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Football Language: Main Report – Week 40: The Double

The Double: Each week on languagecaster’s podcast we feature a main report and on this week’s show we explain ‘the Double’: when a team wins the domestic league and cup. You can listen to the report by clicking above and can read the transcript below. Explanations of vocabulary in bold appear at the foot of the post.If you have any suggestions or questions then you can contact us at

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What is a Double?

Very simply to do the double means that a team wins both the league title and the main domestic cup in the same season; so, for example, in England this would mean winning the Premier League and the FA Cup – quite a feat indeed. To win a double, a team has to demonstrate all the traits of a champion – abundant skill, strong character, lots of concentration, good organisation and team work but in order to win the cup then other factors like luck are also necessary.


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When I was young, few people ever thought they would see another double-winning side again. When Tottenham won it in 1961 it was the first time it had been done since Aston Villa in 1897. Then when Arsenal became only the fourth side to do it in 1971 (Preston had won the double in 1889) we all thought that was that. Teams had to play more games in a season and their focus was firmly on winning international tournaments rather than domestic trophies. However, since Arsenal’s triumph in 1971 it has occurred on 7 more occasions, including this season after Chelsea’s win against Portsmouth in the FA Cup. Arsenal have won the double on three occasions, the last being in 2002, while Manchester United have also won it three times: in 1994, 1996 and in their treble-winning season of 1999. The only other club to have won a double in England is Liverpool when they managed it in 1986.

There have been many near-misses, demonstrating just how difficult it is to complete the double, with teams either losing the cup final after becoming champions or just missing out in the league but then going on to win the cup. Liverpool, for example, won the League and the European Cup in 1977 but surprisingly lost to rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup final that season, while Leeds lost out on three separate occasions in 7 years between 1965 and 1972. Indeed the Yorkshire side managed to complete a ‘double horror’ twice, that is, losing the FA Cup final and coming second in the league.


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Bayern Munich have just completed their 8th domestic double in Germany demonstrating their dominance at home – the third time in four years they have done this, indeed only three other clubs have managed to do the double in Germany, Stuttgart, Koln and Werder Bremen in 2004. The double is not so common in Italy – which may be partly due to the lack of interest in the Coppa Italia – but Inter Milan have a chance of winning their second ever double this season which would bring them alongside Juventus as the most successful double-winning team in Italian football. In Spain, you might be surprised to hear that Athletic Bilbao have actually won five doubles – the last coming in 1984, while the last of Barca’s five came last year when, of course, they won everything they played for.

So which club in Europe holds the record for most doubles? Well, Ajax have 7 Dutch doubles, Bayern have one more, while Benfica have nine Portuguese doubles. All impressive, but Greek side Olympiakos have manged to do the double on an amazing 14 occasions and Rangers have managed it 18 times in Scotland yet neither of them are the most successful double-winning sides – that honour goes to Northern Ireland’s Linfield who have unbelievably managed it on 21 occasions.

Trebles, Quadruples and More

When we speak of a treble we usually refer to a double plus the European Cup / Champions League and, as you can imagine, very few clubs have managed to do that. We have already mentioned Manchester United in 1999 and Barcelona last season but only 3 other teams in Europe have succeeded in doing the treble: Dutch sides Ajax in 1972 and PSV Eindhoven in 1988 and Scottish team Celtic who did it in 1967. In fact, Celtic became the first ever side to win a quadruple that year as they also won the Scottish League Cup to go with their treble. But as we have already mentioned Barcelona went two better last season when they won all six trophies they participated in. The Copa del Rey and La Liga constituted a domestic double. The Catalan side turned it into a treble when they beat Manchester United in the Champions League final and then made it six trophies with the FIFA Club World Cup, the European Super Cup and the Spanish Super Cup. Surely that can never be emulated?


  • domestic: The competition at home; not international competitions
  • quite a feat indeed: Something that is very difficult to do
  • the traits: Characteristics (of a team)
  • near-misses: To almost do something (here to almost win the double)
  • ‘double horror’ Losing the FA Cup final and coming second in the league
  • quadruple: To win 4 trophies
  • constituted: Made up; formed part of
  • be emulated: To be beaten, to be surpassed
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Learn English Through Football

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