Contentious 10 – Football Clichés

It’s another edition of our ever popular Contentious 10 series. 

Today sees Colin Armstrong give us a run down of  the 10  football clichés that make him sick as a parrot.

“He’s got good a touch for a big man”

If you are 6”5 you don’t suffer from vertigo or have poor coordination as a result of your limbs being marginally longer than others. Basketball players can be freakishly tall but still manage to execute the subtleties of technique to excel in sport. Like any skill, football takes practice and technique, for tall and short players alike. This phrase has been done to death, hasn’t it Peter Crouch? That’s the words they will put on his headstone ‘A good touch… for a big man’.

“At the end of the day…”

I am Soooo tired….and Russian,,,but NOT a Meerkat.

I am Soooo tired….and Russian…but NOT a Meerkat.

I’m not sure why a large proportion of football players and managers seem to be nocturnal but everything seems to happen at the end of the day. Watch the post match conferences on a weekend and the phrase will be uttered at least a dozen times, you could base a drinking game around it’s regularity as a generic response when asked for an opinion on a team’s performance. Conclusion? Footballers are not ‘morning people’.

“All credit to the lads”

I'm pretty sure Lampard is an 'All credit to the lads' enthusiast.

I’m pretty sure Lampard is an ‘All credit to the lads’ enthusiast.

All credit to the lads? Not every performance deserves plaudits. It is a rare occasion that every player in the team will have a good game on the same day. This must be the first phrase a foreign footballer learns when they come to the UK. When it does click for a team and everyone is performing well, like Spain at the World Cup in South Africa or Barcelona in the 2009 Champions League Final, then, well … all credit to the lads.

“I didn’t see it”

Did I see what?

Did I see what?

A craft perfected by Arsene ‘selective viewing’ Wenger, in post match interviews managers use this get-out-of-jail-free-card to weasel out of commenting on a contentious decision. Rather than say it was a soft penalty or a horrendous leg breaking challenge people often plead ignorance. Has your team won by converting a last minute penalty awarded for handball when it hit an opposition player’s back instead? Go on, say it, you know you want to… “I didn’t see it…”

“A game of two halves”

Talk about a game of 2 halves…am I right?

Talk about a game of 2 halves…am I right?

Despite being literally true this is one of the most overused clichés in the clichéd football book. Instead of investigating why a team might not have been performing or have lapsed in concentration later in a game, pundits and commentators dust of the old game of two halves assessment and pat themselves on the back. The phrase is also a synonym of ‘a Jekyll and Hyde performance’ used to the same effect.

“Park the bus”

IT's a bus in front of the goals, get it?

IT’s a bus in front of the goals, get it?

**Photo courtesy of (

Being able to score seven but concede nine makes you a poor football team, whoever you are. Parking the Bus is a clumsy and inaccurate summary of the art of defending. Stopping the opposition scoring doesn’t have to be two banks of four, Barcelona defend magnificently off the ball, it’s about pressing, high tempo movement and teamwork. ‘Parking the bus’ is as accurate an assessment of defending as ‘free-scoring’ for a team that scores a goal a game (like Spurs so far this season… Just kidding).

“There are no easy games in international football”

You guys even make ME look good.

You guys even make ME look good.

That’s just not true, not at all, not one bit. There are plenty of easy games in international football. Spain thrashed Tahiti 10:0 in the Confederations Cup this summer, they didn’t break a sweat, Germany beat San Marino 13:0 in a qualifier in 2006, England beat the same country 8:0 earlier this year.. There are plenty examples of easy games at international level. Take your pick… At major tournaments it is a different story but qualifiers throw up a few gifts for big sides.

“A forward’s challenge”

I MUST be good at something

I MUST be good at something

Since the days when goalkeepers had no gloves and the ball was made of concrete people have described leg-breaking tackles and two-footed lunges by attacking players as simply ‘a forward’s challenge’. It’s ok if a striker snaps your leg in three places because he doesn’t know any better, he’s meant to score goals… If you can’t tackle then don’t, thankfully red cards for two-footers are commonplace in the modern game and this dangerous footballing cliché is dying out.

“There or thereabouts”

The autobiography that almost tells the whole story.

The autobiography that almost tells the whole story.

In any other industry this would be a shocking admission of cluelessness. There or thereabouts? That’s as far from an accurate prediction as you can possibly get and is as useful as stating there will be six numbers drawn in the lottery this weekend. Imagine getting away with that excuse in any other job? A pilot: “We will be landing in Paris, or thereabouts in an hour, or thereabouts”. Come to think of it that’s sounds a lot like Ryanair…

Potential banana skin”



Away from the obvious question: has anyone actually ever slipped on a banana skin? This is a cliché that comes out often in the FA Cup. Have Arsenal drawn Bretford away in the third round? Manchester City travelling to Macclesfield Town? Perhaps Chelsea are making the journey to Plymouth? The pundit will look down the camera and sell you the line: ‘this fixture is a potential banana skin’. You can bet your house on it, it’s as regular as a train (well maybe not in Britain). If the underdogs win, you will be sure to hear about the ‘magic’ of the FA Cup… A second footballing cliché for your buck.

What footballing clichés really grinds your gears? Comment below or tweet us @90minutecynic

Follow Colin on Twitter @_ColinArmstrong

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'Contentious 10 – Football Clichés' have 1 comment

  1. April 15, 2016 @ 1:57 pm HengistPod

    Apparently, there are two origin stories for the “banana skin is slippery” thing. One says that the streets of New York were, at one time, littered with banana skins which rotted and became slippery – causing endless people to slither about the sidewalks. The other says that the whole thing was concocted as a stage-slapstick euphemism for horse manure which was present in large quantities in the streets prior to motor cars becoming commonplace. Slipping on such ordure was not uncommon and a great source of humour, but obviously couldn’t be reproduced onstage. Bright yellow banana skins were a splendid alternative, and audiences would have understood the analogy immediately.

    Sounds like horsesh*t to me.


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