In this football language post we explain some language connected to the restart of football in the Premier League and in particular around the word ‘rusty‘ as players get used to playing again after 100 days of lockdown. Don’t forget we have hundreds more explanations of football language in our football glossary and we also have a page full of football cliches. If you have questions or comments about this or any other phrase then email us at:

Football Language: Rusty

The Premier League has recently restarted after a break of over 100 days due to the Covid pandemic and while players have had some time to prepare – maybe three or four weeks of training – it is clear that many are a little rusty. Now rust is something that happens when metal is oxidised – it becomes a brownish, reddish colour. But to be rusty also means that your skills are not as good as they once were because of a lack of practice and this is something that is happening with footballers at the moment as they return to action after a long lay off.

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Clearly the players are not fully fit as they have had such little time to prepare but they need to regain match fitness in order to become sharper, to do things quicker and of course to last a full 90 minutes. While watching recent games on TV, I have heard the commentators use such phrases as an ‘error-strewn game‘ which is a match with a lot of mistakes; sloppy passes (maybe they have been over or under-hit) and these are passes that are misplaced as they fail to reach their intended target. Players are not quite up to speed and this means their play may be lacking in quality as they take a while to get going and get match fit. Hopefully, once they have played a couple more matches they should start to regain fitness and become sharper and shake off the rustiness.


  • ball caught under his feet: The player has not controlled the ball properly
  • not quite up to speed: Players are not match fit, they are not ready to play
  • error strewn game: A game or match full of mistakes
  • sloppy passes: Poor misplaced passes
  • out of sorts: Not playing as well as they should; in bad form
  • final ball: An attacking pass
  • cagey: To be cautious in their play
  • to take a while to get going: Players cannot hit the ground running

Related Vocabulary

Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here. If you have any suggestions or questions, contact us at
Rusty Goal on Chesham Moor
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Des
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