Football Language: (to) Look over Their Shoulder

Look over Their ShoulderWhat is the meaning of the phrase ‘Look over their shoulder’ in football and when do we use it?

  • Find out more about this phrase by reading the transcript below.
  • You can also find many more examples of soccer vocabulary by going to our football cliches page here and our huge football glossary here.

Embed from Getty Images

Look over Their Shoulder

This football expression originally comes from the sport of horse racing. To look over their shoulder describes a jockey checking the horses close behind, perhaps nervously as they are close. In football, it describes a team worried about another just behind them on points. Another meaning of this phrase describes a player looking around (or scanning) to see if an opposition player is coming closer as they receive the ball. You might hear the phrase ‘Man on‘ from your team mates to warn you that an opponent is coming.

  • Example: Liverpool are looking over their shoulder at the two Manchester clubs, who are just behind on points – one point for Manchester City and Manchester United are four points behind.
  • Example: Xavi was a master (an expert) at checking his shoulder before receiving the ball ( June 2019)
Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

Free football language podcast for learners of English brought to you by Damian and Damon. Interviews, match reviews, predictions all with full language support for football fans around the world who wish to improve their English language skills.

Hosted by

I was born and brought up near Chester in the north west of England. I have always loved playing and talking about sport, especially football!
Google | Facebook | Twitter | Mail | Website

Join the discussion

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Learn English Through FootballWelcome to the website that helps students interested in football improve their English language skills. Football fans can practise with lots of free language resources, including football-language podcasts and our huge football-language glossary.

Recent Forum Posts

Football GlossaryEpisode 709