people spit out inane catchphrases and hyperbole.

    A friend of mine shares my frustration and we have begun compiling a list of all the nonsense we are bombarded with on a daily basis. It has started to take on something of a substantial shape, as the list grows longer and longer.

    So sick we are of being asked to ‘diarise’ material, of management ‘flagging’ things with us and encouraging ‘blue sky thinking’ to solve workplace issues.

    Apparently I also practise the art of having lunch ‘aldesko’, which sounds so exotic, yet is merely a sad indictment on the realities of the modern day office worker.

    As with many sporting endeavours, football reflects life. Both in the beautiful metaphor it presents as an educative lesson, but also as something of a microcosm of broader society.

    In this sense, football too has become laced with a variety of oral ‘standards’ that appear in both the professional and amateur game.

    To the untrained ear, they probably sound a little strange yet for the majority of us immersed in football throughout much or all of the year, they seamlessly slip into our vocabulary and weave their way through our football conversations.

    They are words and phrases that could be replaced, potentially, by more effective language choices yet they never will be. They are part of football and our kids are hearing them at local parks and in the media early enough, that they too, will eventually adopt the phraseology.

    #1 Between the lines
    I grilled my daughter on this one; a two-year football veteran whose team isn’t at a level for this word to mean anything to her.

    Her interpretation had more to do with the painted lines on the surface of the pitch than any concept of a player stepping into the vacant space between defensive structures.

    On reflection, it seems odd that we use a rigid and precise concept in what is such a fluid game. Sure, the back four will be aligned at times yet ahead of them lies a constant flux that is more like a series of ever expanding and contracting triangles than a straight line.

    #2 Ball watching
    I am not sure Robbie Slater can make it through a day without a reference to this one.
    Every now and again at home, I will cite the reason for a goal, pause the coverage and indicate the player in question, illustrating the exact moment when he switched off defensive duty.

    My wife is constantly fascinated by the entire exercise, mystified as to how ‘watching the ball’ can be such a fatal error in a game where the sphere is essentially the only piece of equipment required to participate.

    As cliché as the term is, it is a fascinating conundrum for coaches dealing with young kids and trying to teach appropriate decision making in defence.

    Tim Cahill tall

    (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

    #3 The front third
    I will curse the day football ever introduces a broken, faded line on the pitch to indicate this area.

    As many other sports have experienced, there is something of a statistical obsession with scoring position or ‘the red zone’ as the Americans so cheesily label it.

    Ned Zelic is the master of this one and combines it well with ‘wide areas’ when discussing attacking play.

    In essence, it is so simple. Get the ball forward and use width to create space on the flanks. My favourite footballing word: width.

    #4 Brace
    I don’t like this one at all, although I guess it is a little better than a commentator interviewing a player after scoring two goals and saying, ‘wow, you scored so many goals today that we had to separate them with a comma and place them in parentheses’.

    #5 Well in
    Used to commend a player for committing to a challenge and timing their assault on the ball well, this one is a vivid memory for me as a kid.

    I can still remember hearing it shouted out from the sideline and thinking the manager was referring to our centre back named ‘Walid’.

    I kid you not. Good player Walid; scored a brace once.

    #6 Worldie
    This one is particularly apt for Australian football in its constant battle for acceptance on the world stage. Sadly, we seem to spend more time trying to gain that acceptance from people within our own country rather than those beyond our shores.

    Another fun one to try out on the kids before they understand what it means. I’ll never forget the day ‘Timmy with a Worldie’ echoed through the house; sounds more like the title of a Wiggles song.

    #7 Hit
    Last but not least, the universal synonym for kick has taken on a life of its own. Whether it be ‘hit it’, a ‘great hit’ or ‘what a hit’, you aren’t a real football fan until you completely ditch the archaic notion of kicking and start ‘hitting’ things all over the park.

    I am sure there are many more clichéd examples of jargon from within the footballing world; the words that form the sound of the game and the specific little language that we share.

    I’m wondering if football-speak crosses all languages or whether each dialect contains a unique set of phrases and terms.

    I’m sure there would be some cross-over yet without the skill to express my ideas in anything other than English, I can’t quite put my finger on the German word for ‘worldie’ or the Russian term for ‘ball watching’.

    Happy New Year everyone.

    Stuart Thomas
    Stuart Thomas

    Stuart Thomas is a sports writer and educator who made the jump from Roar Guru to Expert in 2017. An ex-trainee professional golfer, his sporting passions are broad with particular interests in football, AFL and rugby league. His love of sport is only matched by his passion for gardening and self-sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @stuartthomas72.

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    The Crowd Says (79)

    • January 2nd 2018 @ 7:52am
      Kangajets said | January 2nd 2018 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      Thank god we don’t have to put up with red zones ,hot ups , completion rates , hitting the right spots , pitching in line etc etc .

      It’s a cliched world we live in .

      Anyhow I’m about to whisk up a masterpiece of culinary delight that should see through until brunch with the cafe latte set .

      • January 2nd 2018 @ 9:53am
        Kangajets said | January 2nd 2018 @ 9:53am | ! Report

        I have no problem with Johnny warren cliche

        I told you so

        • Columnist

          January 2nd 2018 @ 11:51am
          Stuart Thomas said | January 2nd 2018 @ 11:51am | ! Report

          That one stays forever, under all circumstances!

