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The 10 Most Common Football clichés

Footballers aren’t exactly known for their oral eloquence. Some prefer to let their football do the talking while others go straight for the clichés. Here’s our look at the most common, ridiculous, nonsensical irritating football clichés that get branded about willy-nilly every game day.

a sick parrot in a basket

By John Langford

#10 – At the end of the day… 

As comedian Michael McIntyre once pointed out, everything happens to footballers at the end of the day, even if they’re talking about something that happened in the morning. “At the end of day, I woke up…”

#9 – A game of two halves

Another phrase widely acknowledged to have been coined by Jimmy Greaves. And so far as stating the bleeding obvious goes, football clichés don’t come much more literal than this.

Problems arise with this expression when a game goes into extra time. When this happens football’s no longer a game of two halves (or even four quarters). If we want to get technical about it, a game that goes into extra time is a game of two three eighths and two one eighths. But that doesn’t really have the same ring to it, does it?

#8 – There are no easy games at this level 

It doesn’t seem to matter which level the manager who utters this classic is talking about, it’s always applicable. I once heard the manager of a firemans’ sons under-7 B team say it.

#7 – 2-0 is a dangerous lead

Why do co-commentators persist in saying this? 2-0 is a pretty comfortable lead. It’s certainly more comfortable than a 1-0 lead. And if you score again then you’re 3-0 up and cruising. I’m not buying it.

A dangerous lead is 4-3 at home in the last five minutes of two-legged cup tie after the first leg finished goalless. The only time 2-0 might’ve been considered dangerous is if you were playing at Old Trafford during Fergie’s tenure because without doubt United would be awarded a controversial penalty in the last minute and then you’d have ten minutes of injury time to contend with.

#6 – A good touch for a big man

This cliché is almost always uttered with a sense of incredulity, as if the big man in question is so gangly and ungraceful that it’s a miracle he can trap a football without collapsing in a heap and exploding.

The poster boy for this phrase has to be lanky smashing lad Peter Crouch, whose dainty footwork despite his daddy longlegs has been impressing commentators the world over for a decade-and-a-half, and once led Crouch’s former England strike partner Michael Owen to observe, “He’s fantastic on the ground but he’s obviously really tall.”

#5 – Parking the bus

This phrase, widely credited to Chelsea boss José Mourinho circa 2008, simply means to play very defensively.

As metaphors go, it’s hardly Shakespearean, but in the limited vocabulary world of football, it’s actually not bad. And people seem to be running with it, too. Last season, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers accused Mourinho of “parking two buses” during Chelsea’s 2-0 win at Anfield. Furthermore, the tactic has worked its way so deeply into football folklore that there’s even a ‘park the bus’ strategy on the latest version of the FIFA video game.

#4 – We’re taking it one game at a time

Obviously you are you massive thicky! Do the people who deploy this term not realize that it’s actually physically impossible to be in more than one place at the same time thus rendering it impossible to play simultaneous games even if they wanted to?

You might be an overpaid prima donna admired by millions, but you can’t defy the laws of science.

#3 – What this game needs is a goal

Well, yes, if it’s 0-0 then what this game needs is a goal.

#2 – It’s a funny old game

Made famous by England legend Jimmy Greaves on TV show Saint and Greavsie, this quote has been providing managers and players alike with an excuse for underachieving for decades.

#1 – As Sick As A Parrot

One of the all-time classics. There is no definite origin of this simile, but that is not for lack of theories. Some say it derives from the method Mexican exotic bird smugglers use to get parrots over the border and into the U.S. Allegedly the crooks get the birds so drunk on tequila before crossings that they’re too doped up to squawk and thus avoid detection. 

Others believe the phrase is a corruption of “sick as a pierrot” which refers to the pale, sad face of the French pantomime character. There are also a couple of footballing schools of thought: One story goes that the Tottenham Hotspur team of 1909 brought home a pet parrot as a memento from the club’s pre-season tour of South America.

The bird survived the arduous sea journey, endeared itself to the fans and became the club’s unofficial mascot. The parrot lived happily at the Lane for a decade, but when its death in 1919 coincided with Tottenham’s relegation from the top flight and Arsenal’s (controversial) promotion, it left Spurs fans feeling as sick as, well, a parrot (shouldn’t it be “as dead as a parrot” in that case?)

Another thesis attributes the expression to outspoken alchie Brian Clough. Apparently Cloughie coined the phrase during a punditry appearance during England’s 1983 World Cup qualifier against Poland. After predicting a comfortable victory for the Three Lions, Cloughie said he felt “as sick as a parrot” when the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

Finally, we must of course acknowledge the famous Monty Python sketch, in which John Cleese tries to register a complaint to pet shop owner Michael Palin about his recently purchased parrot. The debate rages on…

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