      • Columnist

        January 2nd 2018 @ 11:51am
        Stuart Thomas said | January 2nd 2018 @ 11:51am | ! Report

        I had a left over sausage. Half your luck.

        • January 2nd 2018 @ 2:47pm
          Pokémon said | January 2nd 2018 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

          One game at a time

    • January 2nd 2018 @ 8:22am
      Onside said | January 2nd 2018 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      Stuart, if you don’t accept that commentators will use cliches until the cows come home, you’ll lose the dressing room.

      • January 2nd 2018 @ 12:38pm
        Kangajets said | January 2nd 2018 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

        The other team just wanted it more

    • January 2nd 2018 @ 8:31am
      Paul Nicholls said | January 2nd 2018 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      Between the lines – take a step forwards and you’re between the lines – as though it’s some kind of brilliant manoeuvre.
      Complaining about ball watching is at odds with the old cliche “always keep your eye on the ball” and “play the ball not the man”
      Front third – I always thought it meant which part of the brain a footballer engages when making a play. Due to excessive heading most central defenders don’t have a front third.
      Brace is singular for a pair of braces- which is the opposite of its football meaning.
      I could go on but that’s half my day’s wit used up already.

      • January 2nd 2018 @ 8:59am
        Waz said | January 2nd 2018 @ 8:59am | ! Report

        Nah, “ball watching” means watching the ball without adding the necessary movement to do something positive about it. Corey Brown often gives a master class in this …

        • January 2nd 2018 @ 12:39pm
          Kangajets said | January 2nd 2018 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

          He’s deceptively quick

      • January 2nd 2018 @ 12:43pm
        Kangajets said | January 2nd 2018 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

        Did he score his brace from a ….. host of opportunities

        Or was the coach about to make …… a raft of substitutions

    • January 2nd 2018 @ 8:31am
      Waz said | January 2nd 2018 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      Shame on you Stuart for not including “a game of two halves” …. Only #6 on your hit-list needs to go, all the rest are perfectly fine and would handicap your average punter if they were banned.

      • Columnist

        January 2nd 2018 @ 8:35am
        Stuart Thomas said | January 2nd 2018 @ 8:35am | ! Report

        ‘Restoring parity’ is another strange one.

        • January 2nd 2018 @ 8:53am
          Waz said | January 2nd 2018 @ 8:53am | ! Report


          And I could live without “the second stanza” as well …… I’m looking at you Simon Hill ?

          • Columnist

            January 2nd 2018 @ 11:53am
            Stuart Thomas said | January 2nd 2018 @ 11:53am | ! Report

            Another shocker is when a player ‘clatters’ into the back of the man in possession. Another that has became so hyperbolic is ‘clynical’. Should be Berisha’s nickname.

        • January 2nd 2018 @ 9:46am
          Kangajets said | January 2nd 2018 @ 9:46am | ! Report


          I think you gave it 110 per cent effort today .

    • Roar Guru

      January 2nd 2018 @ 8:51am
      Paul Nicholls said | January 2nd 2018 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      Route 1. The old name for the Jets/Mariners derby.

      • January 2nd 2018 @ 9:49am
        Kangajets said | January 2nd 2018 @ 9:49am | ! Report


        That was until the jets took the bulls by the horns and stole O’Donovan from the mariners

      • January 2nd 2018 @ 9:51am
        Kangajets said | January 2nd 2018 @ 9:51am | ! Report

        I think cliches need to be avoided like the plague

        • Roar Guru

          January 2nd 2018 @ 10:09am
          Paul Nicholls said | January 2nd 2018 @ 10:09am | ! Report

          Kanga – that’s more clichés than you can poke a stick at.

          • January 2nd 2018 @ 12:37pm
            Kangajets said | January 2nd 2018 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

            You just need to take it one game at a time

    • Roar Guru

      January 2nd 2018 @ 8:57am
      Paul Nicholls said | January 2nd 2018 @ 8:57am | ! Report

      “Sydney FC win again”

      • January 2nd 2018 @ 9:47am
        Kangajets said | January 2nd 2018 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        Sydney FC are LITERALLY in a different galaxy to other teams

        • January 2nd 2018 @ 11:12am
          Nemesis said | January 2nd 2018 @ 11:12am | ! Report

          Didn’t CCM beat them 2 months ago? It was 2-0 score, so no excuse of “bad luck”, or “bad refs”.

          Gosford has one of the best playing surfaces in Aleague, so couldn’t blame “bad pitch”.

          Just a simple matter of good team on the day beating bad team on the day.

          That’s football.

          Sydney played terrific football in the 2nd half. Did you watch the 1st half? Opening 20 minutes Perth had all the play. Even Graham Arnold doesn’t think Sydney is playing football that is out-of-this-world. He wasn’t happy with many of their performances.

          • January 2nd 2018 @ 12:33pm
            Kangajets said | January 2nd 2018 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

            Well that went over your head into row z

            • January 2nd 2018 @ 6:45pm
              Simoc said | January 2nd 2018 @ 6:45pm | ! Report